Create An Instrument: Part 1 – Introduction


Combined classes for our first meeting in the STEM room.

This week the Music + STEM class teamed up with the STEM class to create an instrument, compose, and perform.  This combo meant a lot of kids, noise, materials, and most importantly – learning!

We packed a lot into this unit, so the posts describing it will be divided into four posts:

  • Part 1 – Introductory Challenge
  • Part 2 – Science of Sound Lab
  • Part 3 – The Building Process
  • Part 4 – Composing and Performing

Introductory Challenge

We started our first day together with this video about the Landfill Harmonic project.  Students were asked to notice the materials used to create the instruments and the effect the instruments and music had on the people involved.  Hopefully, this helped students realize that making instruments from found materials isn’t just a fun activity – it could change someone’s life.

We then presented students with a challenge: In 10 minutes, create an instrument out of any or all of the provided supplies. Pairs of students were given a cup, 2 straws, 2 paper clips, a rubber band, and an index card.


The supplies

When students were finished creating, we had a short presentation on categories of world instruments.  These categories were chosen in the hopes they would shift thinking from traditional Western instruments to the possibility of unfamiliar instruments.  Students then shared their instrument, demonstrated it, and shared which category their “instrument” fit into…

  • Chordophone – instruments that produce sound from strings being plucked, strummed, or bowed
  • Aerophone – instruments that use air to produce sound
  • Membranophone – Instruments that make sound from a vibrating membrane (or substitute) stretched over an open container
  • Idiophone – An entire instrument that vibrates when hit, shaken, or scraped

Students created a wide variety of instruments …

  • Drums created by covering the cup with the index card
  • Cutting the straws into pieces and putting them into the cup made shakers
  • Wrapping the rubber band around the cup made two different sounds – a “twang’ over the open end and a “snap” over the sides or bottom
  • Clipping the tip of the straw created a lovely squealing noise

This was a sometimes noisy day (as you’ll see in the video clip below) but a great intro to the creative thinking process that will go into creating something bigger and better!

4 responses »

  1. I would love to do this in my classes and have contacted our STEM coordinating teacher and she is so excited about this as well. I would like to ask you some questions

  2. Pingback: Create an Instrument: Part 2 – The Science of Sound | Room 102

  3. Pingback: Build An Instrument: Part 4 – Compose & Perform | Room 102

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