Also:       crécelle      Ratsche      raganella      

Title: demo: ratchet; David Miller, percussion. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The ratchet is classified as a scrape idiophone or cog rattle (though it is not actually a rattle in the precise sense of the word) of Europe. It is called for sparingly in the orchestral and band repertoires, and might better be thought of as an auxiliary sound-effects instrument.


Two wooden blocks each with a pair of thinly-shaven tongues cut out of them are mounted on an inverted V-shaped metal frame so that the tips of their tongues touch the cogs on a rotatable wooden wheel mounted at the peak of the frame. A metal handle runs through the wheel’s axis and is used to rotate it so that the cogs flex and release the tongues.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The performer can control and easily vary the rate of the clicks by rotating the crank faster or slower.


Ratchets of various designs have been used for centuries in some religious traditions. They have also been used to provide warning signals, to scare animals, and as a children’s toy. The ratchet pictured here was designed specifically for musical use.

Bibliographic Citations

Blades, James. 1970. Percussion Instruments and Their History. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers.

________. 1984. “Ratchet [cog rattle],” NGDMI v.3: 194-195.


Instrument Information


Continent: Europe

Formation: European

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

112.24 idiophone--scraped wheel or cog rattle: a cog wheel, whose axle serves as the handle, and a tongue fixed in a frame which is free to turn on the handle; when whirled, the tongue strikes the teeth of the wheel one after another

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: cranking

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: tongue - idioglot

Sound objects per instrument: multiple sounded collectively

Resonator design: no resonator

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - indirect

Sound exciting agent: collision with non-sonorous object

Energy input motion by performer: cranking

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


7.5 in. height

Primary Materials




Entry Author

Roger Vetter