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Making Music

DIY Musical Instruments

Source: Martha Stewart Kids, Summer 2002


Music is powerful. Just a few notes can ignite your spirit. The radio plays a sweet song, and you find yourself swaying in the kitchen. Making your own music intensifies the joy, and you don't need a fancy instrument to do it.

So why be quiet when there's so much music in the world, just waiting for you to play it? With some household odds and ends, you can make musical instruments for a whole band of friends. And while you're shaking, plucking, tapping, clicking, and blowing, you'll learn an excellent secret: Music is absolutely everywhere if you listen, and it's most definitely inside of you.

Matchbox Guitar How-To

Separate a small matchbox into its two parts. Apply glue along half of each side of the tray, and push the tray halfway into the frame, and let dry.

Cut a small cardboard trapezoid for the bridge, and notch the top in four places. Follow this template. Glue the bridge upright on top of the matchbox, and let it dry. For strings, stretch four rubber bands of various sizes around the matchbox, fitting them into the notches of the bridge. For strumming, buy a guitar pick from a music store.

Banjo How-To

Use a glass or jar to trace a circle onto the lid of a shoe box; a grown-up should cut out the circle with a utility knife. Trace another circle around a mailing tube onto one end of the shoe box; cut just inside the tracing, and push the tube through the hole for the banjo's neck (it's really just a handle). The strings are fat, large rubber bands stretched all the way around the shoe box. Create a bridge by placing two pencils on top of the shoe box, one at each end, under the rubber bands (see the finished banjo below) -- without a bridge, your banjo won't work.

Rubber bands of different lengths and widths will give you different notes. (If you can't find thick rubber bands on bundled vegetables from the grocery store or in kitchen drawers, buy a packaged assortment). While you're working, watch out for shooting rubber bands! To play, strum the "strings."

Tambourine How-To

For the tambourine (below), use a hammer to flatten twenty metal bottle caps from old-fashioned sodas (all-metal ones without plastic liners work best). For the fullest sound, make some of them flatter than others.

An adult should hammer a nail hole in the middle of each cap. Glue two stiff paper plates together with their bottoms facing; let dry. Punch six pairs of holes around the rims of the plates. Through five pairs of holes, thread four inches of waxed twine or yarn, positioning pairs and trios of bottle caps between and outside the plates to make little stacks of jingles, and tie. Tie ribbon streamers through the last hole.


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