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Cactus rainsticks have been around for an extremely long time. They were made and used by Native American tribes when they performed dances, in the hope to bring about rain that would help their crops and land flourish.
As their name suggests, the best cactus rainsticks are still made from actual cactus plants these days. After the plentiful Capado cactus plant lives about six decades, it dies and dries out, and is then harvested, cleaned, and hollowed out by native artisans. The spines are pushed into the hard wood body, or small sticks are inserted, and many very small pebbles are sealed inside. Because cactus rainsticks are connected to tribal cultures, you’ll often find rainsticks with different patterns or decorations symbolic of that connection.
The unique “rain” sound is produced by turning the stick from end to end. As the pebbles slide from one end of the stick to the other, they create a gentle rattling that mimics the sound of rain.
The best cactus rainsticks are still used in traditional rain ceremonies throughout South America today, and in meditation practices here in North America too. Rainsticks also show up on many musical recordings, adding a layer of sound to say, a jazz or new-age track.
This percussion instrument is easy for anyone to pick up (no pun intended), from an avid musician looking to add a new instrument to their collection or even a teacher trying to capture the attention and fascination of his or her students.
One thing to note: a good cactus rainstick can vary based on its size. Larger cactus rainsticks will provide a louder and more sustained sound, while shorter rainsticks work better as shakers. The sizes are wide-ranging, and you can get one as short as 10 inches or as large as 60 inches.
1. African Heartwood Project Cactus Rainstick
This rainstick channels the energy and vibrancy of South America with its Chilean-colored twine decorations. That’s not the only great thing about the exterior of this rainstick, however. It is coated with a sealant that makes it resistant to stains and water, while also giving it a smoother and more durable finish.
2. Arte Indigena Cactus Rainstick
At just 10 inches in length, this rainstick is the smallest one on our list, making it great for encouraging younger kids to try the instrument. It also tucks easily into any traveling musician’s percussion kit.
A special sealant protects the wood, and keeps the finish smooth. We like the decorative accent of the multi-colored yarn too.
Because of its length, you may find that this rainstick functions better as a shaker because the sound can last shorter than expected.
3. Lizard King Arts Cactus Rainstick
Apart from the beautiful sound these rainsticks make, the unique patterning on their body makes them stand out from the rest. It has a cute fabric band wrapped around the top end of it that makes the instrument more appealing to play. Plus, at 20 inches in length, this rainstick is the ideal size to play in a band or group setting.
It’s not just the crisp sound that will stand out — because of the handmade nature of this rainstick, no two pieces will be exactly alike, ensuring that the item you get will truly be unique.
4. Westco Authentic Cactus Rainstick
For those looking to really create full, sustained rain sound, consider the Westco rainstick. This option comes in at 29 inches long, but you can purchase one up to 60 inches in length. Made in Chile, it’s crafted from dried cactus just like the traditional Chilean rainstick. Because of this, it hasn’t been sanded or varnished, and some users have reported splintering.
Still, for serious musicians — or a serious display piece around the house — you can’t go wrong with this elegant and authentic rainstick.