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How to Play the Maracas

Play the Maracas

One of the best features of maracas is that just about anyone can play them. Maracas are made of hollowed heads attached to handles. The heads may be made of gourds, shell, leather, wood or even plastic filled with shot, beads or seeds. Maracas can be used alone or to accompany a larger percussion section, and often invoke a Latin American feel.

Pick maracas that fit your needs. Volume and tone quality or character will vary based on size and materials.

Hold one maraca in each hand by the handle, with the head of the maraca facing up (maraca should be perpendicular to the floor).

Flick your wrist in a short, quick downward motion (a "downstroke"), as if tapping something with the maraca.

Alternate downstrokes with each hand to the beat of the music.

Speed strokes up for a roll. Or, turn the maracas upside-down, keeping the head perpendicular to the floor, and swirl the maracas in small circles.

Experiment with the rhythm. Emphasize the off-beats and alternate between slow and fast notes.


Another way to do a roll is to hold two maracas in one hand and do rapid downbeats as described above. Make your own maracas to play.


  • Treat your maracas with care. Dropping them may cause the head to break or separate from the handle. Be patient as you begin to experiment with more complicated rhythms. This may take a little more time and practice to master.
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