Thinking about buying a new instrument? Well, before you decide that, you should consider making your own! In this article, music teacher Willy M. will show you how to make 15 fantastic homemade musical instruments, such as a guitar, flute, and xylophone…
Instruments can cost a pretty penny. Even a plastic trombone costs just over $100. Since most instruments cost hundreds of dollars, it’s no wonder you may feel hesitant to learn one. Luckily, you don’t need cash to play popular instruments.
You most likely have enough materials at home to make at least one of these instruments below. These aren’t just for children – adults alike will enjoy recycling materials to make fun, playable instruments. Many of these homemade musical instruments will sound very similar to their real-life counterparts. You can even make something like this!
The following list of 15 homemade musical instruments was put together by one of our own music teachers, Willy M. Here’s what he had to say about this project:
This month I had the extreme pleasure of working on building homemade instruments from stuff that I had lying about my house. I have four kids, so finding junk around my house was a very simple task. But even if you don’t have a bunch of kids, you should be able to find most of the items that we used to make simple instruments.
Willy went the extra mile and even produced video tutorials for many of these instruments. He assures you that the instruments without video accompaniments are easy enough to create with the instructions provided. Let’s take a look at the list of homemade musical instruments!
15 Homemade Musical Instruments
This is a simple shaker made out of seeds, rice, beans, or beads placed in a film canister, pill bottle, or small tin box. This shaker can be used alone or with other DIY instruments to create the perfect percussion ensemble!
- 1 canister
- 1 handful of filler material (seeds, rice, beans, or beads)
- Place a handful of the filler material into the canister, cap it, and then shake until you quake!
- 2 Pringles cans (or other tube-like canisters)
- 1 handful of filler material (seeds, rice, beans, or beads)
- 12 or more small nails
- Duct tape
- Put a handful of filler material in the bottom of a Pringles can.
- Take the second Pringles can, place it open mouth to open mouth with the other, and tape them together.
- Take about twelve million nails (or maybe a dozen) and poke them in one at a time all over the Pringles cans until all of the nails are sticking into the can. The more nails you can poke into the can, the better, as this is what makes the sound.
- Next, to prevent all the hard work of poking in those nails, you’ll need to cover the entire rainmaker with duct tape. If you cover yours with silver and red duct tape, you can make it look like a lightsaber!
3) Glass Xylophone
Xylophones are always fun to make, and this one of two xylophones you’ll see on our list. The other one is made of wrenches, which you’ll see on #14 below. The glass xylophone has a beautiful ring to it. As an added bonus – you can drink from it if you’re thirsty!
- 4-8 Glasses
- 1 spoon
- Arrange several glasses (preferably of the same shape and size) in a row.
- Fill the glasses up with differing degrees of water. Start with maybe half an inch, then an inch, then two inches, etc.
- When you get the water in the glasses, start dinging them by tapping the glasses with a spoon, butter knife, or some other solid object.
- Bonus step: If you want to get really technical, get a chromatic tuner and actually measure the amount of water you need for each glass, and tune it up! (Free tuner apps: iPhone | Android)
This is really the fancy version of what most people know as “spoons.” But you could also use just about anything in your utensil drawer. Castanets are a classic Spanish percussion instrument, and you can come pretty close to mimicking them with spoons.
- 2 spoons
- Hold the spoons back to back.
- Put your finger in between the handles of the spoons and grip the two handles with the rest of your fingers and thumb.
- All you need to do now is clack the two spoons together to produce a rhythm.
5) Thumb Piano (or Kalimba)
The kalimba is an African instrument that’s best made with pieces of spring steel and a wooden box. But you can substitute these materials with something easier – a match box and some bobby pins. This substitution does not resonate as well as the wooden box, so we recommend getting one of those if you can.
- 1 small box (wooden or metal)
- 6-8 Bobby pins or other springy material (paper clips)
- [Optional] 1 wooden craft stick
- Cut a circle in the top of the box
- Straighten out several bobby pins and then tape them to the top of the box, leaving the ends of the pins hanging over the hole.
- [Optional] You can use a craft stick to help hold the pins in place. Tape the craft stick over top of the pins and then tape that to the box.
- After all the tape is in place, start flicking the pins with your thumbs!
6) Box Harp
A box harp is a pretty cool little invention. It can be made a number of different ways, but the way we did it was as easy as looking around the kitchen for parts. The box allows the rubber bands to have a deep resonance in their sound.
- 1 box
- 6-10 rubber bands
- Remove the lid from the box.
- Stretch rubber bands around the open part of the box(or even around the lid itself).
- Pluck the rubber bands and have fun!
7) Box Guitar
- 1 shoe box
- 6 rubber bands
- 3-4 wooden craft sticks
- [Optional] 2-4 pieces of wood
- Stretch big rubber bands around a shoe box that has a hole cut in the front for sound. Note: If your rubber bands are not long enough, cut them and then tie them to two different craft sticks.
- Stretch the rubber bands with craft sticks (you’ll need a friend to help you with this part) and then tape the sticks to either end of the box. Note: You might want to shove a craft stick under each side of the rubber bands to simulate a bridge and a nut.
- Strum away! If you want to do a more advanced version, simply glue some wood inside the box to frame it up and make it more stable.
8) Coca-Cola Trumpet
This one is a little tricky. When done right, it can sound pretty close to a real trumpet! The video below shows a man playing his own Coca-Cola trumpet. Although the video has sub-par quality, you can clearly hear the trumpet playing in action. In order to create the correct trumpet sound, you’ll need to learn how to shape your lips to create a buzzing noise.
- 1 Coke bottle
- 1 box cutter
- Cut the bottom of the Coke bottle off.
- Flip the end around and tape it back onto the trumpet. Note: You have to tape it loosely so that air can emit from around the edges.
- Drill or cut three holes in the top of the trumpet near the mouth piece (the opening of the bottle). Put your fingers over the holes and then blow (tightly-lipped) with all your might!
9) Simple Drum
Every DIY instrument list has to include some kind of drum. This is a very easy, yet super effective homemade instrument. If you don’t have drum sticks lying around, feel free to use wooden spoons, or easier yet – your hands!
- 2-4 rubber bands
- 1 container (bowl or jar)
- 1 plastic bag
- Stretch a plastic bag across the mouth of a large container.
- While holding the bag in place, put rubber bands on until the bag is firmly held.
- 1 drinking straw
- Cut the drinking straw near the tip at a slight angle; you’re going to be making a reed, like a bagpipe or oboe reed.
- Cut the other side; simply cut two angles that meet at a point, and then cut the point off leaving a flat spot
- Put the reed in your mouth and start blowing. Move the straw in and out until you find the sweet spot where it starts to vibrate and produce a sound.
- Bonus: If you want to be really creative, you can poke little holes every inch or so and use them as finger holes to create little melodies!
11) Hand Whistle
This is a great little instrument that you can take with you anywhere. If you get really good at it, you can actually play a lot of interesting melodies. Enough practice will eventually lead you to being able to play entire songs!
- 2 hands (preferably a left and a right!)
- Cup your hands together leaving a bit of space in the middle.
- Cup one hand over the other, not interlocking the fingers. All of the fingers of one hand go in between the thumb and first finger of the other, and vice versa.
- Press your thumbs together to make a small mouthpiece. You’ll want to have a small gap between the thumbs; you can make this gap by simply bending the thumbs a tiny bit.
- Put your upper lip on the knuckles of your thumbs and blow down over the hole that is created with both thumbs. Work at it a bit, until a sound is formed. Note: You can change the pitch by changing the size of the hole between your hands.
It’s essentially a Coke bottle with a straw flute acting as the mouthpiece. This one can provide hours of entertainment. It takes some time to learn the technique, but once you get it down, you’ll be making sweet cocoboe music in no time!
- 1 straw flute (#10 on the list)
- 1 Coke bottle
- A drill
- Drill several holes in the bottom of a Coke bottle. While you’re at it, go ahead and drill a hole the size of your straw flute in the top. If the hole is a little too big, put some tape around your straw flute until it fits in the hole.
- Start playing your straw flute! You now have a Coke bottle oboe.
- [Optional] If you want to get fancy, you can drill some holes in the Coke bottle and it’ll allow you to change pitches. Smaller Coke bottles work better than the larger 2 liter bottles.
13) Comb Harmonica
The comb harmonica is one of the first instruments I ever learned how to make. I remember my grandpa taking his comb out of his pocket, wrapping a piece of paper around it, and playing a song on it. He could play a pretty mean harmonica too. I remember asking him how to play the harmonica, and he made me a comb harmonica to “practice” until I was good enough for a real one.
- 1 comb
- 1 piece of thin paper
- Wrap a piece of paper around a comb.
- Put your lips against the paper and make a buzzing noise with your lips. You can hum as well, which changes the sound. A kazoo works pretty much the same way, but with a piece of paper or other material over a pipe.
- 6-10 wrenches of assorted sizes
- 2 books or boards of equal size
- Arrange wrenches in order of size from the smallest to the largest on the books. Note: You might need to angle the books (or boards) slightly to accommodate the shorter wrenches.
- Start hitting the wrenches with another wrench or piece of metal.
15) Wall Guitar
- 1 long piece of wire or piano string
- 1 empty glass bottle
- 2 nails
- Nail two nails on a wall – one high and the other about three to six feet lower than the other nail.
- Wind a good amount of wire onto the top nail, then stretch the wire as tight as you can while winding it around the bottom nail.
- Once the wire is tightly bound (or multiple wires if you want to make several of these), you can pluck the wire to make sound. The building that you mount the wire to will actually act as a sound chamber.
- Take the glass bottle and slide it up and down the wire to play a melody. Note: If you have a guitar tuner, you can make markings on the wall where different pitches of the major or minor scale occur.
Homemade Musical Instruments
That’s our list of 15 homemade musical instruments! I hope you enjoy the videos that cover the instruments we made. We know that instruments can get pretty expensive. Keep this is mind: You can rent many of the instruments you like instead of buying them. See if you have any local instrument dealerships or music shops around and ask about rentals.
If you really love playing your homemade instruments and want to eventually play the real things, check out private instructors in your area and enhance your musical knowledge!
Have you made any homemade musical instruments on our list? Know any others? Comment below!