Tag Archives: natural instruments

Seed Pods Rattles From Peru, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Africa!

pacay shaker on lliqllaIf you lived in ancient times or tribal days – what would you use to make music? You’d probably look around you for sticks, stones, bones or even seed pods that fell from trees! These would make excellent percussion and if you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical region, there are several trees that actually grow very cool seed pod rattles such as the pacay shaker seen on the colorful Peruvian cloth above.  You can learn more about seed pod trees here or in the more detailed links below.

The Pacay “Ice Cream” Tree

Isn’t that a cool name for a tree? The tall and lovely pacay tree got this name because the soft white pulp between the seeds in the seed pods is delicious and a pacay fruit - ripefavorite among kids dating back to the Incan times in South America. In fact, the earliest story of this seed pod comes from when the Spanish invaded South America and the last Inca gave a basket of pacay seed pods to Pizzaro as a gift. Now grown as shade trees near coffee plantations in Peru, this giant 60 foot tree is also found throughout Central America and the beans (seeds) are eaten as well. In Mexico, the beans inside the seed pods are roasted and served on the streets as a snack!

The Flame or Flamboyant Tree

Although the seed pods to this tree appear similar to the pacay shakers, the trees flame treethey come from are really different. The flamboyant tree is native to Africa but found throughout tropical regions around the world.  In some locations, such as Puerto Rico, it’s a beloved and iconic image seem in everything from photos to folk art!

The tree itself is ornamental, smaller in size, has fern-like leaves and bright, beautiful red flowers so it’s easy to see how it got it’s name. Although the seeds here are not edible, the seed pods still make nice natural percussion instruments to use as shakers.

How Do You Make A Seed Pod Shaker?

That’s a trick question – you don’t! They work as rattles directly from the tree. Well, when dried, of course. If you’re in an area where these trees grow you’ll probably find seed pods that have fallen and are hard, dry and brown in color. At that point, pick them up and shake them and they are instant rattles!

Will each seed pod sound the same? Try several and see for yourselves!

Pacay Shaker in Josef's HandHow Do You Play One?

Although this is a really basic and simple instrument, there are several ways to get different sounds from a seed pod rattle. Try any of these:

  • Rattle it back and forth or up and down.
  • Rattle it slowly then build up a crescendo.
  • Hold it in one hand and tap it against the other.
  • March or dance while shaking it, letting the beat become part of your movement or music!

Links and Resources

Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation https://www.nap.edu/read/1398/chapter/33#284

The Flame or Flambouyant Tree – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delonix_regia

The Flamboyant Tree: A Puerto Rico Icon: http://caribbeantrading.com/the-flamboyant-tree-a-puerto-rico-icon/

Pacay: A Tree, a Fruit, a Bean, and a Musical Instrument – http://kidworldcitizen.org/2013/10/21/pacay-tree-fruit-bean-musical-instrument/

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All Natural Instruments – Sticks, Stones and Bamboo Percussion For Kids

natural instruments

How were the first musical instruments created?

It’s most likely they were made from “all natural” materials and were probably the result of wonderful coincidences.  Perhaps someone was gathering wood and realized that two sticks tapped together could create a beat.  A rock fell on another rock and made a pleasing sound.  Bamboo made a wonderful noise when rustling in the wind and inspired Hawaiian rhythm sticks. And since these noise-makers are made of such basic materials, they make great “first instruments” for exploring music with children at home, in the classroom or in the homeschool environment.

Here are three of our favorite “all natural” percussion instruments.

Austalian Clapsticks – “Bilma”

stick bilma1In Aboriginal Australia, two sticks struck together form a beat that can accompany the didgeridoo and become a part of singing, dancing and celebrating.  Whether you tap together two unsharpened pencils or take a nature walk to retrieve two perfect sticks, bilma making dots with q-tipsthese simple clapsticks can keep a beat while you sing or play along to any your favorite songs.

If you want to decorate your clapsticks with an Australian theme, you can use a dot motif.  In the activity below you can find step-by-step directions for making several different versions of crafty “dot” bilma.

hula rocks on blueRiver Rocks – Hawaiian `ili`ile

Can rocks make music?   Take a nature walk, collect a few and see for yourself.

In Hawaii, special smooth river rocks are part of the hula tradition. These small stones; called ‘ili’ili, are held in a dancer’s hand and tapped together for a percussion sound and that becomes part of the arm movements of the dance.  If you want to play “Hawaiian-style”, check out the post below for more about this tradition.

But you can also get creative and make up your own way of “playing rocks”.  Try josef rocks outsetting a few rocks out on the ground or table and hold one in your hand.  Use the rock in your hand to tap out a beat on one – or several- of the other rocks while you sing along, play recorded music or create your own rhythms with a friend, sibling, parent or fellow musician.

Bamboo Rhythm Sticks

Hawaiian pu’ili are rhythm sticks with one distinct difference.  They are made of lengths of bamboo, left whole on one side and split on the other.  When tapped together, the split ends rattle against each other making a unique sound.

Although making traditional bamboo pu’ili is not too hard, it does require some special tools and involves sharp edges.  An easier version; especially for young children, can be made from cardboard rolls from paper towels. They are easily cut and decorated and sound great for percussion play.

You can get complete instructions for homemade pu’ili at the post listed below.

Explore Nature and Music

Sticks, stones and reeds can make music.  Why not combine an exploration of music and nature to see what kind of inventive creations you can discover and play!

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 5.26.10 PMLinks and Resources

Australian Bilma (From Teachers Pay Teachers)
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Australian-Instruments-Make-Your-Own-Bilma-Clapsticks-1133140

Playing River Rocks As An Instrument – Hawaiian `ili`ile
(Post in Making Multicultural Music)
http://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/playing-river-rocks-as-an-instrument-hawaiian-iliile/

Play Some Pu’ili  (Post in Tiny Tapping Toes)
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/make-your-own-puili-hawaiian-rhythm-sticks/

Musical Craft pdf’s from DARIAMUSIC
http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

E-books, CD’s and more Musical Fun from DARIA’s TeachersPayTeachers Store
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Daria-Marmaluk-Hajioannou