bilingual children's music
     - learn about los instrumentos
What's making that sound?
Music can be made by so many things--from simple, ordinary items like spoons and pans, to fancy handcrafted violins, to electronic drum machines, to the amazing human voice. To make música latina, Mister Felipe got to learn a wealth of instruments, especially de percusión. Here's a little info about some of them:

Click en un instrumento to learn more.
La guitarra (Mr. Felipe)
El bajo (Mr. Felipe)
La batería (John Huxsol)
El acordeón (Simón Orona y Mr. Felipe)
La trompeta (David Costanza)
La tuba (Ben Wright)
El violín (Justin Dean)
Las maracas (Mr. Felipe)
Los bongós (Mr. Felipe)
El güiro (Mr. Felipe)
Los timbales (Mr. Felipe)
La cuica (Mr. Felipe)
La cabasa (Mr. Felipe)
Since when es el perro un instrumento?

la guitarra
La guitarra
Stringed instrument, usually with six strings. Body made of wood with air hole, strings made of nylon or steel or (say it ain't so!) cat gut. Originated in the Middle East over 5,000 years ago! Mister Felipe got his in Mexico City, en el mercado de artesanía.



El bajo
El bajo
El bajo is the bass, similar to an electric guitar but with four strings tuned low. If it's not plugged in, you can barely hear it. Mister Felipe plays a 1971 Fender Mustang short-scale bass that he's had since he was 13!



La batería
La batería
La batería es una colección of a bunch of drums and cymbals which are arranged to make it easy for a single drummer to play them all with sticks, brushes or mallets. John Huxsol plays a beautiful set that was custom-built of birch wood.



El acordeón
El acordeón
The accordion is a box-shaped handheld instrument that involves pumping bellows to move air over metal reeds. Mister Felipe's friend says that on the inside, it looks a lot like a harmonica. Don Simón plays one with a piano-type keyboard for the right hand and buttons for the left hand, and has it decorated with shiny beads.



La trompeta
La trompeta
The trumpet is the highest pitched instrument in the brass family. Its origins trace back to many cultures, including China, Europe and the Middle East, over 3,500 years. Trumpets today are made of a brass tube which is bent a few times, passing through three valves and coming out a wide bell at the end. For these recordings, David Costanza played a small, compact trumpet.



La tuba
La tuba
The tuba is the largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the brass family, and is made of a brass tube about 18 feet long. It was invented in the mid-1800s in Germany. Ben Wright plays a sousaphone, which is a tuba with a round shape (pictured aquí), designed to be easier to carry so it could be included in a marching band. It is named after the American composer John Philip Sousa, who asked C. G. Conn to invent a wearable tuba in the 1890s.



El violín
El violín
Also known as the fiddle, the violin is a four-stringed instrument that is played with a bow. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the violin family, which includes the viola and cello. It has ancient origins, but it became more or less as it is today during the 1500s in Italy. Justin Dean plays a violin that his grandfather used to play.



Las maracas - shake them like a polaroid picture!
Las maracas
Maracas are percussion instruments with origins in the Americas. Originally made of a dried gourd (like a squash), today they are often made of wood, coconut shell, leather or plastic, filled with beans or seeds and with a handle. They are usually played in pairs. Mister Felipe plays a pair that were custom-made for his wife, Brooke, in Guanare, Venezuela.



Los bongós
Los bongós
Bongos are a percussion instrument made of two small, different-sized wooden drums attached together. They originated in Cuba, invented by the descendants of African slaves, and are an important part of Cuban music such as the son.



Reco-reco, which is similar to the güiro
El güiro
The güiro is a percussion instrument made of a hollow gourd, with one open end and a line of lots of parallel ridges along the top. It is played by rubbing a small stick across the ridges. It probably originated with the Taino people, who lived in the Caribbean islands before the Spanish arrived. Mister Felipe plays a reco-reco from Brazil, which is similar to the güiro but is made of bamboo (pictured).



Los timbales
Los timbales
Timbales are a pair of shallow drums played with sticks. They are shallower than tom-toms and have no head on the bottom. They originated in Cuba in the 20th century, as a more portable version of the timpani, and are played especially at transitions in a song. Mister Felipe improvised his timbales by beating on a cuica and a Brazillian repique de mão with chopsticks. Talk about loco...



La cuica
La cuica
The cuica is a percussion instrument from Brazil, made of a metal drum with a skin head that has a stick fastened in the middle of it. To play it, you get a cloth damp and rub the stick, which makes the head of the drum vibrate and produces surprising sounds. You adjust the pitch by pushing on the drum head with the other hand. It sounds like a monkey crying or laughing. There is no faking a cuica--Mister Felipe got the real thing in Brazil.

Learn how to make your own cuica! Mira el video from the Exploratorium Science Museum


La cabasa a.k.a. o afoxê
La cabasa
The cabasa is a percussion instrument closely related to the African-origin shekere. It is made of a cylinder covered with chains of metal balls, with a handle in the middle. To play it, you hold the handle with one hand, lay it on your other hand, and twist the handle. Mister Felipe plays its Brazillian cousin, called afoxê.



Por supuesto, this isn't all--there's a whole world out there of great music instruments. And don't forget--you were born with a voice, and you can make percussion sounds by beating on just about anything (except for brothers, sisters, pets, etc.). Have fun!

Para información about los ritmos, click aquí.