Things You'll Need
- The materials needed depend on the type of instrument you want to make:
- Shoebox or other small cardboard box
- Rubber bands of various widths
- Wooden cigar box
- Small saw
- Ruler or tape measure
- Wooden broom handle
- Wood screws
- Square metal cookie tin
- Pogo stick
- Machine screws and nuts
- Jingle bells (optional)
String instruments enable players to create sound by plucking or bowing one or more strings. The sound resonates in the body, or sound box, of the instrument, and that is what we hear. The quality of the tone depends somewhat on the materials used for the strings and, to a greater extent, on the materials and craftsmanship that go into the sound box. That explains the difference between the sound of a $10 toy guitar and a $1 million dollar Stradivarius violin. You can make your own simple string instrument, although it won't sound like a Stradivarius.
The Simplest String Instrument
Put an assortment of rubber bands around a small, open cardboard box. Four to six rubber bands of varying size and width will work well. A large, thick band will produce a lower tone than a thin band that is stretched tightly. Arrange the bands in order from lowest to highest notes. Play the instrument by plucking the bands.
Use a wooden cigar box as a sound box for a simple string bass. Remove the lid of the cigar box with a saw. Place the box, open side down, on a flat work surface. Mark placement for the screws on the back of the box, one at the center top and the other directly below at center bottom. Measure the distance between the holes and mark the same placement on the broom handle, placing the bottom mark about 2 or 3 inches from the bottom of the broom handle. Add rubber bands of varying widths and sizes, as with the shoebox instrument.
Make a simple pogo cello — also called a stump fiddle or boom-bah — by using a metal cookie tin and a pogo stick. Attach the cookie tin to the pogo stick as above, using machine screws instead of wood screws. A square or rectangular cookie tin will work better than a round one, since the rubber bands will slip off more easily on a round tin. Since a pogo cello is often used as a percussion instrument, you can add some jingle bells at the top of the stick. To play your instrument, pluck the rubber bands. Use the spring at the bottom of the pogo stick to bounce it and add rhythm with the sound of bells.
These simple string instruments can be enjoyed by children but, except for the shoebox instrument, they should not be made by children. Tools such as saws and drills should be used only by adults or by older children under close adult supervision.
Denise Dayton, M.Ed., M.S. teaches career readiness and workplace success, along with other business courses, at a small college in New England.