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Late medieval depiction of angels with rattling vessels in Himmelkron Monastery
Row rattle of seeds and leaves in the music of New Guinea . Worn on the ankles by dancers
Vessel rattle maracas

Rattles are indirectly struck shaking idiophonic , i.e. self-sounding musical instruments in which small rattles are stimulated by the player's shaking movements, which produce a mostly noisy, occasionally also a pitch-specific tone.


For High German word rattle heard in southern German dialects toboggan and in the Low German language ratel what the English rattle comes close. The common origin is the Germanic root hrat . The French word for rattle, hochet , is derived from this and was used as hocete , "children's rattle", as early as the 13th century . The Greek equivalent is the verb chradaino in the underlying, appropriate meaning "shake", "swing", "swing".

Classification and distribution

With indirectly struck idiophones, which also include clapper bells , the strikes are not as fully controllable by the player as with idiophones struck directly, which is why rattles are unsuitable for precise rhythmic accentuation. Rattles have come in numerous variants since ancient times. They are classified according to the Hornbostel-Sachs system as follows:

Vessel rattles consist of a hollow body filled with hard rattles ranging in size from grains of sand to nuts. If this is shaken rhythmically, the particles hitting the wall and against themselves generate a specific crackling noise. Rattles, in which the rattle bodies are attached to a network surrounding the vessel and act on it from the outside, also count as vessel rattles. A special group are the widespread calabash rattles, which consist of a hollowed-out calabash . These include the shékere in Central and South America, the axatse in Ghana and the daghumma in Mauritania. Vessel rattles are used today, among other things, in Cha-Cha-Cha , Tango and Jazz . Metal rattles are called bells ; In the Arabic-Persian-speaking world, bells are known as zang or zanj .

With the frame rattles, small bodies are attached to the outside of a larger object and strike against it; in the case of row rattles, self-sounding bodies arranged next to each other hit against each other. An example of a row rattle in New Guinea music consists of a number of nutshells that are bundled by plant fibers.

The bell ring , in which small metal disks ( cymbals ) hit each other, is a combination of both. With glide rattles, the bodies (often seeds) glide in a hollow body, as with angklung . If they are attached to the outside, they are called pendulum rattles. Pendulum rattles can also be found as appendages to melody instruments when they are supposed to change their sound. Iron plates (rattle plates) hung with metal rings on the edge produce a sound during the game of some West African inland spits of the ngoni type . The rattle drums are a typological hybrid between idiophonic rattles and membranophones .

Rattles have always been used generally in cultic music. In voodoo the asson serves as a symbol of the priesthood of the mambos and houngans .

Rattles are also used in symphonic music, for example in Ludus de nato Infante mirificus (Christmas play) by Carl Orff , 1960, and Ode to the Westwind by Hans Werner Henze , 1953.

As a children's rattle , rattles in various forms are given to babies and toddlers as toys in order to develop their sensorimotor skills. Rasselbande is a colloquial or even joking term for a noisy crowd.

See also


  • James Blades, John M. Schechter. Rattle. In: Grove Music Online , 2001

Web links

Commons : Rattle  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Curt Sachs : Handbook of musical instrumentation. 2nd edition 1930, reprint Georg Olms, Hildesheim 1960, p. 48
  2. ^ Rattle, Sepik River Region, Papua New Guinea. Late 19th / Early 20th Century. National Music Museum. University of South Dakota
  3. Milo Rigaud: Secrets of Voodoo . Arco, New York 1969, p. 36 f, ISBN 978-0872861718 (on Google Books )