I'm working on a piece for Pierrot ensemble (fl, cl, vln, vlc, pa, perc). While it's not trying to be a strict or authentic tango, it uses several familiar rhythmic patterns and "sounds like" one. I like the timbre of castanets and am considering using them. I read that castanets are much more common to flamenco, but I also read that tango and flamenco are fairly closely related.

How out-of-place would it be to use castanets in a tango? Would it jar the listener out of the music too much?

1 Answer 1


Castanets are not used in an Orchestra Týpica in Argentina. However, they are common in German and American tango orchestras. Tango grew out of a combination of ballads and Bizet's "Habanera" from "Carmen." Flamenco styles are more closely related to Spanish (and Moorish and perhaps Gypsy) ballad styles. Dancing is a later addition.

Broadway tangos (like "Hernando's Hideaway) seem to always use castanets. I'd suggest trying it with and without castanets and see which sounds better (rather than the most authentic).

  • You're right; I made the correction.
    – ttw
    Aug 28, 2021 at 2:59
  • Piazzolla recordings seem to use guiro very prominently (youtu.be/_WIaHQwlfsw, youtu.be/F-XblSpna3M) as well as claves or two-pitch wood blocks. I also associate the cajon with tango, but I think that's more of a flamenco or Peruvian tradition. Aug 28, 2021 at 16:51

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