Also:       güiro      güira      guayo      guáchara      rascador      

Contextual Associations

The güiro is a scraped idiophone of Latin America. It is found throughout rural and urban Latin America, but is most closely associated with folk and popular dance musics of Cuba (where it is also called rascador or guayo), Puerto Rico, Panama (guachara), and the Dominican Republic (guira, where it is a standard instrument in the merengue tipico ensemble). To many Euro-Americans the sound of the güiro typifies Latin American dance music in its many manifestations, and the instrument can be found almost anywhere in the world today where those genres of music have come to influence musicians and musical tastes. It has occasionally been incorporated into Western orchestral music (referred to as a ‘rape’ or ‘grater’ in scores), band compositions, works for mixed percussion ensembles, and popular music. Percussionists, be they Latino or not, are today likely to include in their kits one or more güiro. Many of the instruments pictured in the gallery are products of the Latin Percussion company, who produces no fewer than twelve models of the instrument for an international clientele.


Several variants of the güiro are pictured in the gallery, but what they all share in common is a spherical hollow space and a textured surface. Several materials are used in this sampling of instruments: gourd (first instrument); wood (second instrument); fiberglass (third instrument); and metal (fourth and fifth instruments). The textured surfaces can consist of parallel incised or molded notches or ridges on the body of the instrument, or a stamped diamond-shaped pattern. The beater can be either a simple wooden stick or metal rod, or a wooden, plastic or metal comb. 

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The performer holds the güiro in the palm of one hand; depending on the design, the vessel rests in the palm, or has a couple of holes in its wall for the thumb and a finger, or has a handle to be grasped. The beater is held in the other hand and swept across the textured surface with a brushing-like motion, usually in two directions against the grain of the ridges. The instrument is typically scraped rhythmically and its dry sound usually interlocks with rhythms played on other percussion instruments to produce recognizable grooves for dances.


Sources are not forthcoming as to the origins of this instrument, although with the presence of peoples of African descent throughout the Caribbean it seems plausible to speculate African sensibilities at work in its creation and initial use. A closely related Afro-Brazilian instrument, the reco-reco, would seem to support this speculation.

Bibliographic Citations

Schechter, John M., James Blades, and James Holland. “Güiro,” in Grove Music Online. Accessed December 5 2014:


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: Caribbean

Nation: Cuba

Formation: cosmopolitan (Latin-American)

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

112.23 idiophone--scraped vessel: the player causes a scraping movement directly or indirectly; a non-sonorous object moves along the notched surface of a sonorous vessel, to be alternately lifted off the teeth and flicked against them

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: brushing

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: hollow spheroid vessel - with opening/s

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: scraping

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - stick/s with unpadded tip/s

Energy input motion by performer: brushing

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


13 in. length (gallery #1) 15.5 in. length (gallery #2) 13.5 in. length (gallery #3) 12.7 in. length (gallery #4) 9 in. length (gallery #5)

Primary Materials



unknown (gallery #1) Latin Percussion (all the rest)


gourd (gallery #1) wood (gallery #2) LP243 super fiber (gallery #3) LP305 merengue (gallery #4) LP452 silver multi (gallery #5)

Entry Author

Roger Vetter