January 6, 2008

Musical instruments of Puerto Rico

What, you didn't think your holiday would go without a present from me?

I thought, in time to finish up the parranda season, I'd do a quick introduction of musical instruments from Puerto Rico.


The pandereta isn't much different from a tambourine, except the one here (which is mine) actually is a tambourine. Oops. Anyways, it's the same except without the bells on the side.

This picture on the right is of the inside. Click for a larger view.


If you speak enough Spanish you probably could have guessed what these are. They're simple sticks! You play them by hitting the two ends together. Pretty easy.


The güiro was invented by the Taíno, the indigenous people of Puerto Rico. Basically, it is a gourd that is emptied, then left to dry. Grooves are cut into the top, and holes lie underneath for the fingers usually. It's played with what honestly could be a hair pick, which is scraped quickly over the grooved area in both directions. This makes a loud, rich percussion sound.

I'm a big fan of the güiro. It has a beautiful sound and a unique character.


Maracas are another Taíno instrument made from gourds. Most people know what maracas are and how to play them so I don't think they deserve much of an explanation.
I will say, however, that these particular maracas on the side here were made by my friend's father from some gourds he picked up. I painted them.
To wrap this all up, here is a short video I made that demonstrates the sounds of each instrument. It's nothing special, and the sound quality is not... ideal, but it helps.

There is an excellent website for learning about Puerto Rican music in both English and Spanish here. I highly recommend it!


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