DIY Musical Instruments

With the Blues in the Bay festival coming up Labor Day Weekend, the betterArts brigade is planning a public arts and crafts demo for kids from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1. The free workshop will be held outside of Bay House Artisans in downtown Alexandria Bay, and is made possible through a generous donation from the Watertown Evening Rotary.

That free workshop will show children how to make their own instruments out of simple supplies. While researchig what to make next Saturday, we ran into a plethora of great ideas for kids of all ages. A few of our top picks below!
Join us from 1-4 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 1, on the lawn in front of Bay House Artisans, ttkk, Alexandria Bay, N.Y. Contact us at (315) 482-2536 or with any questions. For more information about betterArts, please visit

For any of these activities, you can leave the items plain or decorate them. If you need ideas for decorating these projects, try any of the following items. We are sure this list will help you think of even more items you can use. Combine different things such as buttons and glitter or sequins and yarn. Let the children's creativity surprise you!

Note: Keeping items such as these in a large plastic storage container makes for easy access and quick clean up:

  • sequins, buttons, yarn, ribbon, masking tape, beads, glitter, sand, cellophane, construction paper, magazines, photos, crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, nail polish
2 paper plates
stapler or glue
hole punch
jingle bells

Staple or glue two paper plates together, facing each other. Using a hole punch, make holes around the plates and tie jingle bells to the holes with string. Decorate the tambourine with crayons.
Shake to play.
Note: Heavy duty paper plates may be more durable for this craft.
Safety note: If using a stapler, an adult should do this. When finished be sure to cover the staples with scotch tape.

DRUM empty oatmeal box with cover
2 pencils
2 spools
construction paper
Before beginning, you can decorate the oatmeal box with construction paper and/or crayons for a colorful effect.
Place the cover on the box. Use a pen to make a hole in the center of the cover and in the center of the bottom of the box. Through these holes, pull a piece of yarn long enough to hang around child's neck and down to their waist.
For the drumsticks, place the spools at the ends of the pencils, secure with glue if necessary.
Beat to play.

ruler or stick
nail polish
mixing spoon
Hang the washers from the ruler or stick with pieces of string by wrapping the string around the ruler or stick and securing. Strike the washers with the mixing spoon to play.
Note: You can make this craft colorful by painting the washers first with different color nail polishes, such as red, gold, glittery, etc. Parents should supervise this part of the activity closely.

paper towel roll
waxed paper
rubber band
Cover one end of the paper towel roll with waxed paper, secure it with a rubber band. Punch a row of holes along one side of the roll with the tip of a pen.
To play, sing a tune into the open end of the horn.

two matching pot covers
yarn or ribbon
Tie the ribbon or yarn around the handles of the pot covers. To play, strike together.

tall glasses or jars
mixing spoon
Fill the glasses or jars with different amounts of water. The more water in the glass, the lower the pitch will be. Having less water in the glass or jar will raise the pitch.
To play, gently strike the glasses with a mixing spoon.
Note: This instrument should probably be played by older children in "the band" because of the use of glass.

pocket comb
tissue paper
Fold a piece of tissue paper over the tooth edge of a comb. To play, hum through the tissue paper.

empty shoe box
rubber bands
ruler or stick
Remove the cover from the box. Stretch the rubber bands around the box. Attach the ruler or stick to the back of the box on one end to act as the arm of the guitar.
To play, strum or pluck the rubber bands.

2 paper towel rolls
hole punch
4 jingle bells
string or yarn
Punch a hole in each end of the paper towel rolls. Tie two jingle bells to each side of the paper towel rolls by running string or yarn through the holes and carefully tying off.
Shake to play.
Have fun and let creativity and imagination run wild! Record the band's first song and play back for some great giggle time. Enjoy!

DIY instructions from Family Corner,
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.