Resource 2: Making instruments

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

‘Long ago, before man-made materials were available, people in indigenous societies in Africa constructed musical instruments from materials they found around them … in rural societies they made bows from sinew and wood, leg-rattles from fruit or cocoon shells filled with seeds or stones, and drums from animal skins and wood’

(Traditional Music of South Africa by Laurie Levine, 2005)

Instrument-making materials list

Make a collection of sound-makers, using the following categories as a guide.

  • Wooden objects.
  • Metal objects.
  • Hollow objects.
  • Surfaces that can be scraped.
  • Surfaces that can be hit.
  • Objects that can be suspended.
  • Objects that can be shaken.
  • Material that can be plucked.
  • Containers for drums and shakers:
    • small glass or plastic bottles; yoghurt cups; matchboxes; washing powder boxes; cardboard or plastic tubes; coffee tins; tin cold drink cans; plastic drink bottles.
  • Flat cardboard boxes to make a sound tray.
  • Glass bottles of different sizes and shapes (fill them with water and tap with a metal beater).
  • Fillings for shakers and tambourines:
    • stones; seeds; rice; beans; nails; sand; lentils; bead; corks; buttons; paperclips; bottle tops.
  • Materials for guitars:
    • shoe boxes; old oil tins; elastic bands; flat pieces of wood; thin pieces of wire or fishing line.
  • Materials for multitones (instruments that can make two or more sounds):
    • cutlery, car hubcap, kitchen utensils, saucepan lids, grater, colander, whisk, old teapot.
  • Metal objects to suspend from a gong stand, metal coat hanger or wooden dowelling rod:
    • metal nails tied together, old horseshoe, large metal bolt, old bits of iron, copper tubing.
  • Beaters:
    • old cutlery, long nail, strong wooden stick, toothbrush, ruler, chopstick.
  • More materials:
    • seed pods or dry calabashes; newspaper; wire coat hangers; rubber foam; string and metal wire of all sizes and strengths; wooden sticks or blocks; plastic bags.

Resource 1: Exploring sound

Resource 3: Listening to sounds in everyday life