Castanets, known as palillos or castañuelas in Spanish, are the most traditional Spanish percussion instrument. Castanets have traditionally been handmade and have evolved since they were originally created in wood. Thanks to Manuel Vela, discoverer of the fiber of the castanets, we can have an instrument with a better sound that doesn’t get affected by cold or heat. Besides, they last longer and have a better resistance to fallings and strucks than wooden castanets, which tended to break or crack easily and whose sound depended on the temperature. Manuel Vela also invented the soundbox. Thanks to his finding, castanets’ sound is stronger and more precise.
Nowadays, there are different types of fiber and castanets with numerous soundboxes and the most valued fiber is called “fiberglass”. Besides, the more boxes the castanets have, the better sound and resonance. As a modest colour is preferred for the stage, the most usual colours are black and brown.
Material information of the Castanets:
• Pressed Fabric Material: This castanet material is composed of a number of sheets or cloths of cotton fabric impregnated with phenolic resins, then subjected to a pressing of 200,000 Kg. Of pressure and a temperature of 190 degrees during a period of eight hours time This material is characterized by having a very low-pitched or low-pitched sound, short-range power, specially designed for recording studios and spaces reduced by emitting short waves of vibration.
• Veined Fiber Material: This castanet material is composed of sheets or cloths of paper subjected to an impregnation of phenolic resins, interspersed with colored sheets, to form the veining, subjecting them later to the same manufacturing process as the Pressed Fabric. For their sound they are the most used by the interpreters of Spanish classical dance and flamenco, and are especially recommended for use in theaters and tablaos. Its sound is stamped and clean, very effective in terms of nuances, allowing infinite possibilities of combination. They are the most recommended.
• Material Glass: This material of castanets is of high precision and of a great hardness. It is composed of thin sheets of paper impregnated with a very special resin called phenolic alpha and manufactured like the previous ones. It has a great sound power and is especially used by soloists and groups of outdoor stage.
• Material Granadillo Veteado: This castanet material is composed of sheets of harmonic woods with a thickness of 0.5 mm. Each sheet and subjected to a dip or resin bath for a while and then manufactured as above. It has the charm of natural Granadillo, but with the consistency of fiber.
HOW TO PLAY CASTANETS?
Firstly, check that both castanets have a different sound (one is high and the other one grave).
The high tone castanet must be on the right hand and the lower one in the left hand (if you can’t tell the difference between the sounds, take into account that the right castanet has a mark in its top side).
Hold the castanets with the loop over the middle finger of each hand, firstly
Loop the castanets’ cord over the thumb of each hand. Castanets must be adjusted to the thumbs but do not squeeze them, because it may affect the sound.
It is important to put the fingers properly: put the fingertips toward each other and the palms turned toward the body.
To play the right hand castanet, use your little and ring finger and your middle finger and forefinger. Use your middle finger, ring finger and little finger at the same time to play the left hand castanet.
Start the rhythm with the right hand and finish it with the left hand castanet. In order to get a good rhythm, it is important to know the following combinations:
- CA-RRE-TI-LLA: this element is used by the right hand. Try not to move your wrist and start playing CA-RRE-TI-LLA, composed by four sounds: CA (little finger); RRE (ring finger); TI (middle finger); LLA (forefinger).
- TAN: it is referred to the sound made by the left hand after the CA-RRE-TI-LLA combination. Use your ring finger and middle finger at the same time, and make this one sound louder.
- TIN: it is usually made after CA-RRE-TI-LLA-TAN. On your right hand, use your forefinger and middle finger at the same time.
- TIAN: when TIN and TAN sound at the same time.
- POSTICEO: it consists of the clicking together of the two castanets. Lift your right hand to the left hand and click the castanets together.
TAMARA Flamenco provides you with a select catalogue where you may buy online your castanets and choose its materials and sizes.