Spanish music traditional instruments

Written by pamela miller
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Spanish music traditional instruments
Castanets are a popular instrument within Spanish music. (Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images)

Spain's history consists of many vibrant cultures, many of which influenced the others. Spain's traditional music originated with peoples such as the ancient Romans, who carried Greek music to Spain, and the Visigoths, whose music comprised melodic religious chants, as well as Jewish, Christian, and Moorish music. Different regions of Spain came to develop their own distinct sounds that integrate specific instruments.

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Flamenco Guitar

Flamenco guitar, sometimes referred to as "toque," came from Andalusia --- a small region in southern Spain. Flamenco is a way of playing a guitar that encompasses "cante," the Spanish word for "song." In flamenco guitar playing, the guitar is played in a way that weaves together charismatic rhythms and melodies. This style of guitar playing was originally developed to accompany "cante."


Castanets made their way into the music of various countries in the Mediterranean such as Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain. These small, handheld instruments have been used in music for centuries and have become the national instrument of Spain. Castanets are traditionally made of castana wood, although they can also be made of metal, and consist of two cups that contain slightly curved dips on one side. The two cups are drilled to give off a distinct sound, with one being slightly higher in pitch and one being lower.


The Basque country of Spain often incorporated accordions into its music. Accordions were introduced to Basque country from Italy in the 19th century. Accordion playing within Basque music is known as "trikitixa," which means "hand-sound" in Basque. The style of accordion playing in Basque music involves rapid melodies and staccato triplets. Modern-day Basque music is a blend of trikitixa, tambourine and voice.

Bongo Drums

Bongo drums consist of two drums --- the macho (larger drum) and the hembra (smaller drum) joined together by a bridge in the middle. Bongos came into existence in Cuba in the 1800s and are played with the hands of the musicians --- no drumsticks are required. Bongos are played resting between the musician's legs or while on a stand, allowing for freer movement. The traditional beat of bongo drums is known as "marillo" --- the Spanish word for "hammer."

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