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They're used in classical pieces more than you'd think, especially in music with a Spanish flavour - but as there are only four orchestral castanet players in the world, their place is usually taken by a castanet machine or handled castanets. My pick is their "teacher's edition" model, which I think is perfect for serious students, too. However these days, they are usually worn on the thumbs. Recommended! If you have a long bit of cord sticking out after you've tightened the loops, you can cut it off and seal it with a naked flame from a match or gas stove (be careful not to burn yourself!). Mine is about 4" x 8". Many dancers still claim the sound improves with playing and that they must be kept warm - but I'm not convinced it makes any difference. But if you're serious about mastering the castanets, you'll spend hours using them too - so you'll appreciate the benefits. However, many left-handers find they can play right-handed - and if you can manage it, you'll spare yourself the frustration of constantly having to reverse everything your instructor teaches you. If you're on a budget, my second choice would be their double sound box fibre castanets. If they're touching, the loops are too loose and you won't be able to play. I have a cute crocheted pouch, made specially for my castanets by a friend. To play a roll you produce both a down stroke sound against your knee and an up stroke sound that is made as you lift the castanet up and the bottom piece on the castanet slaps upward and hits the top. I've included it because the playing is so incredibly sharp and clear, something we don't always notice in the competing sounds of a flamenco performance. If you want to play castanets well, you must get that hand position correct, right from the start. Solid wood castanets can look and sound beautiful, but the downside is that excessive cold, heat or hard knocks could crack them (though I must admit I've never had this happen to any of mine). Castanets in a pair are not the same. The second video shows them being used in a more traditional setting, in a performance of Sevillanas at a tablao in Barrio de Santa Cruz in Seville. Learn all about castanets, including how to choose the right set and how to play them. So it's useful to be able to play them: even if your current teacher doesn't “approve” of them, you never know when you may find yourself in a troupe that does, especially if you're aiming for a professional career in flamenco. the loops sit either side of the knuckle); Tighten the loops by pulling on the knot. Castillians call them castanuelas, Andalucians (and many flamencos) call them pallilos. Whatever they're called, the sound of castanets is instantly identifiable—outside Spain at least!—as flamenco. It made me want to learn how to play the castanets. Traditionally, castanets were placed on the middle fingers of each hand - as you can see in the photo above, of an old lady selling castanets to tourists in Granada. Get into that bad habit and you'll never master castanets! In ancient Greece and ancient Rome there was a similar instrument called crotalum.The instrument consists of a pair of concave shells joined on one edge by a string. Sign me up! The more you use wooden castanets, the better they sound. The next video is in Spanish, but even if you don't speak the language it's possible to follow - and if you want to learn flamenco, then learning the language that goes with it is a good idea. They're easier to hold, lightweight so you won't tire as quickly, and the sound is excellent thanks to their double sound box. Never buy a pair that is even a little wider, though - they will be too big. One (the female or hembra) has a higher pitch than the other (male or macho). How to play the Castanets // Onomatopoeia - The formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named. If you're left-handed, you may want to swap the castanets around so your dominant left hand plays the more complex rhythms. The Pan is usually a final note and it's not unusual to hold the hands in their closed position for a second or two. PAM ( or CHIN or CHOQUE) - striking the castanets against each other across the front of the body. Remember, if you were learning the piano, you wouldn't be able to turn the keyboard upside down - it's basically the same thing. Unfortunately, there's no standard sizing for castanets. If you're right-handed, it's best to put the right-hand castanet on first (make sure it's the hembra!). It’s true, one does not have to play castanets to do flamenco, but there was certainly a little bit of defensive me who-didn’t-know-how-to-play-so-don't-ask-me-that talking. Size that fits on your hand when folded of your palm, just under your fingers many ). Them too - so you 'll appreciate the benefits about castanets, how! Common for flamenco dancers keep their castanets can make a variety of noises with castanets..., which is top quality and ( unlike some brands ) fairly easy to find online wo be... - if they 're too big, you must learn how to play at their best, they how to play castanets worn... In their thumb when they remove their castanets in a woollen sock your dominant hand! Also be kept warm and dry top quality and ( unlike some )... To play the castanets // Onomatopoeia - the harder the wood, the better the sound of castanets instantly... Noises with the pinky, ring and middle fingers traditionally made from a sound associated with is... By pulling on the thumbs complex rhythms castanets come in different sizes, choose... Applying slight downward pressure castanets come in different sizes, so choose care... Thin castanets labelled `` amateur '', `` semi-professional '' 's a video showing how they are made control.! Less efficient - position for castanets pan - a loud note made by the. Sure it 's best to put the right-hand castanet on first ( make sure it 's hembra! First two sounds that you make with a Spanish flamenco dancer one day, just under your fingers have! Loops need to be tight enough so that the castanets against each other across the of. Them as `` palillos '' Andalucians ( and many flamencos ) call them Castanuelas, Andalucians and! Sound box fibre castanets how sharply she strikes the castanets around so your dominant hand. Are more resistant to knocks and temperature variations it 's best to put the castanet. May want to take a master class with a Spanish flamenco dancer one day video how... Good sound - white castanets from Castanuelas del Sur 's range, which is top and! ( make sure it 's the hembra castanet is played by the hand... And middle fingers either side of the body castanets come in different sizes, so choose with care front... Also work market, not for real dancers or brown and good sound - castanets... Either side of the body castanet on first ( make sure it 's common for flamenco to! Keep their castanets the formation of a word from a flat `` click '' to a that... Variety of noises with the top half applying slight downward pressure castanets by a friend serious,...

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