Handmade instruments to make music have been around for thousands of years. Maracas are ancient percussion instruments native to Latin America. They are usually played in pairs, but some musicians will also play a single maraca against their hand. Originally made from dried, bulbous vegetables and seeds, maracas can be fashioned from a variety of materials, and crafting them is fun and easy.
Select a dried gourd, roughly the size of your hand. If there is a stem, cut the stem flush with the gourd and sand smooth. Make a 1-inch hole in the bottom of the gourd and fill with a handful of small dried beans. The size of the beans dictate the pitch of the instrument. The smaller the beans; the higher the pitch. Cut a 1-inch dowel to 6 inches in length. Attach the dowel to the hole in the bottom of your gourd using a hot-glue gun. Wipe away any loose glue and let dry. Once the glue has dried, you can decorate the instrument with paint. Varnishing after painting is recommended to seal the paint.
Maracas for Kids
Fold a paper plate in half and decorate the outsides with paint, markers or crayons. Place a handful of dried beans or rice into the fold of the paper plate. With glue or staples, seal the entire outer rim, keeping the beans or rice inside. This makes a hand-held maraca, and kids can shake it to make rhythmic music.
Choose an average size coconut so that once shucked, the seed pod will be about the size of your hand. Remove the entire outer husk of the coconut. Cut the inner pod in half, allowing the juice to drain away. Using a sharp knife and a grapefruit spoon, remove all of the white meat from inside. Allow the shell halves to dry. Sand the outside of the halves to a smooth finish. Place a handful of navy beans in one of the shell halves. Using a hot-glue gun, glue both halves together. Sand the bottom to create a smooth surface. Cut a 1-inch dowel to 6 inches in length, and attach it to the bottom with your glue gun. Remove any excess glue and allow to dry. Paint and decorate your maraca.
Papier Mache Maracas
Cut old newspaper into 6-inch strips and soak in water. Blow up a small round balloon to a size that fits in your hand. Mix about a cup of papier-mache paste in a large bowl, adding the soaked newspaper a little at a time. Once the paper is completely saturated, begin applying it evenly around the balloon. Leave a 1-inch hole at the bottom for a dowel handle. Using the papier-mache mixture, make a lip around the hole to make attaching the dowel easier. After your papier-mache is completely dry, stick a pin through the hole and into the balloon. Once popped, the balloon should be easy to pull out. Fill the hole with a handful of beans or rice, and glue the dowel into the hole so it fits tightly. Decorate with paint.
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