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"found percussion"

    Goals and standards

  • Goals - Students will make musical instruments, with a variety of pitches, from found objects.
  • Objectives - Students will bring from home a variety of discarded objects that make interesting sounds when struck. The students will sort the found objects by type and use them, alone or in groups, to assemble collections of similar objects (or similar-sounding objects) with different sizes, that can be used to play three- pitch percussion parts. Each student or group will demonstrate their finished percussion instrument to the class and/or use it in the following activities.
  • Grade Level - K-12 (adaptable)
  • Student Prerequisites - none
  • Teacher Expertise - Teacher expertise in music is not necessary to present this activity.
  • Time Requirements - One (approximately 45-minute) class period.
  • Evaluation - Evaluate neatness, cooperation, and visual presentation, according to your usual rubric for craft activities, as well as student success in constructing an "instrument" with three similar sounds of different pitch.
  • Music Standards Addressed - National Standards for Music Education standard 9 (understanding music in relation to history and culture).
  • Other Subjects Addressed - The activity also addresses National Council for the Social Studies standard 1 (culture).
  • Extensions - Older, gifted, or ambitious students may want to design and make instruments tuned to make specific pitches (more like an actual steel drum, mbira, or xylophone), that could be used to play a melody, from found objects. Encourage them to find objects that ring with clear, definite pitches (nails, rake tines, bamboo sticks, blocks of hard wood, metal bowls, and heavy cardboard tubes are some possibilities), and help them research easy ways to tune the objects.

    Materials and preparation

  • Plan ahead to give your students plenty of time to find and bring in "found" objects that they can use to make instruments. Suggest that they look for discardable objects that have a nice or interesting sound. Send home notes of explanation if necessary. Possible suggestions (depending on how much and what type of work you will want them doing in class): clean, empty metal cans of all sizes, with no sharp edges; clean, empty plastic tubs and lids of all sizes; pieces of bamboo or dowels, cut (at home by a parent) into various short lengths; small pieces of hardwood lumber; empty cardboard tubes from paper towel and wrapping paper rolls, or sturdy cardboard containers such as oatmeal boxes. You may find further ideas in Percussion Fast and Cheap or Sound and Music .
  • You may want to have calypso music to play in the background as they are working on their instruments.
  • Be prepared for a noisy activity.
  • Optional: If a messy activity is OK, you may want to supply, or have the students supply: some dry beans or beads for maraca-type sounds; sticky clay, plaster, water, or sand to "tune" the objects, and/or art supplies to decorate the instruments.
  • You may also want to supply string and/or strong scissors and tape.
  • The students will need beaters or drumsticks to play the instruments with. Rulers, heavy pencils, wooden spoons, real drumsticks, short dowels, or pieces of bamboo are all possibilities. You can supply these, have the students supply them, or use whatever happens to be at hand.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Musical travels for children. OpenStax CNX. Jan 06, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10221/1.11
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