Make Upcycled Musical Instruments for Earth Day and Beyond

upcycled musical instruments

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We are all about upcycling and creative reuse here at ODC HQ, so I was super-excited to get a look at the ebook Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rock Out! by Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou, an awesome world music performer and teacher who loves to get kids excited about music in creative ways. recycled musical instruments ebook

The ebook has 10 different upcycled musical instruments to make from items you probably already have in the house. The activities are:

  • Australian Bilma – Make a broomstick or tree branch into Australian-style clapsticks
  • Cajón (Box Drum) – Turn a cardboard box into a Peruvian style cajón drum
  • Chinese Gong – Reuse a turkey roasting pan to create a big, loud gong
  • Egg Carton Quijada – Turn egg cartons into a rattle that resembles a South American jawbone instrument
  • Ocean Drum – Turn a pizza box and plastic folders into a working ocean drum
  • Rainstick – Convert a used mailing tube into a realistic rainstick
  • Natural Egyptian Sistrum – Turn a forked tree branch into an instrument found in Egyptian hieroglyphics
  • Recycled Egyptian Sistrum – Turn an old coat hanger, buttons and bangles into this historic rattle
  • Tibetan Tingsha – Reuse bottle caps to create a type of handbells used throughout Asia
  • Turtle Shell Rattle – Turn take-out containers into Native American style turtle rattles
  • Zampoñas – Reuse straws to make your own version of musical panpipes

Each project includes a little information about the traditional instrument that is being emulated, instructions on how to make the project and tips for how to play it.

Fun extras are included like clip art of the animals of the Chinese zodiac, should you want to play your gong for Chinese New Year, and printable monster faces to use to decorate your egg carton for the “jawbone” rattle.

I haven’t had a chance to make any of these with the girl just yet, but I know when she knows about them she will want to try it. upcycled musical instruments

Because we happened to finish a carton of eggs this morning, I made a quick jawbone rattle myself with one of the colored in printable faces (there are faces your child can color in as well). It took just a couple of minutes to pull together and does make a cool sound. I could see making several of these and adding different materials as we’ve done with Easter eggs before.sistrum made from natural materials

The girl will be particularly interested in the sistrum, an instrument from ancient Egypt, re-created here both with natural and upcycled materials.

The photos are clear, the projects are easy enough for most kids to do (though there are a few things grownups should handle for smaller kids), and for the most part they can be completed really quickly and easily so your kids can get on to playing in their recycled rock band fast.

Daria’s book is 35 pages and costs $6.99. It’s a great resource for kids who love music, making and being mindful of the planet. Also check her out on Facebook and her blog for tons of great ideas for teaching kids about music.

Have you ever made recycled musical instruments before? I’d love to hear about it. We are big fans of shaker boxes, rubber band guitars and turning just about anything into rhythm sticks over here!

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1 Comment

  1. Awesome article (as always)!!!
    I just wanted to say mention that Earth Day is over but our planet is still losing 15 billion trees each year.
    Earth Day Network works to reforest the earth and build sustainable communities but we must all do our little bit, too!

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