Make Your Own Percussion Instruments

Make Your Own Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments are musical instruments that make a noise when hit, shaken or scraped. Have a look at the first video on DIY percussion instruments.

You may see a number of other videos that are a deeper dive into things you might be interested in. Feel free to watch as many of those as you like. Then choose some activities and/or a project. 

High school students or any student who wants to dig deeper, continue your study with one of the advanced learning projects in the Projects section. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to test your understanding by taking the quiz.

Take A Deeper Dive!

Activities

Make Your Own Tambourine

With this activity you will make your own tambourine – a drum with rattles, bells or small cymbals around the outside.

Materials:

  • Thick cardboard
  • Bottle caps
  • Twist ties (the ones for closing food bags)
  • A hole punch
  • A hammer
  • A large nail
  • Scissors/craft knife to cut thick cardboard

Follow the instructions in the video to make your tambourine. You may want to ask a grown-up for help with the hammer and nail.

Once you have finished, take a photo or make a video of yourself playing your new instrument. Be sure to load the finished photos or video to your portfolio.

Make Plastic Egg Maracas

These musical shakers are made using colorful plastic eggs.

Materials:

  • Small plastic eggs
  • Plastic spoons
  • Tape (plain or patterned)
  • Popcorn kernels/beans/rice/lentils/cereal/seeds
  • Markers (optional)

Directions:

  1. Fill the eggs with popcorn kernels, beans, rice, lentils, cereal or seeds. Be careful not to over-fill them – leave a little space to make sure the fillings can move around and make a noise when you shake them.
  2. Tape two spoons to the plastic egg, one on either side.
  3. Tape the spoon ends together.
  4. Decorate the tape with markers if you like.

You can experiment with filling different eggs with various dry goods and listen to all of the different sounds they make when shaken.

When you’re done, make a video playing your instruments. Be sure to load the finished video to your portfolio.

Make Tin Can Drums!

You can do so many things with these DIY instruments, shake ‘em, bang ‘em, make some fun noise with these music makers!

Materials:

  • Emptied and cleaned tin cans/glass jars/yoghurt pots
  • Rice, lentils, beans and/or popcorn
  • Balloons
  • Elastic bands
  • Sticks or chopsticks

Directions:

  1. Put a handful of rice, lentils, beans and/or popcorn into an empty can.
  2. Cut the end off the balloon and stretch over the edge of the can.
  3. Place the elastic band over the end of the can to secure the balloon.
  4. Use the sticks or chopsticks as drumsticks and start playing!

You could change the tin can for a glass jar and experiment with the different sounds each makes when filled with different levels of liquid or dry materials, and how the sound changes with their size. Does a bigger tin make a lower or higher pitch than a smaller tin?

Tap each one in different places to hear what sound it makes.

When you’re done, make a video as you play your instruments. 

Be sure to load the finished video to your portfolio.

Make a Water Xylophone

Make your own xylophone with just water and bottles or glasses! A xylophone is a tuned percussion instrument, as not only does it make a sound, but it can also make different pitches.

Materials:

  • Six identical bottles or glasses
  • Water
  • Coloured paint or food colouring

Follow the instructions in the video to make your xylophone. You can even try to make it perfectly in tune if you have an electronic tuner handy.

See if you can play any familiar tunes, even something simple like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. If you need inspiration, take a look at this amazing performance!

Record a video of yourself playing your tune on your xylophone, and upload it to your portfolio.

Spoons and Bones!

Did you know that a simple pair of spoons is actually a musical instrument all by itself? Take a look at the videos, and see if you can perfect your technique. All you need is a pair of spoons!

Playing the bones is a very similar technique and uses slivers of bone, wood or ceramic, but you can do the same movements with spoons too – or even a pair of butter knives (blunt ones!) or sticks! 

Teilhard Frost, Omnis’ own music expert teaches both these instruments in his drop in sessions! He’s a multi instrument playing and teaching sensation and he also makes banjos! His music learning blocks also have detailed instructions and videos of how to play both these instruments. Be sure to check out Omnis’ own musical maestro in action!

Once you have practiced, take a video of yourself playing your spoons, and upload it to your portfolio.

Project

Improvised Percussion Instruments

Making your own instrument is one thing, but as you might have seen from the Spoons video above, some items can become musical instruments without even being changed. These are called improvised instruments – instruments made or adapted from items where that is not their original purpose.

Improvised instruments appear in many musical genres, but are especially common in folk, bluegrass, country and blues. Spoons and bones are some, can you think of any others?

Research different items that have become commonly used improvised instruments. See if you can find their history: what the items were originally used for; together with what sound they make; what role they might play within a group or band; and what genre of music or part of the world they might be most commonly used in.

Set out your findings in an essay, poster or presentation, and then upload it to your portfolio.

Advanced Projects

Choose at least one.

Junk Percussion One-Person Band

You don’t have to spend a lot of money buying expensive musical instruments to make cool music. This video shows you how to make good noise out of all sorts of kitchen items.

With a little bit of imagination, you can make enough instruments and layer them to form your own band!

Look for some items and mess around with different sounds. Walk around your kitchen and tap/bang a chopstick or wooden spoon against all the  pots and pans to pick out the ones that sing. Which sound do you like the best?

This experiment makes you look around at everyday objects in your kitchen and home in a whole new way. Here’s another video for more inspiration.

Project: Make and record a musical performance by layering multiple instruments you have made from or with household items.

  1. Document all of the items you’re using to make your own percussion instruments by listing them.
  2. Then, write down how you made that particular instrument. Include what worked or what didn’t work.
  3. Finally, make a video of the instruments being played. You could play just one or two, or layer multiple instruments to produce a whole performance!

Be sure to load the finished video to your portfolio.

Make a Mbira (Kalimba)

A mbira, kalimba or thumb piano, is a small percussion instrument originating in southern African, with short tines set on a sound board or box which when plucked or pressed make different notes.

Materials:

  • Piece of wood (cardboard works too)
  • Stapler or staple gun
  • Pen
  • Bobby pins
  • Pliers

Follow the instructions in the video to construct your mbira. See what songs you can play on it.

Once you have made your instrument, and had a go at playing some songs, why not compose or improvise your own?

Be sure to upload a video or yourself playing, along with any thoughts on building and playing it, to your portfolio.

Books

Click on a book to buy it from Amazon. Or, you can ask for them at your local library.

Read Aloud Book