Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Castanets

A-Z Blogging Challenge for the month of April. I'll be posting every day except Sunday, using a letter of the alphabet as subject. My theme is Flamenco

C is for Castanets

The mysterious little noise makers that dangle from Flamenco dancer's thumbs

Castanets are often thought of as being an ingredient of Flamenco dance, when in truth, they are more a part of Classical Spanish Dance. Pictured above, you'll see my very first pair of castanets of 60 years ago. They're made of fiber and have a deep mellow sound.

I've owned many castanets since these but when I choose a pair to play, they beg, "Play me, play me." Out of sentiment, honor for age and playing ability, they usually end up on my thumbs.


  1. Oh, I've seen those so many times and had no idea what they were called. Cool!

  2. My parents brought us a pair from Mexico and within a week they disappeared. We just made noise with them. Wonderful post!
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  3. It's funny. One expects different models of guitar, drum etc...but...castenets? So small and yet so powerful.

  4. Wow!!! Castanets are made out of fibre?!?! Amazing!!!! I'm learning so much about flamenco - thank you lovely Manzanita! Take care

  5. Ahhh, here they are the castanets. And yes, it was Jose Greco!

  6. Sweeet! I had a pair when I was a kid. Never could play them worth a darn, but it was fun to try.

  7. I didn't know they were made of fiber either. Thanks for the post.


  8. Very interesting post and theme! I had a little set when I was a child but never was able to play them properly.

  9. These are beautiful. I love hearing castanets.

  10. I love that sound but also the sound of the heels snapping down sharply.
    We need more Flamenco.

  11. When I took a summer class in Hawaiian hula, I learned to click 2 smooth rocks in each hand in time with the music. How cool was that!

  12. I had a pair of wooden castanets when I was younger. I loved them but had real trouble getting them to hit together properly. They just weren't my instrument but I did move onto Spanish/classical guitar and was a tad more successful.

    p.s. I've left a message on my blog re that word, quadragintal. I made it up!!!

  13. I was a young teen when my mother found her old castanets in a box. Apparently she had taken belly dancing very seriously during her college/early marriage years. It was quite a shock.

  14. They make a great sound. All we need now is to see you dance the flamenco :-)

  15. Interesting post and I've learned something. I loved that.

  16. Does the beat of the castanets match the beat of the feet? Have you ever done Hawaiian dance, especially the ancient dance? I've often that similar to flamingo as the torso stays still while all movement is from hip down. I don't count the arms because their movements are still and quiet.

  17. Lucky you. They only end up on your thumbs. Mine hit me in the head.

  18. Word Crafter,
    Another name for them is palillos. But that didn't match the "C" subject. Ha

    Most of the castanets sold in Mexico aren't playing quality, so it wasn't your fault you couldn't play them.

    There are tourist castanets (to hang on the wall) that you can buy for a few bucks but the ones you play are well crafted and the cost begins around $100. They are made of various woods or fiber and there are even some good plastic ones that I recommend for students.

    Old Kitty,
    They are made of fine wood or fiber and as I said above even some plastic are ok for beginners. The better crafted, the finer tone they have, of course.

    Jose Greco used to be the popular Flamenco dancer. Carmen Amaya was the popular gal. They were in a lot of movies during 70's.

    When my daughter learned to play castanets, she drove me crazy. She'd practice in the car. Grrrr. sitting in the back seat while I'm driving.

    Thank you everyone for your glowing comments.

  19. I've only ever seen fake kiddie ones when I was at primary school. I had no idea what they really look like. Do they make different sounds depending on the age/material or whatever. Do you try them before you buy them to see if you like the sound?

  20. Montl
    They are also made of rosewood and ebony and the playing ones are finely crafted and sell for $100 to $400. They're the ones with the fine tones.

    The kids castanets are just toys and not crafted to be played. Sorry, it probably frustrated you when you couldn't play.

    Way down in the West Texas town of El Paso, a Spanish gal named Felina got up on a bar room table and played her castanets and you know what happened. :)

    Right on, kiddo. But where do we get all the dancers? Are they hiding out in Arkansas?

    Thanks for following my Flamenco challenge posts.

    There are so many lovely hula dancers in Hawaii and I bet you are one of them. I've seen the rocks being played too but I bet it takes a lot of practice.

    I wrote on your blog. I think it's neat that you play Spanish classical guitar. You must have put in so many hours, learning.

    That was so sweet that your Mother was a dancer and kept it as kind of a secret. It must have been her passion but she gave it up to have a family, as I did. I bet she was proud to show you her castanets.

    I mostly teach these days. But I will say one thing about Flamenco, you can dance it until age 100. Many real old people still dance and they are even more beautiful.

    Thanks for stopping. It was nice to meet you.

    There is one beat but the feet are doing different timing from the castanets. It's confusing to dance and play castanets. Takes lots of practice. Do you do the ancient Hawaiian? I tried hula for about a year but the arms are so soft and the flamenco arms are rigid so I could only do one and gave up hula.

    Ha Ha...I can see that happening.

    Thank you everyone for the glowing comments. Manzanita Ole

  21. They look like they take a little bit of talent to really use them properly. I am sure you are good with them.

  22. I took one class of ancient hula, kahiko, over 20 years ago. I enjoyed it a lot. Can't recall why I didn't continue. Probably a combination of bad knees and long hours at work. I'm keeping my eyes open for a modern hula class now.

  23. I'm so excited, I just found out I could join the A to Z challenge too. So I did! Just now! I had to catch up on A to C, but it worked out OK, I think. I love what you are doing with your subject and I referred some people to your blog in the first post I wrote today.

  24. Chuck,
    It takes practice, like anything you learn.

    I think Ancient would be great fun but any form of dance is fun and I can't knock any exercise. You are pretty active, aren't you?

    Glad you got in. It will be fun. Thanks for the mention.


  25. Castanets! What a great word! And to be able to use them---how cool!

  26. They must be so much fun to dance with. They look absolutely beautiful!

  27. Love the sound of the castanets - kind of sharpens up the dance moves too. Does this mean we're going to get 'palilloes' for the 'P' day in the challenge??!!

  28. How sweet it is! A friend has a pair of wood fiber castanets. And, yep, she knows how to click away. I tried and, LOL, they're A LOT more difficult than one thinks. Manzi, you're one talented gal as the flamenco isn't the easiest dance around!

    I just love coming here!!!

  29. I love the sounds those make. Its hard to sit still when one hears them.

  30. I can believe that the different actions between feet and castanets is difficult. The result is spectacular - but takes practice.

    One afternoon, many years ago, I was press-ganged into joining a group of young people from Andalusia performing a hand-clapping form of music.

    I regret to report that my abilities regarding rhythm were not up to it - but the syncopation was fabulous.