How to Make Latin Music Instruments

maracas image by Dwight Davis from

Latin music is among the most lively in the world, inspiring both song and dance. Its origins lie in the Caribbean, where slaves were allowed to beat drums to pass the time, says Malena Kuss in her book series, "Music in Latin America and the Caribbean." (See Reference 1) This leisure activity quickly turned into a form of communication, causing the music to spread and expand across neighbouring regions. While the style of Latin music has evolved throughout history, the rhythmic dance beats remain the same. Replicate these energising beats by making Latin musical instruments from common household items.

Pour beans or popcorn kernels into one of the cups. If the cup is not at least half full, add more.

Apply glue to the rim of the empty cup. Place the rims together and press down.

Wrap masking tape around the two rims, ensuring they stay together.

Play maraca by shaking freely to a beat. For best results, and a fuller sound, hold one in each hand and shake together.

Remove the handle from the broom. Most standard brooms will screw off of the handle.

Cut two pieces of wood from the broom handle using the handsaw. Each piece should be 8 inches long.

Sand down the pieces of wood so that there are no jagged edges or splinters. You can also use the sandpaper to round the edges, but this does not improve the musical qualities of the instrument.

Strike pieces against each other to start a beat. For alternating sounds use different types of wood.

Remove labels from water bottles to ensure best possible sound.

Fill bottle with beans or popcorn kernels, leaving 1 to 2 inches of open space.

Replace bottle cap, and wrap with masking tape to seal contents. The guiro is now ready to play.

Play the guiro with a long, thin wooden object like a chopstick or an unsharpened pencil. Drag the object against the bottle's ridges and strike occasionally for best results.

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