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  This “box drum” was originally made in secret from shipping boxes and dresser drawers when slaves were forbidden to use their African-style drums.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

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!