Sunday, November 20, 2011

Home Made Instruments

We made this one for a scout merit badge a while ago so I have no in progress pictures, but it's pretty straight forward fortunately.   I don't recall where we first read about this, but it is loosely based on an ancient Egyptian instrument called a Sistrum.  (For a history check here. )

I was feeling a little lazy that day so when we found a similar project on Family Fun, we went with a more naturalistic version of that. 


  • a stick with a "V" end and "handle" end that fits comfortably in your hand
  • wire or heavy gauge fishing line
  • an assortment of metal bottle caps
  • a hammer and a surface to pound on - scrap wood, brick etc.
  • an awl or ice pick

  1. Remove any bark and extra twigs from the stick and sand it smooth
  2. Flatten bottle caps with a hammer.  (Yes, kids can do this and they'll love it.  Just stand out of firing range and have them use a two handed grip for more control and to keep fingers out of the way.)  You may want to use eye protection just in case.  We managed to flip a couple of caps some distance.
  3. Carefully punch a hole in the center of the each bottle cap with the awl.  Surprisingly, for us there was less mayhem involved in this step than the hammering one.  Just use your best judgement on who does this step.  It depends on the child.  
  4.  (Optional ) use a file to smooth the edges of the holes.  Some of them can be sharp.
  5. Using wire or fishing line, string the bottle caps like beads and tie or twist (if wire) the ends between the crook of the stick, hammock-like.  You can secure with glue or hot glue if you like.  

You could customize this basic design any number of ways:

  • paint or stain the stick
  • punch hole in the caps but don't flatten and place them top to top as you string them to change the sound.
  • use more than one string of caps 

That's it!  Shake the stick and you have a jingly percussion instrument.  (Though, I did find a video on the official way to play a sistrum.)

As a bonus, I found this today online:  A homemade kazoo from paper tubes

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