Courtesy of Arthur Ka Wai Jenkins

Maracas are rattles that come from Central America. They’re often used in pairs.

A player of the maracas, courtesy of Tony Morrell

A player of the maracas

They consist of round or egg-shaped containers, usually made of wood or plastic. These are filled with whatever makes the best rattle: beans, pebbles, buttons – it varies! They narrow into a thin handle for you to hold.

Many civilisations believe that rattles can ward off evil spirits.

To play them

You shake them! But there are other clever things you can do, such as:

  • Twirl them to make a kind of drumroll.
  • Strike one of them into your open hand.
  • Flick them to create complex rhythms.

The sound 

The maracas make a hustling, shuffling, rattling sound.

Do You Know?

Do You Know?

See if you can answer the questions below!

 What do maracas do?

a. Boom
b. Sing
c. Rattle

 Which of these would not be found inside a maraca?

a. Beans
b. Petals
c. Pebbles

 What does the player hold to play a maraca?

a. A beater
b. A piece of string
c. A handle

 How many maracas are usually together in a group?

a. 2
b. 3
c. 4

 Different kinds of maracas are found…

a. Only in Europe
b. Only in America
c. All over the world

Play More Music!

Play More Music!

Here is more music to listen to. Click the + to see tracks and information about each work!

Selected Maracas Extracts

George Gershwin (1898–1937)
Cuban Overture

Listening for the swishing in the background, which helps to conjure up the colourful sights and sounds of Cuba.

Performers: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra; James Judd

Taken from Naxos 8.559107