Make Your Own Rainstick

cactus rainstick 1AHave you ever heard a rainstick?  It’s a long, mainly hollow tube that makes a quiet sound when tilted from side to side, very much like running water or gentle rain.

What Makes The Rainstick Sound?

pieces of dried chola cacturOriginally rainsticks were made of natural materials such as the dried lengths of the chola cactus. These long “arms” of dried cacti have small spikes inside so when they are filled with pebbles, seeds or small objects, the contents can’t easily swish back and forth.  Instead, the seeds, pebbles or beads gently fall between the spikes creating the unique sound associated with the rainstick.  You often see these instruments in South America in countries such as Chile or in the American Southwest, where these cacti are plentiful.

two homemade rainsticksMake A Mailing Tube Rainstick

Since most people don’t have dried cacti in their recycling bin, here’s a way you can reuse an old mailing tube or poster container and still make a great-sounding instrument.  If you can’t find one of these at home, ask around.  Chances are good your recycling needs can be met by a neighbor or family friend and you can save one more object from getting into the waste stream!

Creating The Rainstick Effect

To turn a mailing tube into a rainstick, you need to find a way to create an obstruction – something that will block the materials inside from falling at one time.  In bamboo or gourd rainsticks, a series of wooden spikes are used.  Instead of that approach, we’ll create a wire “maze” using a combination of floral wire/jewelry wire (or any lightweight wire) and pipecleaners.

Twisted wire ready to be placed inside the mailing tube

Cut a length of wire about two to three times the length of the tube. If you cover the ends with a bit of tape, it’s easy for a child to help scrunch the wire up giving it many twists and turns in a way that will still fit inside the diameter of the tube.  Then, twist in some pipecleaners cut in half, throughout the length of your tangled wire.  All these things will help catch the contents as they go from side to side to create the pleasing “falling water” effect.

Tune Your Rainstick

The sound of your rainstick will vary greatly depending on what you decide to put into it as well as how much of that item you choose to add.  For a quieter rainstick, use smaller objects such as seed beads, birdseed or tiny pasta such as pastina or acini de pepe.  Slightly louder are objects like rice, dried lentils, small buttons or paper clips.   Even louder are larger dried beans, pebbles, marbles or any large macaroni.

maraca-contentsHere’s a good way of “tuning” your rainstick. Have several bowls of contents nearby.  Close one end of your rainstick and add the contents.  Seal the other end and try the sound.  Dump it back into your bowl and try another.  What sound is most pleasing to you?  Or mix and match contents.  It’s a fun way of experimenting with sound to discover what sounds best to your ear.

Once you’ve decided on the perfect sound for your rainstick, there are lots of creative ways to decorate the outside of the instrument.  You can color with crayons or permanent markers, create stripes from colorful tape, or even decoupage photos or magazine pictures onto the tube. You can paint a coat of glue on the rainstick and slowly wind different colors of yard around it.  You can also cut squares or small pieces of fabric, cover them with a layer of glue and create a quilt or collage effect for a beautiful handmade rainstick.  Feel free to get creative and make something that is truly unique!

Play Your Rainstick

Rainsticks are most often played by simply turning them upside down.  However, you can also hold them horizontally and shake the contents back and forth like a rattle or shake the stick as the contents fall producing some nice variations in ways to play this simple but versatile instrument!

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Gongs, Handbells and Singing Bowls: Three Great Instruments For Exploring the Culture of China, Tibet, Nepal and Asia

Although the cultures and traditions in these regions are immensely diverse, they do have one thing in common.  About 4,000 years ago, craftspeople in this area of the world discovered how to work with bronze and similar metals.  They began creating useful and decorative objects and soon discovered that the perfect mixture of copper, tin and other available metals created amazing-sounding musical instruments as well.  Through a process of metal-smithing and working with molds, they learned to create gongs, bells, hand cymbals and even bowls that can “sing”.  Some master craftspeople even claim to use secret ingredients that give their creations unusually beautiful or “perfect” tone!

Here are some posts that can help you explore these unique musical instruments and use them as a part of your music-making, meditation (quiet time), cultural studies, homeschool or classroom fun.

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During the month of February 2013, we’re giving away a beautiful set of Tibetan handbells.  You can find that Rafflecopter give-away here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Resources

Free One page download on a Handbell craft

http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Detailed pdf on Tibetan Handbells, Plus a Make-Your-Own Handbell Craft

From Teachers Pay Teachers

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Explore-Tibetan-Handbells-Plus-a-Make-Your-Own-Handbell-Craft

Make Your Own Tibetan Handbells – Blog Post

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/make-your-own-tingsha-handbells/

Make Your Own Chinese Gong Craft

http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Can A Bowl Really Sing?  Tibetan Singing Bowl Post

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/tibetan-singing-bowls-can-a-bowl-really-sing/

Related Resources

“Gong Xi! Gong Xi!” – The Excitement of Chinese New Year

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/gong-xi-gong-xi-the-excitement-of-chinese-new-year/

Sing, Play and Speak With Your Children In Chinese !

http://tinytappingtoes.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/sing-play-and-speak-with-your-children-in-chinese/

 

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!

SUPPLIES

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

DIRECTIONS FOR THE GONG

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.

 

MAKE YOUR OWN BEATER OR MALLET

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.

 

Resources

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:

http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Make Your Own African-Style Tongue Rattle

The beautiful, wide and diverse continent of Africa has some truly amazing and clever musical creations. One of my favorites is a small percussion instrument called a tongue rattle.  Generally made from carved wood, the rattle is shaken quickly back and forth and a “tongue” within the two carved sides makes a noise like a person who just can’t stop talking.

It’s loud, funny, clever and a great way to allow kids to explore making rhythms and creating music.

A Few Simple Supplies

To make a homemade version of a tongue rattle, you need two (same size) plastic or styrofoam cups, tape, two twist-ties, yarn or string and some small items for making noise inside the cups. Beads, paper clips, buttons or metal washers all work perfectly for this craft.

Assemble Your Rattle

To make your cups work like a tongue rattle, turn them over and poke two holes in the top.  Next, fold a small twist-tie in half. Then, take a small string or a piece of embroidery thread and string beads, buttons or other noise-makers onto it and tie it into a circle.  Slip the string circle with the noise-makers onto the twist tie and twist that into place, attaching it inside the cup.  Adjust your string for size so that it will rattle about an inch or so from the far end of the cup. Here’s a picture of what that might look like.

Once you’ve assembled both cups, place them together and tape them up.  Now you’re set to move your hand back and forth and get the same kind of sound that’s made by one of these unusual African instruments.

Different Sounds From Different Materials

If you want to make several rattles you can compare how different ones might sound.  A rattle made with two plastic cups using heavier beads or metal washers as noise-makers may be rather loud.  A rattle made with two styrofoam cups and plastic paper clips may be a bit quieter.  You may want to experiment with what’s inside that creates sound or what’s on the outside as decoration for your musical creation.

Play Your Tongue Rattle

To play a tongue rattle, flick your wrist back and forth while holding it.  Play it slowly.  Play it quickly.  Or try something tricky like starting slowly, going faster and faster and then come to a complete stop. Sounds cool – doesn’t it?

After you’ve discovered some of the sounds your rattle can make, put on some of your favorite music and play along.  See if you can play in time with the beat or match the rhythm you’re hearing.  You might be surprised at how this simple instrument can really speak to you!

Win a Carved African Tongue Rattle

During October 2012 we’re giving away a really cool tongue rattle plus two other African instruments.  You can learn more and enter here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

More Crafty Musical Fun From Africa And Around The World

Explore a shekere made from a dried gourd or a recycled milk jug.  Turn bobby pins into a working mbira thumb piano.  Make the type of ceremonial instruments found in the hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt. Find all this and more at:

http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

The Quijada – A Latin American Instrument Made From a Donkey’s Jawbone

Musical instruments can be as diverse as the many peoples and cultures on the planet.  One of my favorite unique instruments is a traditional rattle from comes from Afro Peruvian culture called the quijada.  Made from the jawbone of a donkey (the word quijada means jawbone in Spanish), the instrument looks more like an artifact from a museum than an instrument used in a musical band!  And, it’s loud. The jawbone is held in one hand and punched firmly with the other fist.  When the long teeth shake back and forth in the sockets, a loud, rattling or buzzing sound is created.  Since the teeth are slightly uneven, some percussionists also play this jawbone by dragging a stick or rasp over it like a guiro.

Believe it or not, the lower jawbone of a donkey, horse or zebra is also used in several other cultures, with different names and slightly different methods of playing, of course.  According to music historians, you can find similar jawbone instruments in Argentina, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and in some types of Mexican folk traditions such as “Costa Chica” music.

Can you make your own version of a quijada at home?  Since jawbones aren’t handy around most homes, creating an authentic one might be difficult.   However, you can create the type of rattling percussion made by this instrument by using egg cartons, tape and some form of mock teeth that can rattle in your container.  The result can be a great-sounding “monster” rattle!

Get Your Supplies

Aside from materials you might use for decoration, all you need is an extra egg carton, packing tape and objects that can fit in the 12 spaces of the container.   What can you use?  Practically anything.  Look around for items like large pebbles, dried pasta, buttons, coins, large beads, seashells, or even small pine cones.  Each will make a slightly different sound when the carton is closed and you rap on the side.

Play With The Sound

Experiment with the sounds created when you place different objects in your rattle.  Once you’ve found the combination you like, move on to decorating the outside.

A Monster Rattle

Would you like to give your rattle a face?  We’ve created eight different creatures you can color and add to the top of your egg carton.  You can find them at the craft url below.  Or create your own look or design.  Use paint, glitter, glue and create something truly unique.

Tape It Up!

The last step is to seal up your rattle.  Since many egg cartons have open spaces in them, make sure to tape them closed.  Clear packing tape works well here.  This keeps the contents inside and makes it a more sturdy, child-proof instrument to play with.

Time To Play!

If you want to play your monster rattle like a quijada, hold it in one hand and rap it with the side of fist of your other hand.  However, since this is a rattle, you can play with it in any number of other ways.  Shake it back and forth, up and down, start slow and go faster.  Play along with your favorite songs and see if you can match the beats.  Or sing a favorite song and let your rattle keep the time.

Experiment and have fun!

Resources

Step-By-Step Instructions/Coloring Pages for this craft from TeachersPayTeachers
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/EGG-CARTON-QUIJADA-MUSICAL-RATTLE-1146672

World music crafts and coloring pages for kids from DARIA MUSIC

http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Quijada Videos
A young woman creating traditional rhythms with the quijada

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wmJsBNIh24

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 Syllabuy

http://www.syllabuy.co/earth-day-e-book-of-musical-crafts-reduce-reuse-recycle-and-rock-out

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

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

Make A Sticker Shekere

Have you ever seen a shekere from Africa? It is a beautiful musical instrument made from a dried gourd that is shaken, tossed or moved from hand to hand creating wonderful rhythms and songs.

Here’s a picture of several traditional shekeres from a variety of countries:

Traditional shekeres (or sekeres) are most often made from a type of squash called a birdhouse gourd that grows in many locations around the world.  It is grown, dried and about a year later, ready to be turned into an instrument. When the outside of the gourd hardens into a thick shell,  it is strung with a netting that fits loosely around the rounded part of the gourd.  Beads, seeds, shells or other rattling objects are attached to the netting to create the percussive sound of the shekere.

Since gourds may be hard to find and take some time to dry, here is a simplified version of this musical craft that uses stickers and recycled milk jugs.  Also, working with netting and beads can be difficult for tiny hands, so this craft allows young children to create beautiful patterns that are unique and still have an instrument that is fun to play along with African songs or any uptempo music.  A complete supply list for this project is below.

MAKE YOUR OWN SHEKERE
First, wash and clean your milk jug and keep the lid or cap. If you are working with many children, you may wish to put each child’s name on their milk jug for identification, should some of the shekeres look similar. Next, allow your students to do their beading, either free form by applying stickers anywhere on the milk jug or you can draw string patterns for them to show where a bead or sticker would go.  If you like, you can talk about patterns of colors and different ways that patterns can be created.

Once your shekere is “beaded”, then add the filling. Fillings that create quieter shekeres are sand, salt, sugar, Q-tips, seed beads or tiny pasta such as pastina. Slightly louder shekeres can be made with fillings like paper clips, bird seed, rice, pony beads, or smaller beans such as lentils. Louder shekeres can be created by adding large dried macaroni, or beans, pebbles, larger beads or even jingle bells.

After filling your shekeres, seal the instrument with sturdy electrical tape by wrapping it around the lid and the top section of the plastic jug. This way the contents are secure inside, especially if working with younger children. If you can find colorful electrical tape, it adds a nice design element.

A HANDLE FOR YOUR SHEKERE
If you like, add colorful yarn or pipecleaners to create a handle for your milk jug shekere.

PLAYING TIPS
The shekere can be played like a rattle, simply shaking it around. It can also be held in one hand and then tapped on the other hand, like you might play a tambourine.

It can be tossed gently from one hand to the other. It can be played by tossing gently from one person to another and works well in a circle.

Some players “burp” their shekere.  They hold it in one hand and tap the bottom with the other hand.  On gourds, this creates not only a rattling but an “ah” sound. If you try this with your milk jug shekere, you’ll get a rattle and a tap, a nice percussive effect.

What other sounds can your sticker shekere make?  Explore it and find out.

Hear a shekere here:
http://www.dariamusic.com/shekere.php

Color a shekere online here:
http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Shekere.php

Check out this great traditional song from South Africa:
www.vimeo.com/dariamusic/here-come-our-mothers

SUPPLIES FOR THIS PROJECT
Plastic milk jug, (rinsed out, with lid)
Stickers (such as paper reinforcements or the little round stickers used to price items at garage sales).
Permanent Marker, if you wish to draw string patterns on the plastic jugs
Colorful yarn or string for handle
Filling for the shekere – such as bird seed, dried macaroni, beans, beads, rice, sugar, salt, paper clips or small pebbles.
Electrical tape – for sealing the instrument and keeping the content inside