How to Make Musical Instruments From Recyclables for the Holidays

You don't have to be a skilled musician to learn how to make musical instruments for the family holiday sing-along. Here are some simple musical instruments, fashioned largely from recyclables, that the whole family can have as much fun making as playing.


| December 1994 /January 1995


Every band needs a guitar. Make yours from a 2-by- 4, 1-by-4 or any scrap board about 2-feet long. Sand the board smooth, and paint it in holiday colors with traditional designs. Evenly space three or four nails a few inches from the top and bottom, lining up the nails at one end with the nails at the other.

To produce a rich sound when the strings are plucked, your guitar will need a bridge that keeps the strings from hitting the wood. Make a bridge from a 1 1/2-inch wide paint-stirring stick. Cut off a 4-inch piece, and glue it across the board toward one end; then nail it in place from the back.

Use rubber bands for guitar strings. Different thicknesses will give you different pitches. Another way to vary pitch is to stretch the bands tighter: the tighter they are, the higher they sound. Try different combinations until you're able to hit your perfect note.

Back your guitar with a bungee bass that has a fine enough tone to fool a professional. All you need is a bungee cord and a sturdy cardboard carton. Remove the top of the carton and wrap it in colorful holiday paper. Poke holes in opposite sides, near the top edge, and hook in the tiedown (your bass will look like a square bucket with a flexible handle). To play the bass, hold it up by its handle and pluck the bungee.

If you prefer a variable-tone bass fiddle, you'll need a long thin shoelace or piece of string, a washer (a large button or a washer cut from heavy cardboard will work) and a large empty oatmeal carton. Decorate the carton with wrapping paper or contrasting ribbons wound in barberpole fashion.

Anchor one end of the shoelace to the washer. Thread the lace through holes in the centers of the bottom and top of the box. With the washer at the bottom, hold the box down with your foot, wrap the free end of the shoelace around your hand and pluck the lace with your other hand. To vary the sound, hold the shoelace so it's tighter or looser, longer or shorter.





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