How to Play the Castanets

Play the Castanets

How to Play the Castanets. Castanets are members of the percussion instrument family. Each is made of two pieces of shell, hardwood or plastic hinged together and attached to either a handle or a piece of strings for slipping over your fingers. The sound of castanets often conjures images of dancing, particularly Spanish dancing. Castanets are relatively easy and fun to play.

Take a pair of castanets in each hand.

Hold hand castanets by slightly bending your thumb and looping the castanet string over it. Rest the castanets in your palm and curve your fingers lightly around for support.

Hold handle or paddle castanets by gripping the handle in a fist. Then extend your thumb and index finger the length of the handle so your index finger rests lightly on the hinge.

Play hand castanets using your fingers. Close all fingers at once or roll your fingers one-at-a-time in close succession. Alternate right and left-hand actions.

Play handle or paddle castanets by using a short down-stroke. Flick your wrist downward sharply. Alternate with right and left hand strokes.

Consider formal instruction for more specific styles and strokes of castanet playing, such as Flamenco strokes.


Play rolls on handle or paddle castanets by alternating left and right hand single-strokes in quick succession. Machine castanets are castanets mounted on a small stand. Play these by striking the upper castanet with one or two fingers.


Machine castanets do not project well. Use hand or handle castanets.

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