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Grow Your Own Musical Instrument

Grow Your Own Musical Instrument is a guest post by Daria – World Music for Children.

All over the world, people use the most amazing natural objects as part of their music-making traditions. 

In Latin America and Africa, you can find shakers made from the seed pods of the pacay tree. 

pacay shaker on red
In Australia, hollowed-out tree branches are fashioned into didgeridoo. 
In Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, bamboo stalks are cut to make pu’ili sticks used in hula music and dance traditions. 
In Native America, objects such as bones, claws, and turtle shells are transformed into ceremonial rattles. 
And then, there are the unique percussion instruments made from gourds.
Since gourds grow almost anywhere, is it any wonder you can find instruments made from gourds on 6 of the 7 continents? Different types of gourds grow in almost any climate and; after about a year of drying, they are sturdy and versatile for a variety of practical uses – including making music!
Daria - gourds
So, go ahead – grow your own musical instrument! And if this idea inspires you, make sure you check out, enter and share the giveaway below. 
In the meantime, take a look at some of the diverse instruments that can be crafted from a plant you can easily grow right in your very own back yard.

Bushel Gourds Turn To Water Drums

Playing water gourd drum
Not all climates can grow a tremendous sized bushel gourd. But, if you can, this enormous gourd can be dried, cut into halves and various-sized pieces and fashioned into a water drum. 
Tap the top part that floats on the water and you’ll be rewarded with some awesome deep-sounding tones that can be heard up to a mile away! 
This instrument dates back to the Yacqui indigenous culture (present-day Mexico) as well as in several countries in Africa.
How amazing that two distinct cultures came up with the exact same idea for an instrument from a gourd! 

Snake Gourds Become Guiros

Snake Gourd and snake guiro

Snake gourds are really fun to grow because each one is different. They first appear on the vine shaped like little cucumbers, then grow into all kinds of unique serpentine shapes.
Dry them out and they can be used for a natural trumpet or to make a guiro. 
A guiro is an elongated instrument with ridges played by using a scraper to rub along the edges. This creates the signature “brrrrrrrrrr” sound of a guiro. 
Want to hear one? You can listen to the sound of a guiro here.

Birdhouse Gourds Become African Shekere

Birdhouse Gourd and Shekere

Birdhouse gourds grow easily in every climate and were popular because they could be used for making bowls, containers, dippers, drinking gourds, and – of course – birdhouses. 

These gourds grow abundantly throughout Africa and are dried and fashioned into shakers. 

Most historians say that shekeres were first used in West Africa and then spread in popularity with each new culture making them in different sizes and using them in different ways.

Make Your Own African-Style Shekere

If you have a dried gourd, a bit of natural string (like jute), and some beads or seeds, you can create your own shekere. 

You can enter the giveaway below to win all the components for this crafty project or plan a long term activity and plant some birdhouse gourd seeds.  


You can also win the tutorial and seeds below with step-by-step directions showing how to tie the basic knots used to create the “skirt” (beaded covering) of a shekere. 

Although it looks a bit complicated at first, after tying your first few knots, most folks find it easy and enjoyable to complete.

Inspired and want to make music right away but don’t have the natural objects?  We’ve also added links below for a MYO guiro and a MYO shekere project that use plastic objects direct from the recycling bin.
Whatever you decide to create, it’s fun to learn about how people everywhere make music and why music is important to them. 
Have you ever thought about why music is important to you? And what creative ways can you find to make some home-grown musical fun with the ones you love?

Links And Resources


We’re Having A Giveaway!  Enter the Rafflecopter to Win! Contest has ended.

Grand Prize  1 dried gourd with supplies to craft your own shekere, a shekere tutorial, AND a $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card.

Grand Prize Shekere

Four Additional Prizes  1 package of seeds and a MYO gourd tutorial

a Rafflecopter giveaway