The Instrument

A  "Raganella" (known in English as a Football Rattle) is an instrument made of a  toothed wooden wheel: when it rotates, its teeth hit a thin wooden plate and it produces a noise similar to the croak of the frogs. The name of the “raganella” comes from here, because in Italian raganella means “little frog”.

This instrument is made of  several types of wood. It is made of three parts: a body (where you find also the wooden plate), a toothed wheel and a handle. The tonality of the instrument depends on the different types of wood and on the thickness of the body that rotates: if the body is big, the tonality will be low; if the body is little, the tonality will be high.


This instrument has a long long story! The priests played it in occasion of the Holy Week: during this week it was forbidden to ring the bells, so instead of doing it they played the “raganellas”. They went out in the streets of their towns with young boys and all together they played the “raganellas”: it was a simply way to let the people know that the mass was going to start soon. They went on doing this all the week long, they played the instruments each time that a religious event took place. As a matter of fact, at that time people didn’t use watches to measure the time, they just listened to the bells to organize their day. Each boy had a Raganella (maybe made or given as a gift by his grand-father) and he knew when to play it. So, thanks to the “raganellas” of the young boys, all the people could keep on doing their daily activities with their normal rhythms, even if they didn’t have the sound of the bells.
Usually the  “raganellas” were made with two toothed wheels and the boys used to turn the handle very fast, with the right hand clockwise. In this way the two wheels hit two little boards attacched to a little box (a sound box) which amplified the sound of the vibrations. There were also 3 toothed wheels and they were called “i Raganuni”. They stopped playing the  “Raganellas” in order to announce the Mass of the Resurrection at midnight and then the bells started to ring again so that everybody would know about Christ’s resurrection.

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