History & Purpose of Rainsticks

A rainstick is a long hollowed tube filled with beans, rocks or other coarse materials and is designed to create a sound when shaken.

Most people have seen a rainstick and know about their mystical attributions.

Native American tribes would play these musical instruments during dance in hopes that it could bring about a storm and provide water and sustenance to the land.

Rainstick Construction

The construction of a rainstick depends heavily on the regional area in which it was crafted.

Most often cactus (America) or bamboo (Asia) were dried, hollowed out, and filled with a coarse material such as beans, rocks, or sand.

Two commonly used species of cactus were: Eulychnia acida and Echinopsis pachanoi.

Over time, in the case of the cacti variety, they began driving the thorns deep into the cylinder to add more depth to the sound.

The instrument is then either tilted upside down or shaken during dance to simulate the sound of rain.

They are technically a percussion instrument, since they only create rhythm, rather then tone.

Unclear Origins

Although it is believed that rainsticks were originally invented by the Mapuches, due to their long history, their origins are shrouded in mystery.

What many people don’t know is that they were made and played by many cultures around the world, not just the Native Americans.

All throughout Asia, in places such as Indonesia and Tibet, very similar instruments were played, so it is hard to to say exactly where these instruments were created.

This article was last revised on 02/26/2020.

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