14 World Music Instruments That Can Be Made From Recycled Materials

How do people around the world make music?  In some really amazing, beautiful, and diverse ways!

The instruments used to make music around the globe are also quite diverse and often made from unique materials.  Some are crafted from dried gourds, bones, bamboo or from wood. There are also instruments that use repurposed items – such as the cajón from Peru.  This “box drum” was originally made in secret from shipping boxes and dresser drawers when slaves were forbidden to use their African-style drums. If you add a set of thimbles to a washboard, you turn a household tool into a percussion instrument! It’s easy to see how common items can take on new usages and meaning.

There are also some modern ways or recreating ancient instruments.  Didgeridoos; originally from Aboriginal culture of Australia, can now be found all over the world.  Instead of the original didg made from a tree branch hollowed out by ants, some are made from pvc piping – the type found in most modern bathrooms.  Other unique ones I’ve seen in my travels include one made from a long tube and an orange traffic cone and one made from used crushed, metal Chinese food containers. People have gotten really creative in making and remaking instruments – often with the coolest recycled materials.  And you can to!

Here’s a list of our favorite recycled instrument crafts along with the materials you’ll need to create them for yourself.

 

Cajon (box drum)

Materials: sturdy cardboard box, materials for decoration

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Cajon.php

 

Didgeridoo

Materials: pvc piping or long gift wrap paper tube, materials for decoration

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Didg.php

Washboard

Materials: Sturdy cardboard, manila folder, materials for decoration

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Washboard.php

 

String Thing

Materials: Sturdy metal or plastic box, rubber bands in various sizes

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_String.php

 

Guiro

Materials: plastic water bottle with ridges, unsharpened pencil, hair pick or used chopstick (as scraper), materials for decoration

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Guiro.php

 

Pow-Wow Drum

Materials: Large piece of sturdy material (such as vinyl), materials for decoration

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Drum.php

Make a Drum Beater

Materials: long stick, electrical tape, materials for decoration

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_beater.php

 

Shekere

Materials: Recycled milk jug, stickers, about a handful of any small material such as rice, birdseed or dried macaroni 

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Shekere.php

 

Recycled Rattles – Nature Walk Rattles

Materials: Any clear recycled container, any items found on a nature walk, electrical tape

Link: http://tinytappingtoes.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/take-a-nature-walkmake-a-recycled-rattle/

Maracas

Materials: two small plastic water bottles, two toilet paper tubes, about a handful of any small material such as rice, birdseed or dried macaroni, electrical tape 

Link: https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/make-some-marvelous-maracas/

Sistrum

Materials: Either a wire coat hanger or a tree branch shaped like a “y”, jewelry wire or any thin wire, beads, jingles, buttons or other “jangley” objects.

Links: http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/ecosistrum.pdf and: http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/naturalsistrum.pdf

 

Gong

Materials: Large roasting pan, pipecleaners, large tube from gift wrap or large stick, stick (ruler or unsharpened pencil) for the beater, electrical tape, materials for decoration

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/chinesegong.pdf

 

Cajita  (little box percussion instrument)

Materials: cigar box, wooden dowel, small cabinet knob, materials for decoration

Link: http://wp.me/p1gB0a-13

 

Kalimba

Materials: small pieces of wood, bobby pins, push pins, glue

Link: https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/she-made-a-homemade-mbira/

Ocean Drum

Materials: any shipping box, small piece of sturdy plastic or vinyl, packing tape, about a handful of any small material such as rice, birdseed or dried macaroni, materials for decoration

Link: http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/Ocean%20Drum%20Instructions.pdf

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rock Out! E-Book 

Would you like to see 10 of these ideas in a step-by-step format with illustrations and photos of the projects plus instruments?  I’ve just published an e-book called Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rock Out!  It’s available from Teachers Pay Teachers and from my Little Village Store at the links below.

Enjoy!

From Teachers Pay Teachers ($5.99):

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Rock-Out-E-Book-With-10-Musical-Activities-653502

From DARIA’s Little Village Store ($5.99):

http://dariasvillagestore.storenvy.com/products/1346002-e-book-reduce-reuse-recycle-and-rock-out

The Cajita – A Little Box That Is An Instrument

Two wooden cajitas

As you travel around the world you’ll find musical instruments made from unusual items.  For instance, in Peru there is an instrument called the cajita.  That’s the Spanish word for a little box.   A traditional cajita is made from wooden donation boxes used to collect offerings of money in churches.  The box was generally worn around the neck and the top was opened and closed to receive the donations.

Then, when this clever little box was transformed into an instrument, a stick was added that could be used to tap the sides, front or top of the box at the same time the lid was being opened and closed.  In addition to tapping the outside of the box and lifting or closing the lid for sound, you might also see players opening the lid and rapping the stick on the inside walls of the box with a movement that looks like stirring soup.  Sounds confusing?  Once you watch it a time or two – you’ll see exactly how they turned a plain little wooden box into a remarkably fun and clever percussion instrument.

You can check out my simple cajita jam here:

DARIA’S CAJITA JAM

A HOMEMADE CAJITA
Can you make a cajita at home without a small scale woodworking project?  Sure!  You just start with a few simple supplies such as a sturdy box with a lid (cigar boxes are perfect), two dowels or small sticks, a small kitchen cabinet or dresser drawer knob and materials to decorate your spunky little instrument.  A complete supply list is located below.

Once you’ve gotten a hold of a box you can use for this project, begin by decorating it.  Paint it, decoupage it, add stickers, construction paper or glue and yarn and make it unique.   Next, add the knob so you can lift the cajita’s lid up and down.  To do this, get an adult to assist you in hammering a small nail or using an awl to pierce a hole in the lid of the box.  Position that hole in the exact center of the box, about an inch or so away from the edge of the lid that opens up. Once you’ve created the hole, insert your knob in the top of the box with the screw beneath and tighten it into place. Now you should be able to open and close the lid of the box easily.

Next, cut two wooden dowels.  One will weigh down your box so you can play your instrument without the cajita bouncing up and down.  The other will be the playing stick that you use to tap and play your instrument.  If possible, cut the first dowel to a length just a bit short of the inner width of the box.  Glue the dowel in place in the inner front of the box and leave it to dry.  In the meantime, cut and decorate your second dowel. This one can be any length that you find comfortable to hold in your hand when you play.

Once it’s all done -  you can begin to jam!  If you like, make several cajitas and you can play them along with each other or along with other instruments.

SOME CAJITA PLAYING TIPS
If you think you’re ready to dive right in and start playing – then skip this section.   If you want some good starter suggestions, these hints may be helpful in getting the hang of how the cajita is played.

Begin to learn the instrument by tapping the sides and the front and making a pattern.  Notice how the two sounds are different.  Try something like “front, front, side.  Front, front side.” Try something similar with the sides and the top.  Later, add the sound of the lid opening and closing.  Since this can sometimes seem like rubbing your stomach and patting your head, it’s best to start with simpler patterns and then work up to more complicated ones.  If working with younger children, sometimes it’s good to let them explore the instrument so they become familiar with the sounds the cajita can make before asking them to play specific patterns. That way, they are more focused on exploration and discovery and are not so nervous about playing rhythms or beats until they are ready to do so.

After you begin getting the hang of creating rhythms with your cajita, you may want to have one person play a very simple pattern – such as opening and closing the lid. The next person can add another sound, the third and forth, add their own simple parts. This can be a fun way of building rhythm in a group or classroom so each child hears how his/her part makes up part of the overall beat.  If you check out this jam, you’ll see how the rhythm starts on one instrument called a quijana (a donkeys jawbone), the cajita is added next and finally, a large cajón (or box drum) joins in.  How cool!

QUIJANA, CAJITA AND CAJON JAM

DARIA’s HOMEMADE CAJITA PICTURES
Check out some of my homemade cajitas here.

Homemade Cajita

Inside of the Homemade Cajita

SUPPLIES FOR A HOMEMADE CAJITA
Cigar box
Small knob and matching screw (knobs from kitchen cabinets or small dressers work perfectly)
Hammer and nail or awl tool (to make a hole for the knob to be inserted in lid)
Two dowels or sticks – about 8” in length
Materials for decorating such as paint, construction paper, stickers, yarn and glue

 

 

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!