Traditional croaking frog guiro

What is a guiro?

A guiro is a type of percussion musical instrument, its history is unknown but is said to relate back to originate in either Africa or South America. The Aztecs created something that is very similar to a güiro, it was known as an omitzicahuastli, whilst this is a bit of a mouthful to pronounce it was also played in the same manner. 

By definition it is a musical instrument with a serrated surface which gives a rasping sound when scraped with a stick, originally made from a hollowed gourd and used in Latin American music, its Spanish pronunciation is ‘ɡwiɾo’.

The güiro is a percussion instrument consisting of a long, hollow gourd with ridges. The sound is produced by scraping a stick, known as a pua, along the instrument's sides. Classified as a percussion idiophone, the guiro generates sound through the vibration of the entire instrument.

Other names for the Guiro

The percussive instrument goes by many other names such as Güira (the metal version of a Guiro), rascador, güícharo, candungo, carracho, rayo

What are they usually made from?

Whilst the body of the guiros are traditionally made from a dried gourd, more modern ones can be made from any material such as wood, metal, plastic, bamboo and even fibreglass. They also come in many shapes and sizes such as a standard block, frog guiros are common, and we have crocodile ones.

Construction

Guiros come in various shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they are made from natural materials. Hand-carved wooden cricket guiros are popular in Latin American music, while natural bamboo guiro rasps are preferred in Asian music. Gourd guiros, on the other hand, are popular in Africa and the Caribbean. The shape of the Guiro can affect the sound it produces, with longer Guiros producing lower-pitched sounds.

The shape of the Guiro can affect the sound it produces, with longer Guiros producing lower-pitched sounds. Guiros add a distinctive sound to any music genre, from Latin to pop, and are preferred in different regions of the world.

The history of the guiro

The instrument was discovered as early as 1788, it is believed to have originated in either Africa or South America, and its use dates back to ancient times. The Aztecs, for example, created a similar instrument called an omitzicahuastli, which was made from a hollowed-out pumpkin. The Guiro was later introduced to the Caribbean by African slaves, and it quickly became a popular instrument in Latin American music. 

The Taínos of Puerto Rico developed the güajey, an antecedent to the modern güiro, using long gourds or animal bones with notches.The güiro is commonly used in Cuban, Puerto Rican, and other forms of Latin American music.

How is it played? 

There are many techniques that can be used to play, but the guiro is usually played by scraping along the notches of the instrument. The sound effect varies from instrument to instrument depending on the materials used, the depth of the notches and spacing between. To play the Guiro, a musician holds it in one hand and uses a stick or scraper to scrape the indents on its surface. This creates a unique sound that can be varied by changing the speed and pressure of the scraping. The Guiro can also be played as a shaker rattle by shaking it back and forth.

How is it pronounced?

Wee-row or Gwee-roh

Top 10 Most Popular Guiros

1. Crocodile

crocodile guiro

 

This is one mean snappy crocodile, stunningly carved, and works well as an ornament! Whilst the one in the photo is natural wood, it does also come in green and is just as snappy! 

2. Croaking Frog

croaking frog guiro

A boxed croaking frog guiro that is made from high-quality acacia wood, that has been hand carved in northern Thailand. This is a more traditional guiro, and is an extremely popular option. The frogs mouth opening allows for more resonance, and unique sound when struck with the stick but also it's open mouth means that you have somewhere secure to keep your stick when not in use. No music studio is complete without a frog guiro, and his one doesn't require water lilies!

3. Cricket

green small cricket guiro

The small cricket wooden guiro block has been hand-painted, and is a perfect insect for children to play! It's a good practice beginner instrument before moving on to the real thing, and as it is so compact it can be used on the go, for a pro! 

4. Bamboo Rasp

bamboo guiro rasp

This beautiful long bamboo rasp is approximately 35 cm long. The guiro features a simplistic hand-painted dot design on both ends and has deep ridges that allow for a fantastic sound. The stick and the rasp are always together, and can be hung up to save some space. Suitable for the professional musician, or for anyone who has a passion for music. 

5. Gourd Shaker

large gourd guiro rasp

It's more like the traditional type of guiro but it works as a multipurpose instrument being also a shaker with a rainstick type of sound. It has a woven strap by the handle and has been stunningly hand painted in Peru. This shaker guiro is made from natural produce, and the gourd is commonly grown for it's diverse uses. If you want more bang for your buck, then this 2 in one, offers a lot of options in the studio, and is an all-round winner!

6. Tone Block

double plain wood guiro tone block

 

These guiros are most commonly found in school KS3 music classes, in fact this is the first one that I ever played and it was in school. They are perfectly suited for smaller hands, and the medium sized instrument is best suited for a beginner. Reviewers said that the instrument had a pleasing sound that was groovy and delivered a great tone.

7. Kids Guiro

kids toy guiro

Showcasing the guiro designed for kids, suitable for ages 3 years plus. The rainbow multicoloured stripes will make young children want to play with it and when they do, they will be learning to play music without even realising. Educational toys are fantastic for children and they also last the longest because they take longer for kids to grow out of offering years of play time. It has been carefully crafted from wood and is smooth to the touch. It's lightweight, and comes with a beater.

8. Cat Guiro 

purring cat guiro with rasp

This handmade cat guiro made from eco-friendly and sustainable acacia wood. Stroke its back with the stick provided to hear a guiro sound or blow into its backside to create a whistle sound. This two-in-one instrument is perfect for musicians and also serves as a stunning decorative item. The guiro measures 14cm high and weighs 200g, and is made in Thailand.

9. Ball rattle shaker

wooden ball rattle shaker

The ball rattle shaker is a fun percussion instrument made of solid wood, with a unique sound and versatile design.

10. Morus Guiro

 

wooden painted guiro

 

The versatile Wooden Guiro percussion instrument, made of sturdy wooden materials with colorful red and blue ends, doubles as a shaker and guiro, producing a range of sounds that can be created by shaking, hitting or scraping; with a rasp included, this lightweight and easy to play eco-friendly guiro is perfect for use in educational settings, by children, and beginners, offering a two-in-one instrument experience that is both fun and functional, but not suitable for children under 3 years old.

Up next: What is a Shaker?

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