Celebrate Earth Day By Making Recycled Instruments

A real wooden cajon and a version made from a cardboard box - both sound great!

Have you ever wondered what the first musical instruments might have been? Anthropologists say that they were very simple but powerful creations made with natural materials, such as a log drum from Africa,  a bone flute from South America or corn kernels or pebbles placed inside a gourd and sealed to make a Native rattle. You might even say that early people or indigenous people were the original reusers and recyclers. But that type of creativity doesn’t need to be a part of an ancient or far-away civilization. If you work with children and have access to recycled materials, then you can also create some awesome instruments that work very much like their real counterparts around the world.

wooden, bone and recycled guiros

For instance, take the guiro.  A guiro is a simple instrument with ridges often found in Latin America countries and it is scraped with a stick or pick or rasp to create wonderful rhythms. The last time I visited Lima, Peru, young kids had created their own guiros from soda bottles with ridges and were playing them with plastic hair picks, while singing their favorite songs. It sounded fantastic. If you want to hear a guiro, color a guiro, hear a guiro song or find a pdf to make one yourself, visit: http://www.dariamusic.com/guiro.php .

And how about a didgeridoo from Australia?  The original was made from a tree branch hollowed out by ants, but you can make your own version with wrapping paper tubes or from PVC piping.  Believe it or not, these instruments don’t take a lot of effort to create and sound really great!  To hear, color or find instructions to make a didg, visit: http://www.dariamusic.com/didgeridoo.php .

And, have you ever heard a cajón – a box drum from the Afro-Peruvian culture? It’s a wonderful instrument to learn the skills of basic hand percussion. And it can be made from a shoebox or a simple sturdy cardboard box. To hear, color or find instructions to make the cajón, visit: http://www.dariamusic.com/cajon.php .

And what about the USA?  I’ve always loved seeing a simple washboard used to clean clothes turned into an amazing rhythm machine. You can play it with spoons, plastic forks, thimbles, chopsticks or whatever you find handy. A simple version can be made easily from sturdy cardboard and manilla paper so a whole class can create a recycled band in no time!  To hear, color or find instructions to make a washboard, visit: http://www.dariamusic.com/washboard.php .

If you’d like to hear many of these wonderful world music instruments in the context of songs, check out my music at www.dariamusic.com or explore any type world music traditions for yourself.  Listen for what is creating the sounds.  Learn about what instruments are special to different groups of people and why.  It’s a wonderful way to explore world cultures and build bridges while being creative and having some musical fun at the same time!

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One thought on “Celebrate Earth Day By Making Recycled Instruments

  1. Pingback: This Sturdy Latin American

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