How to Make an Instrument Out of Recycled Objects

Updated April 17, 2017

Homemade instruments made with recycled materials are a great way for kids to showcase their musical creativity. The easiest to make are rhythm instruments, since they don't require tuning to specific pitches. If you have a good ear, however, you can find the right rubber bands to use on a rubber band guitar in order to play a few notes. You can also make a set of musical pipes or a xylophone out of recycled bottles filled with enough water to tune them to specific notes.

Remove the plastic from the oval-shaped hole in an empty tissue box (or cut an oval-shaped hole in the top of a box that doesn't already have one).

Stretch rubber bands around the box lengthwise. Use rubber bands of varying thicknesses to create different notes when plucked.

Slip a pencil under the rubber bands at the bottom of the hole. This will lift them away from the cardboard, allowing their sound to resonate better.

Tape an empty toilet paper tube to the box for a guitar neck and decorate it as you like.

Tape three empty paper towel tubes together to create one long tube, or use a long tube from a roll of gift wrap. The latter is preferable, since it's stronger and thinner.

Press one-inch nails or thumbtacks into the tube along the spiral, leaving about an inch of space between them.

Seal one end of the tube with paper and tape. Pour about three handfuls of rice, small beans or seeds into the tube and seal the other end with paper and tape.

Decorate the tube with paper, paints, beads and feathers. Play the rainstick either by tilting it slowly or shaking it in rhythm.

Add varying levels of water to empty glass bottles for a xylophone, or to plastic bottles for a set of pipes.

Test the bottles' pitches by striking them with a mallet or blowing across the top.

Match the notes to notes played on a pitch pipe by adding or subtracting water. More water will produce a lower pitch on a xylophone, but a higher pitch on pipes. The size of the bottle will also affect the pitch.

Things You'll Need

  • Empty rectangular tissue box or similar sized box
  • Rubber bands
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Tape
  • Cardboard tube from gift wrap roll or three empty paper towel tubes
  • 1-inch nails or thumbtacks
  • Paper
  • Rice, beans or seeds
  • Empty glass or plastic bottles
  • Water
  • Pitch pipe
  • Mallet (optional)
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About the Author

Mara Shannon is a writer whose work appears on various websites. Shannon also blogs about gaming and literature. Shannon holds a Bachelor of Arts in music with a focus on performance.