Does your child love music? If so, music is a great way to introduce them to our amazing, beautiful and diverse world by creating some of the very instruments they might find by traveling around the planet. From Australia’s “way too funny” didgeridoo to a box-shaped drum from coastal Peru to recycled rattles, there are a multitude of ways to get creative with music as you shake, rattle and roll. Best of all, these easy-to-make instruments rely on the concept of reduce, reuse, and recycle so while you’re exploring world cultures, you’re also consuming less, being green and striking up the band for some excellent family fun.
MEET THE CAJÓN – A DRUM SHAPED LIKE A BOX
On the coast of Peru and in a few other Latin American countries you’ll find a drum that is square. Originally made out of dresser drawers or crates used in shipping, this drum has an amazing sound all it’s own. Played like any other drum, you can strike it with your hands, palm, fingers and create wonderful rhythms. All you need to begin this project is an empty box.
A cajón is basically a box with a sound hole. The name comes from the Spanish word for box – “caja”. Traditionally, it is made from a sturdy material like wood so you generally see cajón players sitting on their instruments. With cardboard or smaller boxes, it’s best to play them on your lap or in front of you.
Start by drawing and cutting a circle from your cardboard box. Although most sound holes are round, you could also experiment with various sizes and shapes to see what happens!
If you want to try to create a sturdier version of this project with wood, it isn’t too difficult. You just need an adult with a bit of woodworking skills (to cut the sound hole) and a box discarded from a produce store, purchased from a craft store or assembled from rectangles of wood at home.
Use anything you have handy to decorate it. Try paint, stickers, paper, electrical tape, photos or drawings. You can use markers, sharpie pens or rubber stamps. If you are working with wood, try paint and pens and add a coat of lacquer afterward to keep your designs from fading.
Strike the middle of your box with the palm of your hand, for a loud “dum” sound. Tap with the tip of your fingers to the edges for a “bek” sound. Mix the sounds to create patterns or listen and try to match the beat as you play along with your favorite songs. Your cajón will sound great played with any music but especially good when played along with Latin American songs.
CHECK IT OUT:
Hear a cajón here: http://www.dariamusic.com/cajon.php
Hear a cajón song here: http://www.dariamusic.com/cajon.php
Color a cajón online here: http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Cajon.php
Color a cajón, print out: http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/color_cajon.pdf
Make a cajón pdf: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Cajon.php
SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL with RECYCLED RATTLES
Just about every culture in the world uses some sort of rattle. And the cool thing about rattles is that they can be made of practically anything from bottle caps or the toenails of goats to dried gourds, paper cups, milk containers or recycled bottles of any sort.
For this project, you’ll need any cleaned recycled containers and some sort of filling. You can use sand, salt, birdseed, dried peas or beans, gravel, pebbles, dried pasta, marbles or practically any small dry items. These will generate the sound. Try filling, refilling, adding and subtracting from your chosen rattle until you get the sound you like. Smaller fillings will give a softer “whoosh” sound and larger items like macaroni, marbles or pebbles will give a louder, sharper sound. Play around with what you have on hand to create just the sound you are looking for.
Then… decorate! You can add glitter, beads, small buttons or confetti to make the inside of your rattle more appealing. You can decorate the outside using paint, paper, stickers, markers, fabric or even yarn and fabric.
Last, make sure you seal your rattle with electrical tape in order to keep the smaller pieces from being swallowed. You can add a handle made from a pipe cleaner or colorful ribbon, if you like.
PLAYING WITH RATTLES
Rattles sound great with any kind of music. Just shake it up and play along. Even small children begin to hear rhythms when playing along with them. If you make several rattles, your child will begin to hear the difference between each one and it can be fun to explore what sounds best with different types of music. For instance, a sand rattle sounds great with quiet songs and lullabyes. A macaroni rattle can be heard easily while you’re rockin’ out to more upbeat tunes.
If your child has noise sensitivity or is on the Autism/Aspergers spectrum, stick with quieter rattles and allow them to choose what sounds most pleasing to their ears. For autistic children, make sure the contents are visually appealing as they may want to zone into moving colors as well as listen to the repeating sounds they create.
MEET THE DIDGERIDOO
If you’ve ever seen a movie or t.v. program about Australia – you’ve already heard a didgeridoo. It produces a wonderfully odd sound that most kids describe as a cross between a ship’s foghorn and an elephant lost in the jungle. If you have a long tube from giftwrap or a length of pvc piping, you can create a homemade version of a didg that sounds amazingly like the real thing.
Start with a long, hollow object. Your best bets are the inner roll from giftwrap or any length of pvc piping (odd lengths can often be found at hardware stores for a dollar or two). Look for a diameter similar to that giftwrap tube as it will work perfectly for the size of a child’s mouth and lips. And speaking of lips, if you are using pvc piping, make sure you use sandpaper to sand both the top and bottom of your didg to avoid sharp edges when playing or holding your instrument. Other choices for homemade didges might include old mailing or photo tubes, toilet paper or paper towel rolls, but the longer the tube the deeper and more authentic the sound.
If you check out most traditional didgeridoos there is elaborate dot-design artwork generally with an animal or reptile theme. It’s said that most traditional didgeridoo makers decorate their instruments with animals that are special to them or that represent their clan. You’ll often see lizards, snakes, turtles and other great creatures crawling up and down the artwork on Australian didgeridoos. You can have fun creating your own animal totem or a putting a favorite design onto your instrument to personalize it.
PLAYING THE DIDG
A didg is properly played by “blowing raspberries” into the mouth end. The length of the instrument converts that sound into the loud drone that most folks recognize as a didg. Experiment with your new instrument until you find the sound that you like. Serious didg players utilize circular breathing (blowing out the mouth while taking in air through the nose at the same time) and can continue playing for ridiculously long times. However, a small amount of basic practice will have your backyard sounding like the Australian outback in no time.
CHECK IT OUT:
Hear a didg here: http://www.dariamusic.com/didgeridoo.php
Hear a didg song here: http://www.dariamusic.com/didgeridoo.php
Color a didg online here: http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Didg.php
Color a didg, print out: http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/color_didg.pdf
Make a didg pdf: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Didg.php
Whether you are playing along with your favorite tunes, making up songs or having an informal jam session, playing music is an excellent way of connecting with those you love. Adding instruments; especially ones that are easy to play and personalize, make the experience even more creative and enjoyable.
Who knows – perhaps you’ll find a new favorite song or style of music or discover a hidden talent in a family member! In any event, you’ll be discovering a world of musical fun to enrich and enliven your day.
Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has five cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her website; located at dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.