Bell Stones, Soapstones and Fish Pipes – Early Instruments of Indigenous California Cultures

soapstone flutes and whistlesAlthough there’s no formal written history of early indigenous cultures in the region of Southern California, a variety of resources give us a glimpse into the music and ceremonial life of these various tribes. While visiting the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, I was allowed to photograph and share a few of the beautiful music-related artifacts from their vast collection that reflect the early life of Native American tribes in this region.

Ringing Rocks or Bell Stones

Ringing Rock - side viewSimilar to Chumash culture, which originated north of the museum’s Santa Ana location, the pre-1600 AD tribes of this area also discovered, used and revered “ringing rocks” or bell stones. Pictured here (left) is a huge bell stone identified with Tongva/Agaemen(Gabrieliño/Juaneño) cultures with several man-made areas which were probably used for striking particular notes or for grinding medicinal plants. Most often, these large boulders were positioned on top of other rocks to give them more resonance and were “played” by tapping with smaller stones in different areas. Each area that is struck produces a slightly different tone.

soapstone whistlesSoapstone Instruments And A Fish “Pipe”

Also attributed to the early “Channel Island” peoples were an abundance of soapstone whistles and flutes of various shapes and sizes. Found throughout this area, soapstone (also known as steatite or soaprock) is a softer rock related to shist that has been used as a medium for carving in many cultures for thousands of years.

Displayed among the musical instruments is also this large and beautiful soapstone pipe (below) that was excavated from a location in Malibu. Shaped like a fish, fish pipeit could have been used as a sacred pipe or as a musical instrument. It’s design and decoration share many similarities with the more northern Chumash people’s ceremonial items.

Gifted artisans and basket-weavers, it may be hard to know exactly what the music and dance from this time and place were. However, these important and beautiful items can help us piece together many valuable details of these meaningful and important cultures. To learn more about Chumash music or to see how stones and rocks are used as musical instruments, check out the related posts below.

Resources And Related Links

bowers basketsBowers Museum, 2002 Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706 (714) 567-3600

Cocoon Rattles, Bear’s Claws and Bullroarers– Instruments From Chumash Culture

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/cocoon-rattles-bears-claws-and-bullroarers-instruments-from-chumash-culture/

Playing River Rocks As An Instrument – Hawaiian `ili`ile

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/playing-river-rocks-as-an-instrument-hawaiian-iliile/

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Make Your Own Mexican-Style Gourd Water Drums

Playing water gourd drumAlthough it’s a truly unique and amazing–sounding instrument, there’s very little information available about the history of gourd water drums. It’s clear that they are used in certain areas in Africa and that they show up in Mayan archives as “bubulek” water drums. In present day Mexico they are called jicara de agua and their history can also be traced to the Yaqui and Yoeme Indigenous people who called these floating gourd water drums, baa wehai.

What, exactly is a gourd water drum? Generally made from 3 sturdy pieces of dried Water gourd drum - parts:gourdsgourds, a small ring holds the larger “gourd bowl”, up-side-down in place. That larger gourd is filled with water. The smaller gourd is placed right-side-up, gently on the water’s surface where it is hit with a stick or tapped with fingers, palms or knuckles to create the unique, deep and resonant sound associated with this instrument.

While checking out LA born drummer and percussionist, Christopher Garcia, we found some really great information on the Yaqui and Yoeme roots of floating gourd water drums. Although several musicologists identify this drum as part of the Yaqui Deer Dance (Mazotiwua), Garcia explains how a special beater is used called a baa jiponia, made from a stick wrapped in a corn husk. He also shares some great pictures and basic information on a related instrument, called hirukiam which consist of a gourd facing down and a rasp laid across it, then scraped. The result is a “natural speaker” and another really unique sound creation. Links to Christopher Garcia’s music and website can be found below.

Sounds Like?

Watch this video from Germany and you’ll be able to both see and hear several techniques for playing the gourd water drum:

 

Michael Heralda of Aztec Stories Shows You How To Make A Gourd Water Drum

Also a wealth of information on ancient Mexican culture and musical traditions, Michael Heralda has two informative step-by-step videos that show you how to create your own gourd water drums. You’ll notice that his drums not only sound good, but are beautifully decorated.  For more information on his music, instruments, stories and other resources, visit the link below.

Here are his two gourd water drum-making videos from Youtube:

Michael Heralda’s Making A Gourd Water Drum – Part One

Michael Heralda’s Making A Gourd Water Drum – Part Two

 

Links and Resources

plastic water drum playingA Make-Your-Own Gourd Water Drum Craft for Kids

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/musical-water-play-a-myo-gourd-style-water-drum/

Christopher Garcia’s BAA WEHAI webpage

http://christophergarciamusic.weebly.com/baa-wehai.html

Christopher Garcia’s Indigenous Instruments webpage

http://christophergarciamusic.weebly.com/indigenous-instruments-images.html

Michael Heralda’s Aztec Stories Website

http://www.aztecstories.com/index.html

 

 

 

Bead Your Own African Shekere

traditional-shekeres-from-around-the-world- A shekere (or sekere) is a beautiful and unique instrument originating in West Africa that appears in various shapes, sizes and forms throughout the continent of Africa.  Made from a simple dried gourd with a beaded “skirt”, shekeres are a great addition to any environment where children are learning about music or world cultures.

mini shekere for storeIf you’re finding it hard to locate or purchase a shekere for your classroom, home or homeschool, you might consider making your own.  Other then the dried gourd, the additional materials are easy to find and the beading process is “easy to moderate” for beginning crafters.  In fact, since the stringing and beading is the part of the process that generates the most questions and confusion, we’ve partnered with Carrie P. from a wonderful blog called Crafty Moms Share to develop a step-by-step tutorial for making your own dried gourd shekere.  (Complete gourd tutorial and other related shekere posts can be found at the links below).

beads for shekere kitsBeads, Seeds, Nuts or Seashells

Along with beads, almost any small, roundish, rattling object can be used as the noise-makers on a shekere.  If you take a close look at the shekeres pictured above, you’ll notice beads as well as seeds woven into the netting.  In Africa, some shekeres also use seashells or hard seeds or nuts with holes drilled though them as part of their unique design.

Add Some String

The skirt of a shekere is created from a type of string or twine that is durable and will not break or stretch.  Since cotton twine will stretch, nylon or hemp is a better choice for creating a working shekere.  Because the top circle or collar of the netting holds all the other strings in place, some craftspeople pick a thicker string for this or braid the twine for a more durable start to the project.

shekere skirt no beadsAnd Some Knots!

With your collar in place around the gourds neck, you are ready to add the strings.

Cut a number of strings (enough to fit around the gourd) approximately 30 inches long.  Fold each string in half and make a slip knot with it around the collar.  To make a slip knot, put the folded string under the collar with the fold on top and then bring the ends through the loop of the fold and collar and tighten.

Once you have all the strings you desire in place you will tie a loop knot to secure each location. A loop knot is where you make a “6” with your strings and bring the end through the loop of it. This is the type of knot we will be using for the rest of the project.

starting to beadAdd The Beads

Here are Carrie’s great suggestions for getting the hang of adding beads to the skirt:

Adding the beads is where you creativity really comes into play.

You can do many different things with the beads. Some put a bead on each string, others put two strings through a bead. Some put a single bead between knots and others go up to three beads before knotting. The important thing is to work with a string from two different knots.

Once you have your bead(s) in place, tie a loose loop knot. I re-started many of mine because I did not like how the first round looked and found they lay better with looser knots.  Do an entire round before starting the next.

Once you have one round complete, start the next.  Stay consistent with however you’ve started with beads and knots, but again you want to use strings from different knots. This will bring the beads in the first round closer together. Continue doing a round at a time until you have the skirt you want.

finishing the bottomFinish The Instrument!

Here are Carrie’s two descriptions for two methods of finishing the skirt and completing the shekere:

Method 1: The first is to have another loop similar to the collar (braided if you used braided) and the same size. Then you tie your ends to the loop so it hangs loosely below the gourd.

Method 2: If your gourd is small you can take an 8-inch string and tie the ends together. This is easier to do with another person holding your shekere for you to tie them together.

colorful kids shekere beadedMaking Music!

If you take a look at the resources below you’ll find many wonderful ways to check out the sound of traditional shekeres or explore music with the ones you’ve created.

Enjoy!

Complete Tutorials

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Make-Your-Own-Shekere-African-Percussion-Instrument-Tutorial-992550

http://dariasvillagestore.storenvy.com/collections/34585-all-products/products/4084121-make-your-own-shekere-african-instrument-tutorial

tall-and-thin-sekere--PMLinks and Resources

Hear A Shekere
http://www.dariamusic.com/shekere.php

Color a Shekere Online
http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Shekere.php

Carries Crafty Moms Share Blog
craftymomsshare.blogspot.com/‎

Sekere.com – Beaded Sekeres from Master Craftswoman, Sara Fabunmi
http://www.sekere.com

Cultural Value of the Shekere, Article By Sara Fabunmi
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/the-cultural-value-of-the-sekere/

Make a Classroom Shekere (From A Gourd)
http://tinytappingtoes.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/easy-gourd-shekere-for-a-child-or-a-classroom/

Make a Recycled Shekere (From A Milk Jug)
http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Shekere.php

An Alphabet Shekere Game
http://www.trueaimeducation.com/2012/10/guest-post-learning-letters-with-an-alphabet-shekere.html

Chapchas – A Rattle Made From The Toenails of Goats!

Chapchas are a truly unique rattle that originated in the Andes of South America.  Made from the discarded hooves of goats or sheep strung onto a bracelet, this instrument is heard in much of the folk music of Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and other countries of this region.

How are chapchas made?  After the hooves are clipped and boiled to sterilize them, a needle is inserted into the upper part of the nails making a small hole.  The hooves are then strung or sewn onto a colorful piece of fabric and each one of the dried hooves rattles against the others creating the sound of the instrument.

Why do Andean people use these unusual items as part of their musical instruments?  The answer is simple.  If you visit some of the remote villages in the high Andes, you’ll see that there are a minimum number of plants, no trees and few other materials that can be used to create instruments.  Essentially everything is used, recycled or reused as part of lifestyle in the high mountains.  And that includes the toenails of goats!

Although all cultures in the world make music, learning about unique instruments like the chapchas can be a great way to explore world cultures through music.  You can hear chapchas as part of DARIA’s latest album of songs from the Andes and you can also color an image of this unique rattle at the link below.

Resources And Links

Free Chapchas Coloring Page from Teachers Pay Teachers:

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Color-The-Chapchas-An-Instrument-from-The-Andes-650050

Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes On Itunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cancioncitas-los-andes-little/id602798167

Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes on Amazon mp3

http://amzn.com/B00BG9ABEE

You can buy fair trade chapchas from Bolivia in DARIA’s Little Village Store:

http://dariasvillagestore.storenvy.com/products/178859-goat-toe-nail-rattle-chapchas

World Fair Trade Day – A Great Time To Explore Musical Instruments from Around The World

Almost everyone can relate to this.

They’ve had a job for which they were underpaid or underappreciated.  Well, picture that in a third world setting where people have few employment options.  They work in dirty, unsafe conditions with unreasonable work hours and sometimes cannot protest or complain without fear of retribution or brutality.  The recent fires in Bangladesh clothing factories have highlighted how the worst of these unfair practices can create deadly and tragic results.

Is there an alternative?  Especially if people want to purchase special items from other cultures, such as clothing, chocolate, coffee or musical instruments like these beautiful handbells from Nepal?  Yes, there is fair trade!  And May 11th marks World Fair Trade Day, so it’s a good time to learn more about this important topic.  You can check out the 10 principles of fair trade below.

One of my favorite fair trade stores was started by a Mennonite woman in the 1940’s named Edna Ruth Byler.  She knew that if people in third world nations or village settings could do what they loved such as traditional arts and crafts and they were sold at fair prices, then these people could live with dignity and keep vibrant, safe communities alive.  She named her project: “Self-Help Crafts Of The World”.  Over 60 years later, the store is now called Ten Thousand Villages and has numerous physical locations as well as an online store for purchases.

What does Ten Thousand Villages sell?  It has an amazing array of handcrafts, jewelry, coffees, teas, soaps and other items.  And musical instruments.  You can find rainsticks from Chile and colorful folded palm rattles made in India.  They offer delicate tingsha bells and beautiful singing bowls in a variety of shapes and sizes.  There are gourd rattles, kalimbas (pictured here) and drums from Africa, ocarinas and whistles from South America and an ever-changing array of products that have been purchased and certified fair trade.  For most items, you can read the story behind the artisans as well as how and where each object was created.

This year on World Fair Trade Day, I’ll be at my local Ten Thousand Village store sharing the magic of singing bowls – how each one is different and unique and can be used to create beautiful sound as well as for healing purposes.  If you can’t get to one of these stores, feel free to visit them online and consider purchasing some of the wonderful goods that they offer.

Purchasing “fair trade” makes a difference for the planet, not only in the lives of an artisan, but because it makes a statement.  It’s great to know that we can vote with our dollars for a world that treats everyone with dignity and respect!  And if you purchase an instrument “fair trade”, you’re contributing to world harmony – in more ways than one!

——————————

During the month of May 2013, you can win this beautiful rainstick made by a cooperative of artisans in Santiago de Chile.  (2nd give-away on page)

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

Resources And Links

World Fair Trade Organization

http://www.wfto.com/

10 Principles of Fair Trade

http://www.wfto.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2&Itemid=14

Ten Thousand Villages – Home Page

http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/

Musical Instruments From Ten Thousand Villages

http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/products/musical-instruments

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.

——————————–

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 Bilma – Australian Clapsticks!

Clapsticks – two sticks that are tapped together – can be found in different countries all over the world. Although they all consist of two small lengths of wood tapped together, they are amazing different in how they look, sound and how they are played as part of the music from their culture of origin. In Australian Aboriginal culture, there are special clapsticks called bilma that are often used to accompany the didgeridoo when it’s played.

What Are Bilma?
Sometimes when a didg is playing, you can hear these small but loud clapsticks keeping a beat for the music. Most traditional bilma are made from the hard wood of a eucalyptus tree, native to Australia. They are often used as part of the Aboriginal corroboree ceremony where dancers become of sacred “Dreamtime” through dance, music and special clothing or costumes.

What Do Bilma Look Like?
One movie about the history of the Aboriginal people in Australia; “Rabbit Proof Fence”, shows a woman playing bilma that are simply two sticks found on the ground.  Other bilma used in ceremony are carved out of hard wood and look more like they are the work of an expert craftsperson. More modern bilma can also have the distinctive dot pattern found in Australian Aboriginal art and can be quite beautiful and creative.  If you make your own, you can be inspired by Australian culture and designs or you can use art that reflects your favorite colors or patterns or images that you find inspirational.

What Supplies Do You Need?
Supplies for this project are simple. For the sticks, you can use two sticks (about 6-8”) found in the woods or a length of wooden dowel found at a hardware store. You can also use an old broomstick or recycle the handle of a broken shovel or garden tool.  If so, cut two pieces that are about the same size that will fit easily into your hand. You’ll also need some of the following for the design: craft paints, Q-tips, fabric paint and possibly a few permanent markers.

Prepare Your Clapsticks
First, start with your sticks. They might need a bit of sanding to smooth out rough edges.  You might want to leave them natural or paint them an overall color as the basis of your design. Once they are prepped and/or painted, then you’re ready for creating your own design.  Here are two options you might like to try.

A Simple Dot Bilma
If you look at most Australian Aboriginal art, it’s formed by a series of dots that create a picture. You can make these dots by dipping a Q-tip in craft paint and them touching it to the surface of your stick. Since making patterns with dots can be a bit unusual, it’s a good idea to play with the Q-tips and dot patterns on a piece of paper first, before you move onto decorating your stick. One creative way of practicing painting with dots is to put your child’s name on a paper and allow them to fill up their name with dots as well as create designs around it. Once you feel you’ve gotten the hang of it, move on to decorating your sticks.

A Crafty Textured Dot Design Bilma
For a more elaborate bilma, you can work with the type of textured fabric paint that is found at any craft store.  Although this type of paint is often used on fabrics, it also works perfectly on wood. Since the level of paint that comes out of the nozzle is a bit tricky, it’s a good idea to practice on a piece of paper first to see how the fabric paint will flow for you. Once you like how it works, start creating the design on your sticks. There’s one warning here, though.  Fabric paint takes a bit of time to harden, so make sure you’ve set your bilma on something to dry – such as an empty, open egg carton or toilet paper holders. That way your dots can dry perfectly and not smudge as you complete your project.

Once you’re happy with what you’ve created, you can seal the project with a coat of clear lacquer, if desired.

Playing The Bilma
Traditional bilma are played by holding one stick in place in one hand and tapping on top of it with the other clapstick. If you make a didgeridoo, you can have one person play the didg and another can keep the beat with the bilma. You can play like this or you can experiment with tapping the sticks together in any number of other ways.

Sing a favorite song and tap to the beat or put on a cd you enjoy and see it you can play in time with the rhythms you hear. Try it with slow or fast music – it’s a great way to learn to listen for the beat of a song.  And take a moment to appreciate what you’ve done.  Making music is a great way of expressing yourself and learning about world cultures at the same time.  Enjoy!

Supplies
2 wooden pieces about 6 – 8” in length
Sandpaper
Craft paint
Q-tips (for the dot design pattern)
Textured fabric paint (for more intricate patterns)
Clear lacquer (if desired, to seal the project when it’s completed).

Related Links:
Make Your Own Didgeridoo – http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Didg.php

Hear, color or create other instruments from around the world: http://www.dariamusic.com/cajon.php

Homemade Steel Drum Fun!

Have you ever heard a steel drum? The sound is amazing. Steel drums can create beautiful melodies with a hint of metallic sound. Since these unique instruments originated in the Caribbean, most people associate their sound with the beautiful islands from this part of the world. And although finely crafted professional steel drums can cost in the hundreds or even thousand of dollars, it isn’t hard to create the same kind of musical exploration at home by making a homemade version of a steel pan. It just takes some of the same creativity that was used when steel drums were first invented.

About Steel Drums

Steel drums (or steelpan drums) originated on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago with the people from West Africa who had been brought there as slaves. These people wanted to celebrate their customs and holidays as they had in Africa but the French slave owners banned most of their traditional percussion and holiday customs. Year after year, the enslaved people came up with new versions of their percussion ensembles and traditional dances, but found that the slave owners banned them. Finally, the holiday celebration reorganized with music created on an orchestra of frying pans, trash can lids and steel drums and this was allowed. Later these basic but functional everyday items were refined into the amazing instruments that we might recognize today. Now, steel drums of various sizes and shapes are often played in a group called a steel band or orchestra and an individual player is called a “pannist”.

Creating Your Improvised Steel Drum At Home

You’ll need two things to create a steel drum jam at home. First, a metal object that has the potential to make a variety of sounds. And, second, a mallet to play the improvised drum.

Three great choices for the drum itself are metal trash can lid, a hubcap or an overturned metal cupcake tray. For your mallet (the stick that will strike the drum) you can use an unsharpened pencil, a stick, a recycled chopstick or a wooden dowel. But if you look closely at any steel drum player, you’ll notice one thing about their mallets. They are not simply sticks hitting metal. Instead they are sticks with a rubber or soft fabric “head” that helps create a more pleasing sound when the metal object is played.

Make Your Own Mallet

To make your own mallet, start with your unsharpened pencil, a chopstick or dowel. Then you have several choices. You can wrap the end or ends of the stick with rubber bands or electrical tape. You can also use electrical tape to secure a rubber eraser to a pencil. For the softest sound, you can tape a group of Q-tips to a stick and you’ll be rewarded with a really subtle tone that sounds almost like an authentic steel drum.

If you make several mallets, you’ll notice how each one produces a different kind of sound when playing your drum.

Play Your Steel Drum

Once you have your drum and your mallets, let your child explore the sounds that it can make. I often challenge kids and adults to find how many different sounds their metal object can create. And the results have been surprising as people have come up with new and innovative ways of discovering what their improvised instrument can do. For the basics, you can easily tap at different areas of the surface, hit the handle of the trash can lid, hit the side of the lid, tap the surface of the cupcake tins and play a “trill” by

Keywords, running your mallets over the open areas of the hubcap. You can play louder or softer for slightly different tones and you can exchange mallets to see what is most pleasing to your ear.

Since most rhythms are made of patterns, you can start putting together the sounds that you like. With a trash can lid, a rhythm might be something like this:

Surface, surface, handle
Surface, surface, handle
Surface, surface, handle
Surface, surface, rim!

Let your child mix and match sounds and make up patterns that fit their favorite songs or just jam. Slowly they’ll start to get their own idea of how to make the instrument play what they want to hear.

Some Playing Tips

If working with trash can lids or hubcaps, it can help to put them on top of a plastic bucket, a small pot or a colander. The lid or hubcap will ring out more and will sit at a better height for most children to reach. If working with cupcake tins, turn them over and fill a few with different amounts of paper towel. Then each “cup” will ring out with a slightly different tone in the same way that different areas on a real steel drum will produce different tones.

Play Along With A Song

Check out my limbo song and video here. I was able to work with an awesome steel drum player when recording the song, so it can be fun to play along with this tune and add your own parts as well.

If you want to hear authentic steel pan orchestras, check out the cd section of the Steel Drum Shop website below and explore their selection of dynamic players and groups that have created and evolved this type of traditional music.

The Steel Drum Store – Steel Drum CD’s

http://www.steeldrumshop.com/CategoryProductList.jsp?cat=8.+STEEL+DRUM+CDs

Discover A World Of Music

Exploring the steel drum can be a great way to learn about geography and history as well as arts and culture. Where are Trinidad and Tobago? Who were the slaves brought to these islands? What traditions did they bring from their homeland? What other music evolved in this area? What are these countries like today?

You can check out the sites below to find out more about these islands and their many wonderful contributions to music and world culture.

Trinidad and Tobago – Travel and Tourism site
http://www.gotrinidadandtobago.com/

US State Government Guide to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35638.htm