Percussion instruments can be extremely beneficial for helping music students develop rhythm while having fun at the same time. You don’t even have to make a significant investment in order to provide instruments for players; good news if you’re on a tight budget. Performers from the Blue Man Group and Stomp have built entire careers by playing instruments made from creative objects like trashcan lids. Keep reading to get inspiration about how to make percussion instruments with items you may already have at home or in your classroom.

Create Bongo Drums From Empty Cans

It’s simple to make bongo drums out of a few washed and emptied cans, such as those that contain canned foods at your local supermarket. The cans can also be connected if you drill a small hole in each and slide in a small piece of wood, such as a chopstick. One advantage of this type of instrument is you can use the activity as a cultural learning experience, and teach your students about cultures that have a rich bongo tradition.

Recycle Scrap Metal

Metal is a common material used for musical instruments, due in large part to its ability to create pleasant ringing sounds when struck. For help in sourcing metal you’ll eventually turn into musical instruments, contact companies that specialize in working with the material. In high school, I used scraps from McElroy Metal to create my own instruments. They’re a family-owned business that has dozens of sites across almost twenty states, so there’s a good chance there’s an establishment near your music school. My friends and I loved digging through the scrap to see what sorts of noises we could make from someone else’s junk.

To get an idea of just what can be accomplished by using scrap metal, check out the efforts of a group who play under the name Scrap Arts Music. The brainchild of musician Gregory Kozak and architect Justine Murdy, the group formed in 1998 and has since been impressing audiences everywhere with the notion that metals most people may see as junk can actually be transformed into vehicles for musical expression.

Build a Bucket Drum Kit

You may have seen people, especially in metropolitan areas, creatively using empty buckets as drums. If you’re interested in proposing the same idea to your students, start by collecting a range of buckets of different sizes and thicknesses. Larger buckets create deeper, bass note sounds as opposed to smaller varieties. Small metal buckets work very well for creating the bright sound associated with a snare drum.

As you collect buckets to use as instruments, aim to choose some that can nestle inside one another. That’ll make transport much simpler and give you the opportunity to showcase your students in public so they can get used to performing for crowds.

There are also songs already written to be played on trash-cans. Lids is always a student and crowd favorite. My students were thrilled to play this piece and had so much fun with it. They even scheduled their own rehearsals to work on it because they enjoyed it so much. Check out this group having a blast with it:

As you can see from the suggestions above, it’s easy to depend on commonly available materials to create percussion instruments. These ideas are ideal if you’re eco-conscious, because they all involve creating something new out of things others would likely throw away. Use these possibilities as future lesson plans to demonstrate how music can happen anywhere, courtesy of some unlikely materials.

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