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When you think of handheld percussion instruments, what's the first mental image that pops into your head? For most people, the answer to that question will be maracas. They're well-loved and widely-used, with a history that's seen them spread from their Latin origins into just about every genre of music... so it's no wonder they're the quintessential symbol for hand percussion. One of the interesting things about maracas is that, as similar as any two pairs are, there's a surprising amount of diversity to be found here. Simple changes in material and shape can have big impacts on the sound, and there are dozens of unique maraca sounds represented in this section.

Without a doubt, the most classic style is the wooden maraca. You'll find lots of those, including the Stagg Wood Maracas, Meinl Wood Maracas and Cannon Percussion Wood Maracas sporting the familiar Mexican flag-inspired paint job. If you're looking for a set with a more individualized look, check out the Toca Hand Painted Maracas. Want to go traditional, but not with wood? In that case, take a look at the LP Macho Maracas, the Meinl Skin Maracas and the Gon Bops Rawhide Poquito Maracas.

There are plenty of modern material alternatives as well, and they offer sounds that are all their own. For instance, the LP Fiber Maracas use steel balls inside for a crisp and piercing sound. The Pearl PFM20 Beaded Maracas are like a cross between a maraca and a shekere, with cushiony foam handles for super-comfortable play. And the Meinl Plastic Egg Maracas deliver the light, airy egg-maraca sound along with the versatility and ease of stick-mounted instruments.

It is, of course, impossible to make a wrong choice when it comes to maracas. They all deliver a sound with individual character, and it's up to you to choose which of those distinctive sounds you want to add into your music. Whichever set that turns out to be, you'll be sure to get a lot of mileage out of these beloved handheld percussion instruments!