Monday, January 27, 2014


The güiro is untuned instrument from South and
Central America that is made from a gourd that
has been carved or notched to create a ridged
surface. The instrument is played by scraping
the surface with a stick. It is traditionally held in
the left hand with the left thumb inserted into the
back sound hole to keep the instrument in place.
The right hand usually holds a thin stick, the
scraper, called a "pua" which slides in an up
and down scraping motion across the surface
of the instrument.

Typical güiro technique usually
requires both long and short
sounds, which are made by
scraping both up and down in
long or short strokes. This effect
is obtained by varying the duration
and lenghth of the stroke creating
a series of clicking sounds or
rhythmic, rasping sounds (sample
audio clip). For the long sound the
right hand strokes with a brief
downward motion from the bottom
of the güiro then immediately after
scrapes upward towards the whole
surface. Short sounds are short
strokes played near the top with an
up and down motion. For faster
tempos the right holding hand helps
the left by moving the instrument in
an opposite movement at the same
time (one hand moves down and
the other moves up).
Guiros Made of Gourds
Today, modern güiros are also made from plastic,
fiberglass and wood providing more durability than
a fragile gourd while keeping the same intonation
and timbre. The scaper is typically made with metal
tynes attached to a small block of wood but also
may be made entirely of wood, metal, bamboo,
shell, bone, ceramic or plastic. The size of the
güiro can vary widely although it typically ranges
from 25 - 35 cm long.
Guiros Made of Plastic
Closely related to the güiro is the Dominican güira,
a metal cylinder with holes much like a cheese
grater, played with a metal stick.
The following are some
other variations on güiros:
The güiro, used in many different styles
of music today from Latin to Country,
Rock to Classical, is also known known
as Calabazo, Guayo, Ralladera and Rascador.