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NYU Steinhardt EMAT Teaching Residency
Hotchalk Global

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Instrument making




6, 5, 4, 3  

Title – Instrument making
By – Kaja
Primary Subject – Music
Secondary Subjects –
Grade Level – 3-6
Instrument making

You can have fun making simple instruments with children.

For example cutting the ends of straws in a “V” shape, flattening them and then blowing hard will produce interesting sounds! Experiment with the length of straws. Discuss relationship between length and pitch.

Discuss how length of air columns affect sound in things like recorders etc.

Try rubber band guitars. Use a sturdy box with a lid. Cut a circle in the top for the sound hole. Stretch rubber bands, or elastic (eg hat elastic) around the box and lift elastic up off the box with pencils each end to avoid buzzing.

Discuss the effect of different lengths of elastic, different thickness, and different tensions and how it affects pitch. Explain similarities with guitars and violins and other string instruments.

Try a prayer drum or ape drum:

Cut the ends off 2 balloons. Stretch them over 2 large coffee lids. Tape a pencil to the back of one, to act as a handle. Attach a string to the pencil and on each end of the string, place a small bead. (Make sure the bead is placed in the right spot, so that when it swings around, it will hit the balloon).

Attach the 2 coffee lids together with tape, enclosing the pencil.

Put pencil between palms and rub together. The string and beads should swing around to hit the balloons on either side, producing a great sound.

Discuss effect of tightness of balloons on the pitch and volume of sound. Discuss applications to other instruments eg) tambours, drums etc.

Water jars. Find a collection of jars and experiment until you can create the notes d r m f s l and then paint the water level on the outside so you will know next time.

Get the kids to arrange the jars in order from lowest to highest pitch. Tap jars and play “Mary had a little lamb” or “Twinkle little star” etc. Discuss the effect of depth of water, container size and shape, glass thickness, etc. How do they affect the pitch?

Experiment with identical containers too!

Try some bottle maracas!

Fill drink bottles with different objects, pens and pencils, buttons, rice, etc. Try ping pong balls – cut a drink container in half, put the balls in and retape, decorating the container. It’s amazing how many kids can’t work out how the balls got in there! Talk about volume and texture of sound.

I hope you have fun with some of these ideas.


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