Category Archives: Simple Instruments

5 Tips to Introduce Your Child to the Ukulele

running boy and uke

Guest Post By Colleen Kinsey

The ukulele is a fun sized instrument that has kids and adults, grinning after the first string is plucked.  Ukuleles are the perfect instrument for kids because they are small and easy to play, plus it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other instruments. Learning the ukulele will increase your child’s memory skills, improves coordination, boost confidence, and nurture skills to make them successful as adults.

When I talk to parents, one of their favorite reasons for getting their kid started on the ukulele is because the soft, mellow tune isn’t heard throughout the entire house! Before you run to the local music shop and to purchase one, follow these five steps to introduce your child to the ukulele.

ukulele COMPLETE coloring pageStart from the Very Beginning

Music lessons take all forms and can begin right after birth. As a new parent, swaying and dancing with your baby introduces them to a musical environment. With your toddler, you can play simple movement activities and games. Even playing music in the car can count as a music lesson, which helps them build a positive relationship with music.

Around the age of three, you can start putting your child in more formalized lessons. The goal isn’t to pick up a ukulele and start plucking, it’s more for them to develop basic skills like identifying a beat or a melody. When you’re looking for classes, make sure you and your teacher have the same musical goals for your child.

By the age of 5, you can introduce your child to a variety of instruments. I recommend finding a program that allows your child to play many different types. Forcing your child to only play the ukulele, without trying out other options can be a recipe for disaster. It helps to see what instrument your child is drawn to and enjoys playing before investing in one.

If you and your kid decide that the ukulele is the right instrument, you can start them in formal ukulele lessons. When your child reaches the age of 10, they will have acquired enough skills and physical strength to play the ukulele for longer periods of time.

Choose the Right Ukulele

Before you run out to buy a shiny new ukulele, make sure you are getting the appropriate size, shape, and style for them to learn on. I suggest consulting with a music teacher or a knowledgeable ukulele player before buying this uke prize packinstrument. If you purchase one for your child without doing a bit of ukulele research, you will risk their ukulele education being counterproductive.

Have your kid test out a few ukes at the music shop. My favorite method is to pick 3 ukuleles that are the appropriate size, style, and in your budget then let them choose their instrument. After all, they are the ones that are going to be playing it every day. Empowering your child to choose their own ukulele and make decisions helps cultivate a good relationship with the instrument.

Be an Involved Parent

I have seen many children that have real talent and knack for the ukulele, but ukulele parenttheir skills fall flat due to the lack of time spent practicing at home. Having a practice schedule at home goes well beyond mastering the instrument. It teaches your child self-discipline, which is something that will help them be a successful adult. Self-discipline isn’t second nature for a child, so it’s your job as the parent to find engaging and positive ways to encourage self-motivation.

If you have a child that struggles to get their daily practice in, try different approaches to the task. Consider what time you’re having them pick up the ukulele. The typical student will practice after school, but sometimes children are more motivated at the beginning of the day. It may take some trial and error to determine what works best for your family.

I had one parent that thought of a unique way to motivate their child. They got a handful of dried beans and let their child decorate the beans with paint and glitter. When they practiced at home, she would get a bean for each part of the lesson she completed. Finding fun ways to motivate your child will help them associate fun with learning the ukulele and teach them self-discipline.

 Set Easy to Accomplish Goals

A practice session can be useless without attainable goals for your child to accomplish. Children will feel proud when they have successfully completed a goal, which will motivate them to continue playing. Writing down what they want to accomplish or adding gold stars to their practice log is a great way for them to feel proud of themselves.

Work with your ukulele teacher to determine what the appropriate benchmarks should be. Each practice session should incorporate multiple goals, whether it’s to hit every ukulele chord without faltering or play a song from start to finish.  Here’s a great resource for learning  ukulele chords .

Performances

Ukulele girlPerformances provide a motivation to practice, because your child will want to play well front of other people. Your music teacher should have an end of the year recital, but as a parent you can incorporate small performances throughout the year.

Start by having your kid play the ukulele for the family after dinner. The sound of applause after a song well done is a great incentive. If your child feels comfortable, some don’t, try to get them to play at your extended family gatherings. This provides them a safe environment to play in front of people they know. It also allows them to get over the feeling of stage fright and boosts their confidence.

Not only is the ukulele a fun instrument to play, but it helps teach your child self-discipline and boosts their confidence. Learning the uke increases their math, listening, reading, comprehension, and social skills all excellent reasons to put a ukulele in your child’s hands.

About The Author  – Colleen is a traveler, ukulele instructor, and Editor in Chief to  Coustii a website devoted to teaching guitar and ukulele skills to people online. She is based in Des Moines, Iowa, but her ukulele has been with her around the world.  You can find out more about here musical travels, here: Travel Meets Happy.

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Make An Ocean Drum for World Oceans Day

me and the dolphinHave you heard of World Oceans Day? Celebrated annually on June 8th, it’s an internationally recognized and celebrated day to learn, share, preserve and promote one of our most magnificent resources, the oceans and seas.

The World Oceans Days website (link below) is a wealth of information – including research on pollution, posters in 15 languages, and a variety of action steps that anyone can take to make a difference. Visit the site to learn how oceans regulate our climate, generate most of the oxygen we breathe, clean the water that we drink and so much more.

Want to combine your learning with a fun recycled music craft?  Here’s a way you can reduce, reuse, recycle and make a great homemade drum that sounds remarkably like the sea!

What Is An Ocean Drum?

If you live near the sea or have visited an ocean, you know the wonderful, traditional ocean drumrelaxing sound of waves coming and going along the seashore. An ocean drum is a 2 sided hand drum that – when played – sounds just like the surf. In fact, if you close your eyes, you can imagine you are right there on the beach, hearing the waves as they come and go.

Above is a picture of a traditional ocean drum.

Make Your Own Recycled Ocean Drum

blue ocean drum kimbertonCheck your recycling bin.  Do you have a sturdy pizza box or a mailing box with dimensions somewhat like the one seen here?  If you do, you can fill the bottom of the box with sand, salt, seed beads or any tiny pasta (like acini de pepe). There’s also some great ways to create a window to the drum, decorate the outside and seal the box so the contents don’t escape and you can use it for weeks to come.

Ocean Drum Tutorial Free

Want a step-by-step tutorial plus other great info on this drum and world music instruments? Until June 16th, we’ve reduced the price of this great kids music resource to – free!  (Note: If you read this post after June 16, 2017 and need a free educator’s copy, just contact daria at dariamusic at yahoo dot com for more info).

Links And Resources

ocean drum pdfFree Tutorial – MYO Ocean Drum – https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ocean-Drum-Craft-1567951

World Oceans Day – Main Sitehttp://www.worldoceansday.org/

Find An Oceans Day Event Near You – http://www.worldoceansday.org/events_list

Playing The Spoons As an Instrument – In Russia!

Russian wooden spoonsAnyone who has experienced “down home” American folk music has probably heard a musician play the spoons. If you haven’t – then you’re in for a treat and check out the post below titled: “It’s So Easy to Play The Spoons!”

But, did you know that playing spoons as percussion is a part of traditional Russian folk music as well? Although the sound of the clicking and clacking of the spoons is similar, the Russian technique of playing adds a few really neat twists that put it in a league of it’s own!

Russian Spoons or Lozhki

Known as lozhki (Ло́жки), Russian musical spoons most often are the beautifully carved and decorated wooden spoons famous in that part of the world. Where American spoon players usually use two silver spoons in one hand, Russian players typically play three or more and use both hands. They can also put extra spoons in pockets or on their clothes and use them as extra percussion surfaces.

If you watch this video of a folk orchestra featuring a spoon player, you’ll see some pretty amazing hand (and foot) work!

How do you pronounce “lozhki”? You can hear the correct pronunciation of the Russian word for spoons here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Ru-%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B6%D0%BA%D0%B0.ogg

Links and Resources

It’s So Easy to Play The Spoons! http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/its-so-simple-to-play-the-spoons/

Balalaika – Free Coloring Page: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Balalaika-Free-Coloring-Page-3030487

A Rhythm Tree For Earth Day Or Any Day

Here’s a great project for Earth Day or a summer camp or group play activity. It’s a fun way to combine recycling and reusing materials with discovering rhythm and creative music-making.

A while back, we did a post about rhythm trees and you can find that listed below.  But since we also get questions about the best components for this project, we thought we’d share a list here, just in time for outdoor musical fun.

And remember, if you don’t have the perfect music tree, you can also do this project on a clothesline or between poles on a playground.

So here’s our top suggestions.

Pizza Pie Plate Gong

STARR GARDENS - a few instruments for Rhythm TreeThese sound great and provide a nice large surface for tapping and drumming. Look for used metal containers such as turkey pans or pizza pie plates. They can be painted and decorated and hung at various heights from your tree or clothesline. If you can find trash can lids or used pans or pots that aren’t too heavy, they might make a nice addition to the project as well.

Milk Jug Rattle

Rhythm tree - clothesline instrumentsClean a large plastic container and add some rattling components inside. Decorate the outside of the container, if you like as well.  Seal it up and hang it for a nice sound when tapped. If you hang it low enough, kids can also grab and shake or “swoosh” the container for a different kind of percussion sound.

A Giant Guiro

rhythm tree - paper towel roll guiroThreading together wrapping paper or poster tube rolls makes for a giant guiro. Take a stick or a whisk and brush it down the sides for a fun repeating percussive sound.

 

Hanging Log Drum

rhythm tree playing tubeIf you can find a large tube like these, you can hang it up and play it like the type of log drums found in Africa, the Pacific Islands or the Northern Native American tribes, like the Inuit.  Tapping different sections of the drum will produce slightly different sounds – what fun!

Play With Your Hands – Or With Recycled Mallets

homemade guiro and 6 raspsSome of the instruments you hang can be tapped or played with your hands. Easy mallets can also be created from wooden dowels, wooden spoons, sticks, unsharpened pencils, plastic spoons or forks, hair picks, chopsticks or similar objects.

 

What Else Can You Find To Make Music With?

little-guy-and-washboardThe best part of this project is seeing how creative kids can be with everyday items. Encourage your little ones to come up with suggestions of what else might become part of an amazing and fun musical tree.

Links and Resources

Make Your Own Rhythm Tree:  http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/a-music-tree-or-rhythm-clothesline-for-outdoor-musical-fun/

Natural Instruments – Sticks, Stones and Bamboo Percussion For Kids: http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/all-natural-instruments-sticks-stones-and-bamboo-percussion-for-kids/

Seven Awesome Summer Music Activities:  http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/early-learning-with-music/7-awesome-summer-music-ideas/

Turn A Milk Jug Into A Recycled Shekere: http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/turn-a-milk-jug-into-a-recycled-shekere/

The Pow-Wow Drum – Making a Beat, Together With Friends!

#31daysofrhythm FB

Did you now that March is Music In Our Schools month? What a great way to focus on how music enriches the lives of all students, young and old!

I’m part of a group of music educators that want parents, teachers and everyone to find lots of fun and creative ways to share music with kids. This year, our theme is “31 days of rhythm” so I wanted to share a bit about how pow-wow drumming.

What’s A Pow-Wow Drum?

Seven Cedars Sing At University of Pensylvania MuseumIf you’ve ever been to a Native American gathering, the pow-wow drum is at the center of the event.  At most pow-wows you’ll see a group of either men or women gathered around a big drum and everyone is playing and singing at the same time. They are all playing in unison, meaning the goal is to strike the drum together. And when a great drum group is playing, it sounds like thunder and shows the power of what people can do when they work (or play) cooperatively!

Make Your Own Pow-Wow Drum

DALLAS girls making drum at women's museumActual pow-wow drums are beautiful and many are very special and sacred. But I’ve done a post that explores the first pow-wow drum and you can easily make that at home. You can find it here as well as check out the sound of a traditional drum group playing and singing: http://www.dariamusic.com/drum.php

You’ll Need a Drum Beater

To play a pow-wow drum, each drummer needs their own beater. Check this link feathered drum beaterfor an equally simple craft to make your own pow-wow drum beaters: http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/make-a-little-drum-beater-for-a-big-drum/

Now Let’s Play!

Every child can find a place around the fabric drum, holding the drum with one hand and their beater in the other. Then, they strike the drum together – at the same time. At first, a teacher or adult may want to tap out a beat to any familiar song and encourage the children to play along, hitting the drum at exactly the same time. Once the kids get the idea, the leader can also ask the children to kids drumming in DARIA workshop - ISRAELlisten carefully and do what she/he does. While playing the same song, she/he can play softer and they should tap softer.  He/she can play harder or a bit faster or slower and the drum group should do the same.

In Native cultures, drumming is just one way of teaching cooperation and listening skills as well.

Drumming Together

To practice drumming together, you might wish to try a simple song I used while teaching music and English in the Middle East. The students wanted to learn the days of the week in English so they drummed to the following little song. Whoever was leading set the pace and played the rhythm as they sang. When they finished, they pointed to someone who had listened and played well to be the next leader.

(one beat) Sunday,
(one beat) Monday,
(one beat) Tuesday,
(one beat) Wednesday,
(one beat) Thursday,
(one beat) Friday and
(three beats) SAT-UR-DAY (beaters must stop and raised in the air).

Happy drumming and check out all the posts for the 31 Days of Rhythm right here: https://musicedblogs.com/

Make An Irish Drum – Tutorial Free This Week!

Need a last minute St. Patrick’s Day craft?  You’ll love to make and play this easy Irish drum. And learn a bit about it’s history and culture as well.

To get your free copy, just head over to my TeachersPayTeachers store, where’s Screen shot 2017-03-15 at 1.38.20 PMit’s marked down to “0” until March 19th. And while you’re there – would you kindly follow me on TPT to get monthly notices of what’s new and other musicals freebies and goodies you might like. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Irish-Drum-Make-and-Play-Your-Own-Bodhran-and-Tipper-2410657

Don’t have time to get the tutorial?  Here’s an older post that tells you all about the bodhrán (pronounced bow-ron) drum.

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/make-your-own-bodhran-irish-drum/

Wishing you have a happy, healthy and green St. Patrick’s Day!

What Was That Drum Seen In Moana?

Screen shot 2017-03-02 at 4.00.45 PM

Lots of young children and those of us who are kids at heart have fallen in love with the latest Disney animated film set in the Pacific Islands, called Moana.  If you haven’t seen it yet; I promise, no spoilers here!

While enjoying the film, music-lovers will notice a unique drum makes a brief appearance and helps our young heroine discover an important aspect of the Pacific Island Slit Drumhistory of her people.  To most Westerns eyes, this sideways, longer wooden drum may look a bit unusual.  Were you wondering what it was?  Although we don’t get a good look at it, it’s most likely inspired by the slit drums or a log drums found throughout the Pacific Islands.

The drum pictured above is very similar to the one seen in the movie.  Made in Papau, New Guinea, this elaborately carved slit drum is placed on two wooden rests and played by striking the top (open) area.  Unpainted and left it’s natural color, the inner carved area is rubbed with white lime, making the beautiful traditional designs stand out.  You’ll notice lots of similarities between the artwork and the tattoos in the movie and the carvings seen on the drum here!

Although you can’t walk into a museum and see this drum first-hand, you can check out it’s complete information page on the Brooklyn Museum website, where it is part of an “Arts of the Pacific Islands.”  You can also check out the link below that shares another similar drum from Tokelau, three islands that are north of New Zealand and East of Australia.  The Wikipedia page on the music of Tokelau has some very helpful background about this drum as part of communal singing and dancing rites and rituals, used to not only bring the people of the island together but to preserve and share ancestral history, just like we see in this latest movie about a strong young woman finding her way and saving her people!

Slit DrumIntrigued by this type of drum and want to share it with your child?  There are definitely kid size slit drums; like the one pictured here, that any child can use to rock their world!

Links and Resources

Complete Drum Description From The Brooklyn Museum
https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/66604

Brooklyn Museum’s Arts of the Pacific Islands” Exhibition
https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/collections/23

Slit Drums And Music Of Tokelau
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Tokelau

Make Your Own New Year’s Eve Noise-Makers!

big-bottle-shaker-recycled-rattleMany new parents – or tired parents – opt to stay home on New Year’s Eve and ring in the New Year with the kids! Even if you won’t stay up until midnight – you definitely need some fun noise-makers to mark the coming of a new year!

Here is a new New Year’s Eve project – big bottle shakers – as well as a list of favorite noise-making crafts from the past few years. Monkey drums and vuvuzelas, anyone?

Oh yes, and a very happy new year to all!

Big Bottle Shakers For New Year’s Eve!

sticker-shekere-pictureKids like to make lots of noise and these big rattles are perfect for safe and easy noise-makers. Start with a large recycled bottle (with a lid or cap) that’s clean and dry. Gallon milk jug containers and liter soft drink bottles work well for this craft.

Step One is to fill with whatever you have on hand. For louder rattles, add items like extra jingle bells, buttons, pebbles, dried macaroni or paper clips. For quieter rattles, add things like birdseed, sand, salt or sugar. Before you close the cap and seal the rattle, consider adding a bit of bling. Maybe some glitter that you have on-hand or some MYO confetti? (BTW, Our next post is MYO confetti – it’s messy but super simple!).

Step Two. Once you’ve filled your bottle with things that jingle and jangle, close the lid and seal with a sturdy tape, such as colorful electrical tape. This keeps the contents inside and makes the project more child safe.

screen-shot-2016-03-28-at-3-09-55-pmLastly; if you like, you can decorate the outside. You can add stickers, colorful tape or draw with permanent markers. You can also adorn the handle with streams of ribbon or yarn. This is a great way to recycle extra holiday wrapping and put it to a good use!

What else can you make? Check out these favorite posts from New Year’s Eves past.

New Year’s Eve Noise-Makers With Wrapping Paper Rolls http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/babies-and-music/noisemakers-new-years-eve-craft/

bolang-gu-craft-versionBolang Gu – A Chinese Monkey Drum Craft https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Monkey-Drum-Chinese-New-Year-Drum-Craft-1748044

Make Your Own Vuvuzela Stadium Horn https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Vuvuzela-Make-Play-Your-Own-South-African-Stadium-Horn-1242716

kyra-plays-a-vuvuEverything But The Kitchen Sink Rattles  http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/early-learning-with-music/new-years-eve-noisemakers-recycled-rattles/

How To Make Bottle Cap Bangles For Recycled Musical Instruments

tambourine-with-zilsIf you’ve ever made a homemade tambourine or sistrum, you’ve probably wanted to use bangles like those seen on traditional middle eastern drums or instruments.  Technically, these round thin mini-cymbals are called zils.  You can see some lovely large zils on this antique tambourine from the Middle East.

If you’re crafting an instrument that uses these bangles, it’s easy to make a simple version of zils out of recycled bottle caps using a few tools that are handy around any home or garage.

bangles-work-areaWhat You Need

Metal bottle caps
Piece of Wood
Hammer
Large nail with a head
Safety Goggles

 

Safety First

Although this is a reasonably safe and easy project, it’s always a good idea to use caution.  Wearing safety goggles means that your eyes and face are protected if you accidentally hit the cap too hard and it bounces off the wooden work surface. In general, a good tip for this project is to use the hammer slowly and gently, tapping repeatedly until you get the desired results.

Set Up A Work Area

Set the piece of wood down either on the floor, the ground or a sturdy table.  Place the metal bottle cap (cap-side-up) and then position the large nail above it, directly in the center.  Gently tap until the nail has pierced the cap and reached down into the wood.  This creates the hole that will allow you to thread it onto whatever you are making.

Next, With cap-side-down, next gently strike all the edges of the bottle cap until it slowly flattens.  This can take 15, 20 or more gentle taps with the hammer.

bangles-from-bottle-capsNext, turn the bottle cap over.  Continue to tap the outer edges and the inner circle until all the sharp edges are flattened and pressed into the cap’s surface.  Although some recycled projects use the bottle caps in their original form – such as the wooden sistrum from Africa seen below – flattening the bangles makes them safer to handle and use in any project.

If you’re doing this project with very small children, you might wish to create the bangles in advance and focus more on how the children can string the bangles plus other rattling objects onto their craft instrument.

giveaway-wooden-sistrum-africaWondering what else you could add to a tambourine or sistrum project?  In addition to bottle cap zils, you can add paper clips, buttons, jingles, beads or pull tabs from soda cans.  Remember, while you’re reducing, reusing and recycling, you’re also teaching kids to limit their use of resources but never limit their imagination or creativity!

And that’s a win/win for everyone!

Links and Resources

Color An Ancient Egyptian Sistrum  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Color-An-Ancient-Egyptian-Rattle-The-Sistrum-2166721

Ancient Instruments – Make Your Own Egyptian Sistrum https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ancient-Instruments-Make-Your-Own-Egyptian-Sistrum-Rattle-1617163

Ancient Instruments From The Middle East, Kids Mini-Lesson https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ancient-Instruments-From-The-Middle-East-Mini-Lesson-2127995

Take A Nature Walk – Make An Instrument!

sistrums-sticksAutumn is such a great time to take a nature walk with your child!  Maybe you have a wooded backyard or a park nearby?  Or perhaps there is a natural area near your home where you can enjoy the changing seasons.

As you take a walk in nature, look for any stick or small branch that’s formed in the shape of a “Y”.   If you find one, you can take it home and make a wonderful little musical instrument that actually dates back to ancient Egypt.

What Is A Sistrum

sistrum-posterSistrums are rattles that are found all over the world.  This clever little percussion instrument starts with some sort of forked object and then has a string or wire running between the two forks. On the strings or wires are objects that rattle and clank, making a lovely noise when shook back and forth.  In ancient Egypt, sistrums was used as part of the Pharaoh’s court and can even be seen pictured in hieroglyphics!

Supplies

Small stick or branch
Sand paper (optional)
Sturdy twine or floral wire
Colorful yarn
Noise-making Objects – buttons, beads, jingles, paper clips,
Recycled noise-making objects – soda tabs, bottle caps, compressed bottle tops (our next post will show you how to make and use these safely to avoid sharp edges).

Start with the Stick!

Once you’ve found a sturdy stick or branch that’s shaped like the letter “Y”, you making-sistrums-peace-valleymight want to take a bit of sandpaper and sand down any rough edges.  Then take the sturdy twine or floral wire and secure it to one side of the “Y”.  Now add any of rattling objects and hold the wire in place without wrapping it on the other side.  Check to see if you like the sound it creates.  If you do, then wrap the wire or twine securely in place.  If not, experiment with adding or removing objects to get the sound you like.

Here’s a hint, less objects often make a more pleasing sound!

Add extra strings of noise-makers if you like.

wooden-sistrumMaking It Unique

After creating the noise-making part of the rattle, you may wish to decorate the handle or the sides with colorful yarn, woven bands, electrical tape or even painting or adding other decorations. This is a very open-ended project and you can be very creative with it!

Learn About The History Of The Sistrum

If you want to tie this project into a study of world cultures, you can check out the Ancient Instruments of the Middle East kids music mini-course.  Or simply have fun with the Egyptian coloring page.  Links and other resources are below.  Happy crafting and music-making!

Links and Resources

Free Coloring Page – Egyptian Sistrum  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Color-An-Ancient-Egyptian-Rattle-The-Sistrum-2166721

Ancient Instruments of the Middle East  kids music mini-course https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ancient-Instruments-From-The-Middle-East-Mini-Lesson-2127995

Free Doumbek (Middle Eastern Drum) Poster and Coloring Page https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Middle-Eastern-Drums-Doumbek-Background-Coloring-Page-2049118