When school’s out, the dog days of summers have struck and it’s too hot to go outside, screen time tends to reach an all-time high and creativity an all-time low. Easily flip the script with easy, yet engaging, DIY musical instruments that are not only fun but will mean the kids are playing with math, creativity and even physics. A powerful representation of the use of DIY musical instruments comes from The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a Paraguayan musical group that plays instruments made entirely out of garbage pieces.
When thinking of making our own DIY musical instruments at home, parents might let out a huge sigh and think that it’s more of a messy mission, but here are some nearly fool-proof projects to create at home with items found easily in most homes.
Water Glass Xylophone
A favorite family-friendly activity for many is coloring eggs for Easter. Similarity for this project, we fill glasses with colored water to make a beautiful and functional water xylophone.
If you want an octave, collect 8 glasses. You can use most household glasses, but they should be the same. However, it’s your activity, so see what happens when you use different glasses!
- Fill each one with water to different levels and play with what different volumes sounds like.
- The lower the level of water, the higher the pitch is.
- Tuning the “xylophone” to a scale can be tricky, but have patience, it is so fun when you can sing with your instrument!
You will tap your glasses with a metal spoon and for this, you don’t need to hit it hard, so please stand by your child as they explore! Feel free to play music in the background!
Popsicle Stick Harmonica
Channel your kids’ inner Stevie Wonder and/or Bob Dylan with these popsicle stick harmonicas.
After the ice-cream truck is long gone and you’ve cleaned off the sugary residue from the popsicle stick, gather your supplies (this makes one harmonica):
- Two jumbo craft sticks or popsicle sticks
- A wide rubber band
- Two smaller rubber bands
- A straw and scissors
- Cutting the straw into two pieces that are 1–1 .5 inches long
- Stretch the thick rubber band length-wise around one of the craft sticks
- Place one straw on each side under the rubber band
- Place the other stick on top like a sandwich and attach them together on each end with a small rubber band. It will need to be wrapped around the end a few times.
Then, you’re ready to play by blowing into the middle of the “harmonica.” Adjust the pitch by sliding the straws closer together or further apart. When the straws are closer together, the section of vibrating rubber band is shorter, making higher sound. Slide the straws all the way to the edges to get the lowest possible sound, though it’s still relatively high-pitched.
Disney’s Encanto has got kids dancing and moving to so many amazing rhythms! How about maracas!? You can create simple hand-held maracas with:
- Empty soda can or empty canned food item + can opener
- Weighted fillers like dried rice, beans, pasta, beads, or pretty much anything that fits and makes a sound
- Saran wrap
- Rubber band
- Extras would be yarn, paper, tissue paper, markers and crayons to decorate! Again, this works with any age but the “littles” will love this!
This first part is for adults:
- Use a can opener to remove the top of the soda can, take a screwdriver or butter knife to press down any sharp edges.
- After rinsing and drying out the can, have kids fill the can with fillers to the desired sound.
- Keep shaking with your hand over the top to see what sounds you like.
Once you’ve found your ideal weight, take saran wrap and place it over the top. Take two rubber band and secure them over the top. We recommend using a double band it to make sure the contents do not fall out. Voila, you have an instant “maraca”! For an easier route, you can also utilize plastic containers with lids.
Use yarn, markers, tissue papers, etc. to make the homemade maracas your own. Once decorated, shake away!
After making these instruments and learning about the sounds of each, get friends, family and neighbors involved to compose a concert with your DIY instruments.
Creating instruments engages the sight, aural, and kinesthetic, while mindfulness and music can be reciprocal. Listening to music and finding pitch helps children pinpoint specific sounds instead of being distracted by background noise, which helps a child practice mindfulness and attentiveness. Even during the dog days of summer, music changes us, comforts us, soothes us, and helps us find release and creativity. For more musical ideas, visit Middle C in D.C.