how to play castanets in flamenco, castañuelas, castanets, castanet playing

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Castanets in flamenco

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Percussive instruments were used to accompany music and dance at the dawn of time. Primitive castanets in different shapes and forms have been found on all continents. For example the Greeks used "krotala" in religious ceremonies.

The Iberian "crusmata" (two wooden sticks, two shells or two flat stones, sometimes of ivory or bone) are thought to be the true predecessors of the modern Spanish castanets.

Spanish castanets resemble more sea shells than their Greek counterparts and are bound together by a cord put through the holes in each half.

Spanish castanet makers experimented with materials for better sonority and the needs of dancers and musicians. Eventually the characteristic addition of castanet "ears" allowed attachment to the thumb and with it the development of a skilled finger technique to play them.

Castanets are not strictly part of flamenco, though some flamenco dancers break the conventions (eg Antonio Ruiz who introduced castanets to the Seguiriyas that he danced.) Castanets can be used in folklore such as Sevillanas, as well as in classical Spanish dance, the clasico-espanol and bolero styles. Children and students learn castanets separately to flamenco in their out of school classes, if they are more interested in the Spanish ballet dance styles, as opposed to pure flamenco.

How to hold the castanets
in Andalusian dance

The string fits either side of the knuckle of the thumb. Pull the knot tight over the thumb on the side away from the nail.

When playing allow the hands to curl inwards remaining relaxed. If you straighten the thumb, it will open the castanet to allow the fingers to strike a clean sharp sound!

(Note: in the north of Spain the castanets are held differently for the Jota.)

how to hold the castanet  castanet hands castanet prices
Antonia Mercé La Argentina was an accomplished castanet player La Argentina was an accomplished castanet player

 

modern day castanets

Pilar Lopez used castanets in a whole series of choreographies and Carmen Amaya danced frequently to the sound of "pallilos" (castanets). In recent times we must thank Lucero Tena for the yardstick of clear technique and musicality that has become the fascination of all Spanish dance lovers.

modern day castanets

Castanets can be square, rectangular, oval, round, triangular or even pear-shaped. The largest known in use today are the "castanyolasses" from Ibiza, which are secured to four fingers, as are the "chácaras" from the Canary Isles. Palm sized castanets are fixed to the middle finger (introduced during 11th and 12th centuries) and used today in Spanish folklore.The moslems brought their own finger tymbals, which are metal discs, but are not thought to be historically connected to the development of castanets.

At the beginning of the 18th century, when the "bolero" and classical Spanish dance schools were born, the castanets were first attached by the thumb and became the obligatory accompaniment to all Spanish dances. Flamenco, however, did not require castanets, although later exponents of flamenco dance incorporated their use.

Among the relatively few well known exponents of modern castanet playing, Antonia Mercé "La Argentina" stands out as the dancer who refined the art. She died in 1938 but moulded the final form and technique of today. (To avoid confusion, Encarnacion Lopez, the sister of Pilar Lopez, performed as "La Argentinita.")

 

 

Black fibra CASTANETS
ref BF42Castanets

For dance students we suggest the black fibra 2nda (ref BF42Castanets) at 38,95 Euros
Add 19,80 Euros for shipping and handling costs
total: 58,75 Euros

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