Eight Homemade Instruments

By Kalani • January 26th, 2011

Enjoy homemade musical instruments from every-day materials. Help your participants construct and decorate their own instruments as art projects, then come together in a community music jam. Celebrate unity and diversity at the same time and have fun creating some unique sounds. See the end of this article for experiential ideas.

Post-Card Shaker

Card Shaker

Materials: Two Post Cards (or one Greeting Card), Rice (filling), and Tape

  1. Tape the post cards together along three edges.
  2. Fill with one Tbsp of Rice or similar filling.
  3. Fold the remaining edge at a 90-degree angle to the opposite side. (It will look like a triangle when viewed from the side.)
  4. Tape the remaining side.

See the Drums & Percussion video guide for more on shakers!

Pocket Shaker

Another great homemade instrument and art project!

Pocket Shaker

Materials: Greeting Card, Drinking Straw, Filling, and Tape (Scissors)

  1. Cut the greeting card in half (top & bottom)
  2. Tape a straws around the inside of the card, about ¼” from the edge.
  3. Pour 1 Tbsp of filling into the card.
  4. Closed and staple then tape the card around the edges.

Pot Bells

Pot Bell

Materials: Terra Cotta Pot, Rope, and Mallet (Stick with soft filling and tape)

  1. Cut a 1’ length of rope and run the center up though the hole in the pot from the inside (The bowl is inverted.)
  2. Tie the ends together to form a knot that is large enough to not slip through the hole. Use additional materials if needed.
  3. Hold the loop-end of the rope and strike the pot with a soft mallet. (Make mallets from dowels and balloons)

Cup Drums

Cup/Pinch Drum

Materials: Cup with handle, Balloon (9-12”), Tape

  1. Cut a balloon near the widest point, so you have a little more than ½ circle.
  2. Stretch the balloon over the cup and secure it with tape. (Rinse it first to make it stickier)
  3. Play by “pinching” the drum “head.”

(‘jumbo’ balloons may be stretched over bowls as size permits. Tape around the balloon to secure it in place.)

Plate Maracas and Ocean Drum

Plate Maraca / Ocean Drum

Materials: Two plastic or hard paper plates, Filling (rice or beans), and Tape

This also makes a great art project. Decorate plates with paint, fabric, and more!

  1. Pour 1 Tbsp (Ocean Drum) or 3 Tbsp (Maraca) of filling into one plate.
  2. Staple the second plate to the first (edges together).
  3. Tape around the edge.

See the Drums & Percussion video guide for more on maracas!

Jingle Shake

Jingle Shake

Materials: Three metal washers or similar, small wood dowel, 2 wooden beads, glue. Note: The dowel just fits through the washers and beads. ¼” Fender washers work well.

  1. Prepare washers by bending them a bit. Use two pairs of pliers or any other method available.
  2. Cut the dowel to about 2” and glue a bead to one end.
  3. Slip three washers into the dowel and glue the second bead to the dowel.

Tip: Use a ball-peen hammer to add 'dimples' to the washers. (See photo) This will brighten the sound and add 'shimmer.' Try bending just the middle washer at first.

Tubaphone "Dinosaur Call"

Tubaphone / Dinosaur Call

Materials: Long plastic tube (golf club tube), latex glove, drinking straw, tape

  1. Cut the tube to about 14-15”
  2. Tape the glove opening around one end of the plastic tube.
  3. Cut the tip off the ‘thumb’ of the glove, insert 2” of the straw and tape around.
  4. Pull the glove back towards the open end of the tube with the “fingers” pointing out and use the straw to fill it with air.
  5. With the glove full of air, change the tension on the glove until air begins to escape through the tube and makes a sound. You have the option of taping the straw to the tube at this time.

Note: Attach the glove to the thick end of the tube. Sharp edges could cut into the latex. Place tape over any sharp edges. Pull the 'thumb" towards the open end of the tube and tape into place.

Rain Stick

This homemade instrument can also make a wonderful art project. Just decorate with paper, tape, paint & more.

Rain Stick

Materials: Plastic tube 20-24” long*, aluminum foil, rice, tape

  1. Block off one end of the tube with tape.
  2. Cut a piece of foil that is a little longer than the tube, squish it up a bit so it fits into the tube and feed in down until it’s all the way in.
  3. Pour one cup of filling into the tube and seal the open end with tape.
  4. Play the rain stick by holding it vertically and alternating direction. You can also shake it like a shaker.

Note: Experiment with different types and amounts of filling.

Alternative to Step #2:

A. Create a long “snake” of aluminum foil, a bit longer than the tube.
B. Place the “snake” into the tube to form a spiral inside. When the tube is full, cut the foil.

* May use left over tube from Tubaphone

About Musical Play

Creating homemade instrument offers students a chance to work towards a goal, follow instructions, add a personal touch, and ultimately gain satisfaction in completing a task. Once the building is complete, which is a fun activity by itself, music making can begin!

The same spirit of play can extend into musical experiences. Students will want to find the many “voices” in the instruments they have built. Allow time for them to discover sounds and playing technique on their own. Experimentation is a big part of music making (and art-making in general), so allow lots of time for trial and error! Accept "funny" sounds, even if it sounds like noise! Remember: It’s only noise to the person who is not making it!

Musical Experiences:

Challenge students with finding ways to play together, you might help them sing a favorite song and accompany it with the instruments. Have them “jam-out” when the song ends and start a new song or sing the same one again. Maybe there are parts of the song where only certain instruments play? See more about jamming and drum circles.

Model conducting, as in front of an orchestra or band. Encourage participants to take a turn conducting the group. Point out musical elements to be shaped via conducting. Some of these include volume (loud-quiet), instrument groups, tempo (fast-slow), and texture (various combinations of sounds). Conducting can include gestures to keep the steady beat, cuing different instruments to play and not play, raising and lowering the volume, speeding up / slowing down, and ending.

Play a ‘Sound Scape’ where different instrument groups are cued to play at different times. Create a graphic to represent each instrument group and draw them all on the board. Have students take turns “conducting” the group by pointing to the different graphic symbols.

Play instruments as sound effects for a story. Find the key elements (characters, events, nature sounds, etc.) and assign a different instrument group to each. Tell the story and listen as each instrument group plays when its element is mentioned.

Invite students to write a short story that uses some of the sounds they have created. What are the sounds? What characters and other elements can be created around the sounds you have available?

Invite students to imitate the instrument sounds using their voices. This is a transitional step to singing and other ways of being musical. Ask them what “traditional’ or ‘classical’ instruments might sound like their instruments. Lead a discussion about how musicians create music by combining lots of different instruments, as in an orchestra or a band.

Create artwork that reflects the sounds of the instruments. What does this sound look like? Use a variety of art-making materials including pastels, crayons, paper, glitter, cloth, natural materials and anything else you like.

Move to the sounds. What would this sound look like if it were a movement? Assist in creating movements that reflect the qualities of the sounds (high-low, bright-dull, loud-quiet, etc.).

Musicality questions:

  • What is the beat?
  • What can we do to stay on the beat?
  • How do you know when to play? (and not play)
  • Which instruments are loud and which are quiet?
  • How do we “share” musical “space”?
  • Where does music come from? (inside each of us!)
  • Can music making be just for fun? (Yes!)

10 Benefits of Community Music Making:

  1. Active Listening
  2. Sharing (Instruments, Sound, Words)
  3. Self-Expression
  4. Non-Verbal Communication
  5. Peer Support
  6. Non-Competitive Activity
  7. Turn Taking, Impulse Control
  8. Unity, Team Spirit
  9. Diversity
  10. Attending and Focus

Learn more about the potential Health Benefits of Developmental Community Music



Hi, Kalani!

Thanks for the directions and great ideas! My daughter is working with some kids and had just asked me about making instruments. I’m going to use some of your suggestions.

Thanks, again!

can the “dinausor call” make 3 diffrent noises?


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