Read on for a short glossary of castanet sounds and a story...
Las castañuelas. Each finger movement has its own sound. And this is good.
With this we have a language for communicating what our fingers are supposed to do. So we can say the combinations (even if we can't do them) something I have found quite helpful to the learning process. Plus, it's fun. Another layer!
So a key needs to exist on this site, a mini-glossary of the sounds we make with our fingers on the castanets. You'll find that below (along with an incredible video.)
I waited a long time to start learning to play castanets
Not because I didn't like the sound. Not because I wasn't interested. Mostly because it just seemed like too much. I wasn't ready for the challenge. What with so many other things to figure out. So many other things to work on.
Footwork, arms, hands, body, turns ...
How could I squeeze in castanets as well? Especially since you don't need to know how to play them to do flamenco. I figured I would get to them someday once I got the other stuff down.
So a couple of years ago I decided it was time.
Not because I had figured out everything else.
Ha! I guess I just realized if I kept waiting I'd be waiting forever. And they were calling me, las castañuelas. They had been calling me. And I listened. (Or tried to.)
So when Ricardo came two years ago I asked him to bring me a pair.
And he did.
Then he gave a workshop. I had no idea what was going on with my castanets when we did the choreography. Moving and making sounds with them. Yeah right.
One day at home I was attempting to practice some of the exercises. And I was frustrated. So frustrated. And impatient. And I complained.
Ricardo was not impressed.
They wouldn't do what I wanted them to do. Just putting them on was so much work. And then getting them to stay tight enough.
Then Ricardo left.
And I didn't touch them again for OVER A YEAR. Ni las miraba. Even though Ricardo had brought me this pair of castanets and left me with exercises to work on.
When he came back 6 months later he wanted us to perform something with castanets. At which point I had to confess that I hadn't even touched them since he'd been here last.
So, no castanets that time, no workshop, Nothing. I didn't even take them out to try to play them with him there to guide me.
But I did bring them to Spain last year
I wasn't quite sure why. And they stayed in my suitcase. Until one day I was walking home from a class with Eli, a friend from Israel, and she said she was taking a castanets class with Mercedes on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:00 - 2:00.
What?! Mercedes was teaching castanets? Apparently she was just doing it temporarily while the guy who usually taught it at her studio was away.
So I went.
And I didn't feel frustrated. It was so weird. I loved it immediately. Even though I couldn't really make the sounds. And my fingers got tired so quickly. It instantly became my favorite class.
Unfortunately I was only able to take the class 5 or 6 times.
But it inspired me
And when I came home I began to practice.
And I enjoyed it.
And this year when Ricardo came I LOVED our castanets class. It was, no surprise, my favorite class.
And when Emilio came, again, I loved our castanets class. Favorite class.
I still have a long way to go, pero me lo estoy pasando muy bien. I'm having a good time.
There is all of this figuring out that goes along with playing them and dancing with them. And figuring out is such fun. Puzzles. Castanets give us lots of puzzles.
Ok, so about the sounds.
Saying the sounds can really facilitate things, especially being able to dance while playing. So, we've been using them in class.
ta - left middle finger
pi - right middle finger
ri - roll with right
ria - roll with right then left single beat
chi (xi) - posticeo or choque - hitting castanets together
pam (I've also heard this called pom.) - hitting both castanets at the same time with the middle fingers.
People who are left-handed may choose to play them opposite with the roll with the left hand, the ta with the right. Emilio does this. But Danica is also left-handed and she does it with the right. So, I guess it just depends.
Now, the following you may find inspiring or just plain confounding.
It's Lucero Tena, and, really, how does she do this?
Oh, and I thought you might find this interesting, some historical info.
Me lo estoy pasando muy bien - I'm having a really good time
What do you think?
How has the castanet learning process been for you? Leave a comment below.