The Ukulele – 4 Strings and Jumping Fleas!

The sound of the tiny but mighty ukulele plays a big role in the folk music and dance of Hawaii.  But, did you know that it was originally modeled after a Portuguese instrument called the machete, brought to the islands in the 1800’s?  From there is evolved into the ukelele we recognize now, with a guitar-shaped body and 4 nylon or gut strings.

An Unusual Name

How did the ukulele (or oo-koo-le-le) get it’s name?  Some people translate the name from the Hawaiian to mean “jumping flea” and say that it describes the “fidgety” movements of the musician’s hands when the instrument is being played.   Others translate it a bit differently.  One of the last Hawaiian queens, Queen Lili’uoklani, said the name stood for “the gift that came here” by combining the Hawaiian words: uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come).

A Family of Instruments

Like many stringed instruments, there are several different types of ukuleles that vary in size and tone.  Most commonly, you can find these four different types: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The instrument pictured here is a smaller-sized soprano ukulele.

Traditional Ukulele Songs

Here’s a short video that shows two ukulele players talking about how they began playing their instruments and performing a duet of a traditional Hawaiian song called “Noho Paipai” as part of a Hawaiian music festival.

Color A Ukulele

You can find a ukulele coloring page on DARIA’s world music for kids site at:

You can also find a full color uke poster plus coloring page at her TeachersPayTeachers store (.99) here:


The “I Have A Dream” Song Shares MLK’s Message With Kids

MLK is one of my heroes.

Not only did he do the right thing.  But he did the right thing, under the toughest of circumstances and in the right way.  He overcame hatred with the transforming power of love.  He stared down ignorance with  understanding.   And he fought not only for a portion of the population, but for well-being of the entire world, demonstrating his concept of the beloved community.  To me, that’s incredibly inspirational.

But how do you share these huge ideas and big concepts with little ears and young listeners?  As a musician, I felt moved to write a song and try to put some of these concepts into the lyrics.   I hoped the song would be a singable way to talk about MLK’s dream as well as a good place to start conversations about these big ideas and what they might mean to our classrooms, families and communities as we move into a new era.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the landmark “I Have A Dream Speech”,  we’ve offered the song as a free download as well as coloring pages that share powerful quotes from many of MLK’s inspirational speeches.

We hope that people use and enjoy these resources as they not only look back at this historic event – but dare to look forward and continue to dream!

The direct link to the download is:

You can also find DARIA’s free MLK coloring pages at TeachersPayTeachers site here:

Coloring Page With One Quote For Younger Children

Coloring Page With Many Quotes For Older Children

For more information, visit my site or contact me at daria at makemusicwithme dot com.  I’d love to hear from you!


Words and music by  Daria A. Marmaluk-Hajioannou

There’s a man I think you’ve heard of

His name is Martin Luther King

He wanted a world of peace and love

He said “I have a dream”

Chorus:  I have a dream, I have a dream

I’ve been to the mountaintop and I’ve seen…And, I have a dream


He said: “I know that this is possible

I know that this can be

If each one can learn to live with love

Then we can all be free”


If you share this vision

You know it’s not a difficult thing

We can build a world of peace and love

And we can all be queens and “kings”



Make Your Own Gong!

A gong is a hanging percussion instrument that is struck by a special stick or mallet or beater.  When someone bangs a gong – everyone pays attention.  In fact, some legends tell of gongs from ancient China that were rumored to call farmers in from their fields from 50 miles away!

Most historians believe that the art of making these instruments dates back almost 4,000 years ago and some gongs have the most amazing tones when struck.  Others are etched with beautiful designs or patterns that are considered lucky, sacred or special.

Can you make your own homemade version?  Yes!  With a little creativity and some recycled materials, you can make a nice sounding gong to use in your home, neighborhood or classroom!


A metal roasting pan  (the larger the better – you can also use a metal pie tin or disposable cake pan )

Pipecleaners or yarn

Cardboard Tube From Wrapping Paper

Paint, stickers, glitter, glue or textured paint for decorating the gong.

For the beater:

Wooden dowel, stick, chopstick or wooden spoon

Electrical tape


Start by allowing an adult to poke two holes in the top area of the metal roasting pan – about 2 – 3 inches apart.  Slip a pipecleaner through each hole and then twist the ends together to form a circle.

Now you can insert the wrapping paper tube (or a broomstick or large stick) into the pipecleaner circle and the gong will hang down.  To give your gong a nice sturdy stand, you can use several more pipecleaners to fasten the wrapping paper tube to two chairs that are placed a few feet apart facing outward.

Now that you see how your gong will hang on it’s stand, you may wish to take it down and decorate it.  Add stickers, paint, or glitter and glue. Perhaps you can look up the year you were born in terms of Chinese astrology and put that symbol on your gong.  Maybe you were born in the year of the rat or the pig or the ram or the fish.  It’s great fun to find out.



Lastly, you’ll need a beater to strike the gong. Take a small stick or wooden dowel and wrap one side with electrical tape to form a head.  That’s the side that will strike the gong to create it’s unique and wonderful sound.  If you don’t have a wooden dowel, you can substitute a wooden spoon, a chopstick or an unsharpened pencil, just wrap the head the same way on the end that will strike the gong.



You can find instructions, coloring pages and pdf’s to make almost two dozen unique musical instruments from around the world on DARIA’s website at:

Play A Kalimba (Thumb Piano) Online!

Thanks to PBS Kids’ Go, you can actually play an African style thumb piano online.  Check out the link below.  In addition to being able to “play” the instrument (touch the tines and hear the sound), you can record your own tunes – what fun!

On this website you can also explore other related aspects of African culture such as traditional masks and how to make them and a Swahili folktale about Prince Sadaka.

Kudos to PBS Kids for creating such fun and interactive resources that share, preserve and inspire kids to learn more about traditional cultures!

Thumb Piano Player

Make a Mask – (Rabbit, Bird, Antelope and Hunter Masks)

Swahili Folktale

Tibetan Singing Bowls – Can A Bowl Really Sing?

One of the most exciting things about exploring instruments from around the globe is how completely unique and different they are.  Shapes, sizes, materials and manner of playing instruments vary from culture to culture or from country to country. One great example of an unusual instrument is a bronze or metal bowl from the region of Tibet, Nepal or Northern India.  Called “singing bowls”, these instruments date back to the dawn of the bronze age – about 3,000 years ago – and are pictured in some of the oldest artifacts found in this region.

But can a bowl really sing?  These specially crafted metal bowls do create beautiful tones when they are struck gently with a mallet or when pressure is applied to their sides in a circular motion.  In the same way that a water glass creates a ringing tone when rubbed with a finger, these bowls ring out in tones that are considered to be relaxing, meditative and even healing or therapeutic by many.  The beautiful and complex sounds they create is the reason they are said to “sing”.

How big are singing bowls?  You can find smaller singing bowls that fit in the palm of your hand.  You can also find sizes and shapes that are as big as a large soup pot or a cauldron!  In addition, there are also crystal bowls that are played in the same manner as the metal singing bowls.  These are especially beautiful in sound and appearance and many believe that they possess even greater healing properties.

Singing bowls can be very simple and plain or they can be beautifully adorned with symbols and writing such as Buddhist mantras, a type of repeated prayer.  Commonly manufactured in Nepal, China and Japan; singing bowls can be found as part of Buddhist prayers and meditation throughout Asia, as well as part of yoga or spiritual practices around the world.

Singing bowls are also used in classrooms in a variety of different ways.  They can help students focus, call for quiet or can help a class develop better listening skills.  Timothy Lomas, a talented art teacher with a good deal of international experiences shared this description of his work: “I teach art at the IDEAL School of Manhattan. It is an inclusion school which means that we have students with special needs (Down Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, etc) alongside typically developing students. Transition time is always a challenge. To get the students settled and ready to work I introduced the Tibetan Singing Bowl. I demonstrated how to use it and passed it to the student that was the quietest and most attentive. They then would pass it to the next student they thought was ready.”  Says Timothy: “I started with one bowl but now have several and the students know to go directly to the box and pull out the bowls. It’s a great way to get the class centered and focused for a creative experience!”

Make Some Marvelous Maracas!

Although Cinco De Mayo is celebrated in May and Hispanic heritage is highlighted in the USA from September 15 – October 15th, any time of year is great for making and exploring Latin American culture with this simple musical craft.

Maracas are one of the simplest instruments to play for young children or the beginning musician. They are essentially rattles with handles. They come in pairs. You put one in each hand and you shake, rattle and roll! Of course, if you’ve seen experienced percussionists play maracas, you would be amazed at what they can make them do. So, a pair of maracas are versatile little instruments for “just jamming with the kids” or for exploring rhythms, beats and tempos as a fun way to learn more about music.

Most folks consider maracas to be native to Latin America, however, similar instruments (pairs of rattles) can be found in cultures around the world. Most often associated with the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, Jamaica and Brazil, maracas have been played for centuries. One set of maracas made of clay were found in ruins in present day Columbia. They were used by the indigenous people of that area and dated back to almost 1,500 years ago.

Maracas come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and designs!

What are maracas made of? Most traditional maracas are made from natural materials such as gourds, clay, wood or coconut shells. More modern ones can be made of plastic, leather or other synthetic materials. They are filled with small objects such as seeds, pebbles or dried beans. To create “recycled rattles” you can start with smaller water bottles from the recycling bin and be even more clever with fillings – finding things you can easily use from around the house, garage or in your junk drawer.

Get Out Your Materials !
Although you can use any type of small plastic bottles, the 8 oz (236 mL) size water bottles are just perfect for this project in size and shape. If you’ve sworn off plastic, then ask around. A neighbor, classmate or local store may offer you what they might have sent out as recycling.

You’ll also need two toilet paper rolls and some sturdy tape. Electrical tape works best and colorful electrical tape adds a nice decorative touch to what you are creating.

Then you’ll need some fillings. Remember each filling produces a different sound, so that may also be part of your plan for creating your set of maracas. For instance, sand or salt maracas will be very quiet. Dried beans, macaroni or large bead maracas will be nice and loud. Here are some suggestions that you can find around most every household:

Sand, salt, pebbles, birdseed, rice, beans, small beads, large beads, dried pasta, rice, dried peas or beans, small washers, paper clips, small erasers.

A complete supply list is provided below as well as some suggestions for great sounding maraca combinations.

Make Your Maracas
First take your clean and dried 8 oz water bottle and fill with your chosen contents. Close it up with the cap and then listen to the sound. Once it sounds good to your ears, then you can move to the next step. But first, check out how many professional maracas are made – they are created to be slightly different in sound.

Many sets of maracas are “pitched” differently. In other words, shaking the right hand one will sound different from shaking the left hand one, so you can create some great patterns by playing with the sounds. For instance, if you make my version of rice and beans maracas (described below), the rice will be sound a bit softer and higher in pitch, the beans a bit louder and lower in pitch, so you can build rhythms on those sounds. You can also describe the rhythms in a fun way, such as rice, rice, beans, rice, rice beans or rice, beans, rice, rice beans. Almost anyone can learn new rhythms and even complicated rhythm patterns with this creative approach.

So, now you’ve decided how you want your pair of maracas to sound and you’ve tightened the cap on your two water bottles. The next step is to create the handle. Take your two toilet paper rolls and make a straight cut from one end to the other. Tighten the roll in on itself to about the size of a ¾ inch dowel and then apply your electrical tape. Start wrapping the tape around the bottom part of the rattle on the bottle and move down onto the new handle. Wrap slowly, covering all the cardboard of the toilet paper roll and you will have created a rather sturdy handle for your new instrument.

Now you are ready to play.

Time To Jam
Do you want to just jam? Then simply pick up your instrument and shake, shake, shake. Or dance around, move and groove, and shake things up to your heart’s content. If you want to get into more of the maraca’s musical possibilities, then take some time to check out what they can do.

Aside from shaking them back and forth where the sound comes from the contents striking the sides, you can swoosh them around. By moving your hand in a circular motion, the contents of your maracas won’t hit side to side, but will whoosh a bit around in the bottle, creating a different sound. You can also “crescendo” your maracas. You start by shaking them quietly and slightly and then build little by little to get the loudest sound. It’s a fun way to begin or end a song.

You can also make several pairs and mix and match. What sound patterns can you create? Which maracas sound best to you or sound best as pairs? Does a certain pattern sound like a song you know? Or does a song you know inspire a new pattern? Despite the fact that these are really simple little instruments, they can truly inspire hours of musical fun.

SUPPLIES (for one pair of maracas)
2 eight oz (236 mL) water bottles
2 toilet paper rolls
Electrical tape (colorful, if possible)

Filling for your maracas – any of the following:
Sand, salt, pebbles, birdseed, rice, beans, small beads, large beads, dried pasta, rice, dried peas or beans, small washers, paper clips, small erasers.

Rice and Beans Maracas
Rice in one maraca, beans in the other. The color and the sound are different, making it really easy to create patterns.

“Back To School” Maracas
Colorful paper clips in one, small extra erasers in the other. A nice difference in the sound between the right and left hand.

Sand and Little Pasta Maracas
These are really quiet and subtle. The sand or salt maraca is softer then the tiny pasta (choose acini de pepe, pastina or orzo pasta) making this a great choice for kids that want to learn to listen, kids with noise sensitivity or for learning some of the aspects of playing a percussion instrument quietly but effectively.