How to Make Simple String Instruments

By Denise Dayton
The simplest instrument requires only a shoebox and some rubber bands.

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

Children will enjoy playing music on a homemade 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.

Rubber bands of varying widths and sizes produce different sounds.

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.

Warning

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.

About the Author

Denise Dayton has been a freelance writer since 2002. Her work has appeared in publications such as "The Searcher" and "Online Magazine." Dayton holds a Master of Science in library and information science from the University of Illinois and a Master of Education from the University of Louisville.