Make Some Marvelous Maracas!

Although Cinco De Mayo is celebrated in May and Hispanic heritage is highlighted in the USA from September 15 – October 15th, any time of year is great for making and exploring Latin American culture with this simple musical craft.

Maracas are one of the simplest instruments to play for young children or the beginning musician. They are essentially rattles with handles. They come in pairs. You put one in each hand and you shake, rattle and roll! Of course, if you’ve seen experienced percussionists play maracas, you would be amazed at what they can make them do. So, a pair of maracas are versatile little instruments for “just jamming with the kids” or for exploring rhythms, beats and tempos as a fun way to learn more about music.

Most folks consider maracas to be native to Latin America, however, similar instruments (pairs of rattles) can be found in cultures around the world. Most often associated with the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, Jamaica and Brazil, maracas have been played for centuries. One set of maracas made of clay were found in ruins in present day Columbia. They were used by the indigenous people of that area and dated back to almost 1,500 years ago.

Maracas come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and designs!

What are maracas made of? Most traditional maracas are made from natural materials such as gourds, clay, wood or coconut shells. More modern ones can be made of plastic, leather or other synthetic materials. They are filled with small objects such as seeds, pebbles or dried beans. To create “recycled rattles” you can start with smaller water bottles from the recycling bin and be even more clever with fillings – finding things you can easily use from around the house, garage or in your junk drawer.

Get Out Your Materials !
Although you can use any type of small plastic bottles, the 8 oz (236 mL) size water bottles are just perfect for this project in size and shape. If you’ve sworn off plastic, then ask around. A neighbor, classmate or local store may offer you what they might have sent out as recycling.

You’ll also need two toilet paper rolls and some sturdy tape. Electrical tape works best and colorful electrical tape adds a nice decorative touch to what you are creating.

Then you’ll need some fillings. Remember each filling produces a different sound, so that may also be part of your plan for creating your set of maracas. For instance, sand or salt maracas will be very quiet. Dried beans, macaroni or large bead maracas will be nice and loud. Here are some suggestions that you can find around most every household:

Sand, salt, pebbles, birdseed, rice, beans, small beads, large beads, dried pasta, rice, dried peas or beans, small washers, paper clips, small erasers.

A complete supply list is provided below as well as some suggestions for great sounding maraca combinations.

Make Your Maracas
First take your clean and dried 8 oz water bottle and fill with your chosen contents. Close it up with the cap and then listen to the sound. Once it sounds good to your ears, then you can move to the next step. But first, check out how many professional maracas are made – they are created to be slightly different in sound.

Many sets of maracas are “pitched” differently. In other words, shaking the right hand one will sound different from shaking the left hand one, so you can create some great patterns by playing with the sounds. For instance, if you make my version of rice and beans maracas (described below), the rice will be sound a bit softer and higher in pitch, the beans a bit louder and lower in pitch, so you can build rhythms on those sounds. You can also describe the rhythms in a fun way, such as rice, rice, beans, rice, rice beans or rice, beans, rice, rice beans. Almost anyone can learn new rhythms and even complicated rhythm patterns with this creative approach.

So, now you’ve decided how you want your pair of maracas to sound and you’ve tightened the cap on your two water bottles. The next step is to create the handle. Take your two toilet paper rolls and make a straight cut from one end to the other. Tighten the roll in on itself to about the size of a ¾ inch dowel and then apply your electrical tape. Start wrapping the tape around the bottom part of the rattle on the bottle and move down onto the new handle. Wrap slowly, covering all the cardboard of the toilet paper roll and you will have created a rather sturdy handle for your new instrument.

Now you are ready to play.

Time To Jam
Do you want to just jam? Then simply pick up your instrument and shake, shake, shake. Or dance around, move and groove, and shake things up to your heart’s content. If you want to get into more of the maraca’s musical possibilities, then take some time to check out what they can do.

Aside from shaking them back and forth where the sound comes from the contents striking the sides, you can swoosh them around. By moving your hand in a circular motion, the contents of your maracas won’t hit side to side, but will whoosh a bit around in the bottle, creating a different sound. You can also “crescendo” your maracas. You start by shaking them quietly and slightly and then build little by little to get the loudest sound. It’s a fun way to begin or end a song.

You can also make several pairs and mix and match. What sound patterns can you create? Which maracas sound best to you or sound best as pairs? Does a certain pattern sound like a song you know? Or does a song you know inspire a new pattern? Despite the fact that these are really simple little instruments, they can truly inspire hours of musical fun.

SUPPLIES (for one pair of maracas)
2 eight oz (236 mL) water bottles
2 toilet paper rolls
Electrical tape (colorful, if possible)

Filling for your maracas – any of the following:
Sand, salt, pebbles, birdseed, rice, beans, small beads, large beads, dried pasta, rice, dried peas or beans, small washers, paper clips, small erasers.

GREAT-SOUNDING COMBINATIONS FOR MARACAS
Rice and Beans Maracas
Rice in one maraca, beans in the other. The color and the sound are different, making it really easy to create patterns.

“Back To School” Maracas
Colorful paper clips in one, small extra erasers in the other. A nice difference in the sound between the right and left hand.

Sand and Little Pasta Maracas
These are really quiet and subtle. The sand or salt maraca is softer then the tiny pasta (choose acini de pepe, pastina or orzo pasta) making this a great choice for kids that want to learn to listen, kids with noise sensitivity or for learning some of the aspects of playing a percussion instrument quietly but effectively.

——————-

About these ads

8 thoughts on “Make Some Marvelous Maracas!

  1. Pingback: How to be a rock star - The Alexander Residence | The Alexander Residence

  2. Pingback: Two Easy Musical Crafts And 16 Activities For Cinco De Mayo Fun! | Making Multicultural Music

  3. Pingback: Should Kids Learn About Healthy Eating At School? |

  4. Pingback: 15 Fun Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo With Your Kids | My Kids' Adventures

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s