The best instrument is one you make with your own two hands!
Making instruments at home with your child is not only a fun activity (…when stuck indoors during a pandemic…), but it:
- Engages critical thinking
- Sparks curiosity & creativity
- Introduces the science of acoustics
- Demonstrates how different materials make different sounds
- Teaches basics of the four instrument families
Gather Your Materials!
When preparing to make your own home-made instruments, there are two ways you could go about the task:
- With a plan! (fun!)
- With NO plan! (more fun!)
If you have an instrument in mind, such as some of the ideas below, gather the materials you need for the project. Be sure to ask your child for their input on what to use (should we use this big, empty plastic bottle, or this smaller one?). And don’t forget items to decorate your creation, like stickers, markers, washi tape, ribbon, glitter glue, or anything else you like!
If you want to really have a blast, just gather materials, and see where creativity and curiosity steers you and your child! Go on a scavenger hunt to find items such as:
- Containers that can be closed tightly or glued shut. Aim for containers made of various materials, like plastic Easter eggs, plastic soda bottles, cookie tins, oatmeal containers, Tupperware, and cardboard boxes.
- Things to add to shakers, like dry rice, dry beans, or Cheerios. Use your discretion when choosing items to ensure they are safe and do not pose a choking hazard.
- Cans without sharp edges
- Paper or plastic plates or bowls
- Plastic or wooden spoons
- Plastic straws
- Rubber bands
- Terra-cotta pots
- Kitchen items like plastic mixing bowls, colanders, or baking tins
- Assembly tools like hot glue or super glue, stapler, or tape
- Decorations like stickers, washi tape, markers, or ribbon
Now, explore how to put items together! Can you make a shaker? A drum? A bell? A flute? A guitar?
Percussion Instruments are the easiest to make at home. By definition, percussion instruments are those that can be played by shaking, striking (hitting) or scraping / scratching the instrument. Percussion instruments include drums, maracas, and guiros.
Have some leftover Easter eggs? Fill them with rice or beans. To avoid a mess, glue or tape them shut. To make a maraca, tape a pair of spoons to an egg. Give it a shake! Does your rice shaker sound different than your bean shaker?
Add dry rice, beans, or cereal to containers like plastic bottles, oatmeal canisters, or tins. You’ve made a shaker! How do different containers and different additives make different sounds?
To make a shaker-tambourine, put some rice, beans, or cereal in a paper bowl or plate. Use a stapler, glue, or strong tape to secure another plate on top, fastening the edges together. For decoration, add ribbons to the edges. If your child is on the older side, tie craft bells to the ribbons.
If you made a shaker out of a tin, oatmeal canister, or paper plates, you can also strike it like a drum. Test out different mallets, too, such as wooden or plastic spoons.
Make drums by stretching balloons over the mouths of large cans. Be sure they have no sharp edges!
If you used a plastic bottle that has ridges on the side, you can scrape it with a pencil or spoon handle to make a guiro!
Tie a large button to the end of a ribbon and loop it through a small terracotta pot. You’ve made a bell that you can shake and strike!
Wind instruments, as their name suggests, make a sound when a current of air moves through them or across a mouthpiece. Wind instruments include the flute, clarinet, and recorder
You can make a simple pan flute at home using plastic straws!
Cut a bunch of straws to various lengths. Line them up in size order and glue or tape them together so they stay flat. Wrap some pretty tape or ribbon around the widest part. Blow into the straws, or across them, and you’ll hear how the shorter straws make a higher-pitched sound, and the longer straws make a lower-pitched sound!
String instruments make a sound when a string (usually made of metal, plastic, or nylon) is plucked or bowed.
The most popular home-made string instrument is the box guitar!
Experiment with using different guitar bodies – like cardboard boxes, plastic Tupperware, or metal baking pans. Do they sound different?
Brass instruments are typically made of brass or another metal. Though they use the player’s air to make a sound, they are played very differently than wind instruments. The Mirriam-Webster dictionary describes brass instruments as the following: “any of a group of wind instruments (such as a French horn, trombone, trumpet, or tuba) that is usually characterized by a long cylindrical or conical metal tube commonly curved two or more times and ending in a flared bell, that produces tones by the vibrations of the player’s lips against a usually cup-shaped mouthpiece, and that usually has valves or a slide by which the player may produce all the tones within the instrument’s range.”
Brass instruments are tricky to make at home. But, with some plastic tubing and a flared “bell” fashioned out of a piece of soda bottle, it’s possible!
Share your home made instruments with us on our Facebook Parent’s Group!