Civilizations throughout history have used the gourd to create a range of musical instruments, including the maraca. The maraca is a hand-held musical percussion instrument that people often use in pairs to create rhythm for dancing and songs, especially when working with children. Although you can adapt just about any kind of gourd to create a maraca, gourds that have a naturally narrow, elongated neck, such as the dipper gourd and the bottle gourd, are easier to use since you don't need to add a handle. Rather, you can just use the neck of the gourd as your maraca handle. Provided you've cleaned and dried your gourd ahead of time, you should be able to make this inexpensive, easy-to-construct maraca in two successive afternoons.
Make a hole in the gourd to clean out the seeds and pulp. Use a keyhole saw to make a small hole (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter) where the bowl of the gourd begins to stretch into the neck. If your gourd doesn't have an elongated neck, just make the hole at the base of the gourd stem.
Soak the gourd. Fill a dishpan with enough hot water to submerge the gourd completely. Put the gourd in the water, allowing it to fill with the water and letting it soak for up to 24 hours to soften the pulp. Place a heavy object such as a brick on top of the gourd to keep it submerged in the water.
Remove the seeds and pulp. Use a narrow, long-handled spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp, which should come out of the gourd easily because you soaked it.
Insert noisemakers into your dried gourd through the hole. Ginger Summit, co-author of "Making Gourd Musical Instruments," suggests that you use materials such as small pebbles, beads or other seeds (like sunflower seeds) as your noisemakers.
Prepare the handle for your gourd maraca. If you're using a gourd with a natural handle, just close the hole off with a cork that fits securely into the hole. If your gourd doesn't have a handle shape, insert a 6- to 8-inch long wooden dowel (with a diameter of 1 1/2 inches) into the open hole about 2 inches. Secure the dowel by applying an even layer of all-purpose glue around the circumference of the dowel where it meets the gourd. Allow the glue to dry completely.
Cover your gourd with clear varnish to finish it off. Use a small brush to apply the varnish in small, even strokes. Allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before you use the gourd maraca.