Monday, February 16, 2015

Making Music with Child-Crafted Instruments!

Children take great pride in their own creations! Often they use something more carefully when they’ve made it themselves. 
   Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup here - gettin' crafty! This month I’ll show you how we made bolang gu – pellet drums for celebrating Chinese New Year, and claves, for tapping out rhythms and using as manipulatives.  I have offered posts on songs to use with both of these instruments – be sure to take a look at the original blogs to go with these instruments.

CLAVES (CLAH-vays) are percussive sticks of the same size that can be tapped together rhythmically.  I use 1” dowels cut in 8” lengths. You can make 6 claves out of a 48” dowel rod – and if you ask really really nicely, the guy at the lumberyard may cut them on the circular saw for you! Use your “teacher card” – smile and say “it’s for little kids!”  Works every time!

CUT medium and fine grade sandpaper into 3” squares – each child will need one square of each.  Have your students sit on newspaper – less clean-up later.  They should sand each end of each stick (they’ll each need 2 sticks) until they are smooth and there are no splinters.  Put the child’s initials on the end of each stick with marker if you intend for them to take their claves home eventually.

Paint!  I use washable acrylics – but we still wear cover-ups, just in case.  Put out about 4-6 colors.  Some helpful hints for your artists:
    1.   Try not to mix paint colors on your stick – it will look muddy.
     2.   Drain the brush of excess paint each time you dip to prevent globs of paint, which won’t dry properly.           
   I stand the painted claves upright in a shoebox to dry.

When claves are totally dry (at least overnight), a light sanding by the kids will bring up the colors. Towel off all debris. I spray claves with glossy polyurethane for protection.  Voila – colorful child-made claves!

For song ideas to use with your claves, check out my Dec 16, 2013 blog: “Tap It Out!”  You’ll find “I Can Hammer”, “My Grandfather’s Clock” and “The Red Red Robin Stick Dance” – the latter with a FREE DOWNLOAD!

CHINESE DRUMS are percussive instruments that can be used to accent a song OR story!  This year, the lunar new year begins on February 19 – and you’ve got 15 days of celebration to enjoy learning about a beautiful and intriguing holiday observance. It's the year of the goat/sheep!
    Check out my January 2013 blog “Chinese New Year – Sing, Dance, Create!” for the Nancy Stewart’s beautiful FREE DOWNLOAD “Gung Hay Fat Choy” – which means Happy New Year in Chinese.  You’ll also find a quick recap of some traditions – from red envelopes to cleaning the kitchen.  There are also great read-able book suggestions.
    This year my 4 -5 year olds made Bolang Gu – Chinese drums – from paper plates, a dowel, some ribbon and beads.  They really enjoyed the process AND the firecracker-y sound they made when played.

Supplies:  white glue, a stapler, a hole punch. 
Optional: stickers, or construction paper “good luck” in English & Chinese characters.
For each drum you will need:
two 6-8” paper plate (red or multi-colored)
two 8” pieces of ribbon, string or cord
4 small plastic beads
1 3/8” dowel, 10 – 12” long (I got pre-cut dowels at the craft store)

To make (highlighted steps were done by me – use judgement as to what your students can safely handle):
1. if using colored plates, press plates inside out so that color is on outside
2. staple 2 plates together around the edges, leaving a place to insert the dowel
3. punch hole at 3 & 9 o’clock
4. decorate plates – stickers, “good luck”- whatever you choose
5. put ribbon through hole on each side, thread bead, tie knot at end of ribbon
6. insert dowel, drip a little glue into each side of dowel, turn it once to spread

When glue is dry, hold dowel between flat hands and rub hands together to turn the dowel.  The beads will swing back and forth, hitting the drum faces – pop pop pop!
    Katie at Gift of Curiosity has a nice blog on this project.  Check it out!

    As I told my class the story of Nian (n’YEN) – the sea creature who ate whole villages – and the old man who scared Nian away forever by putting up lanterns, red banners and firecrackers – they used their drums, scarves and voices, too!  Great fun!  We also used our drums in “Gung Hay Fat Choy” – during the final verse, I dance the dragon/monster – they make loud noise to scare me away!
    I wish I had pictures of this final verse – but I was IN IT!  Try it yourself – if you can’t make drums, the children can clap their hands loudly.

Yes, there is preparation when making instruments. I have found it worth it – students and their parents tell me repeatedly how their child played with the instruments they made many times at home, and that these are treasures and memories that are valued.

    Hooked?  Make rainsticks! Check out my May 2012 blog: Rainsticks to Sing With!

       Yours for a TapTap and PopPop Song!       

       “Miss Carole” Stephens
       Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners!


  1. Love these happy, fun, and instructive ideas, Ms. Carole!

  2. Thanks, Ms Brigid - looks like our brains were in similar places - your denden and my bolang gu! Baaaa!

  3. Definitely pinning these!! Thanks so much for sharing these great ideas! I love making instruments with my pre-k kids!


We would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment below....

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...