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A cylindrical wooden guiro, with red painted ends and a ribbed centre, with a plain wooden pua (scraper)
The güiro is a Latin American percussion instrument consisting of an open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side. It is played by rubbing a stick or tines along the notches to produce a ratchet sound.
The güiro is commonly used in Puerto Rican, Cuban and other forms of Latin American music, and plays a key role in the typical rhythm section of important genres like son, trova and salsa. Playing the güiro usually requires both long and short sounds, made by scraping up and down in long or short strokes.
The güiro, like the maracas, is often played by a singer. It is closely related to the Cuban guayo and the Dominican güira, which are made of metal.
Latin American Music
Latin American folk and popular music comprises numerous musical styles and genres that have emerged over time in specific countries or regions. Music in Latin America is widely influenced by colourful and exotic carnivals and a range of dance styles. Carnivals may include fanfarras, featuring brass instruments associated with fanfare, and almost always a samba band.
The samba band features bass drums known as surdo, tenor drums known as repiniques, smaller drums known as tamborim and timbales and the distinctive sound of the agogô bells.
Well known Latin American percussion instruments include the conga and claves . Conga are large hand drums which the musician has to stand to play. Claves are short wooden sticks which have a surprisingly clear sound, even in a large ensemble and play many of the central rhythms used in Latin American music. Cow bells and timbales also feature alongside other instruments in the salsa band. Different types of guitar also feature extensively in Latin American ensembles.
Music and Movement
- Borrow the Latin Playground CD and a range of instruments used in Latin American music, such as the drum, claves, cowbell and agogo bells. Provide these instruments for the children to experiment with while they listen to the songs on this CD.
- Borrow a range of different guiros – discuss – what are the similarities? what differences are there? how do we know it is the same instrument? which country do we think each different guiro comes from?
- Old MacDonald Had a Band – This version is sung to the tune of the original, except instead of animals, he has instruments. Divide your class into groups with each one playing a different instrument (.i.e. tambourines, sticks, drums, triangles, etc.)
- If You’re Happy and You Know It – Replace body movements with instruments. (i. e. play your drum, tap your sticks, shake your maraca, etc.)
- Include a basket of movement props such as scarves, ribbons and feathers
- Set up a listening station with CD’s from different cultures and encourage children to play along with the songs
Art & Craft:
- Create your own instruments or ‘Junk Orchestra’ using loose parts and recycled items.
Related items in our catalogue
Latin American Instruments
The research for this resource was made possible through a grant from the Central Coast Council.