This is a series teaching how to make many of the cool sound effects instruments I use in my DrumSongStory programs. I will be updating these posts with video as well. I welcome your photos and videos, links and suggestions. These very simple instruments can also be made as part of a team building process for organizational and corporate groups who are interested in innovative ways to break the ice and build connections and community while having fun.
I’ve also held instrument making workshops just before a performance of Drum Of The Elephant King so that the participants can be an integral part of the show.
Here’s a small audio sample so you can hear how I use these instruments in my DrumSongStory programs:
Part One: How To Make A Rain Stick (Kid Quality)
Ages: 7 and older.
Time Needed: Approximately one hour for basic work. More time to decorate.
- Cardboard Tubes.
a. Simplest – paper towel rolls.
b. Best sounding – 24″ Postal Tubes with a diameter of 2″-2 1/2″. (they usually come with end caps and can be ordered 50 at a time).
- Nails one quarter inch shorter than the diameter of your tube.
- Tape – Masking, duct, clear packing, or contact paper.
How To Make It:
- Draw a spiral along the length of your tube.
- Hammer nails along the spiral approximately one finger width apart.
- Fill with popcorn, rice, beans etc.
- Cap ends
- Cover nail heads with tape or contact paper.
- Decorate. One innovative teacher uses brown shoe polish over strips of torn (rather than cut with a scissor) masking tape. The result looks kind of like wood)
For Really Young Children (ages 4-5) you may want to try the following two alternatives:
- Instead of hammering nails, you can wad up small pieces of newspaper and fill your tube with that. Then put in the pop corn. You may need to experiment with different size wads.
- One innovative teacher suggested using an egg carton. Put the pop corn or beans and rice in an empty egg carton and tape closed. Turn so the stuff falls from compartment to compartment.
Part Two: How To Make A Rain Stick (Professional Quality)
For Older Instrument Makers (Middle School to Adult). This is how I make my own professional quality rain sticks
- ABS Pipe (black, lightweight w/excellent sound quality) or PVC Pipe (white easy to find but heavier than ABS – 3-6 feet in length, 2 inches to 2 and 3/4 inches in diameter
- Bamboo barbecue skewers
- Colored tissue paper
- Water Based Polyurethane
- Rubber end caps
- Electric drill with bit
- Filling material – popcorn, rice, dried peas etc.
How To Make It:
- Take a piece of ABS or PVC pipe, (the lighter weight black grade ABS Pipe is the easiest to work with. It is also louder. I think you can get it at electrical supply stores.)
- Drill holes in a spiral approximately 1/4 inch apart. You might want to mark the holes a head of time. But a little bit of free form is alright too. The holes should be large enough to accept the bamboo pegs snugly but not so snugly that they are impossible to hammer in.
- Cut the bamboo barbecue skewers into peg lengths that are just shorter than the diameter of the Tube. In other words you want the peg to go across the open space of the tube but not jam into the opposite side.
- Hammer pegs into holes. If the fit is nice and snug there is no need for any glue.
- Sand it so that the ends of the skewers are flush with the outside surface of the pipe.
- Experiment with different amounts and kinds of filler material. I started favoring dried peas because they are nice and round. But pop corn is a bit louder.
- Cap the Ends. I find that the rubber caps available at plumbing supply stores work well but eventually loosen up. After having the end caps fall off at the worst moments, spreading popcorn and rice all over the place in themiddle of a performance :o( I started gluing them. Elmer’s Glue only works for a while…So far the only thing that seems to hold is painter’s caulk or super glue (both of which can be messy and nasty).
- Decorate – When I decorate my rainsticks I tear or cut tissue paper into small pieces and then paint them onto the tube with water based Polyurethane. The result is a very pleasing multicolored overlapping “Decoupage” effect. I then add several more coats of the Polyurethane (“glossy” is the shiniest but “semi-gloss” works too) for a deep shine sanding lightly between coast with a very fine grit sandpaper. When I have the black kind of pipe I just sand it and poly it. The ends of the skewers make a beautiful pattern on the black tube.
Time Needed: Depending upon the length of pipe you are working on, it could take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours of work to complete your rainstick. However, when it is done it will last a lifetime and give a lot of pleasure to anyone who plays it.
Tip: I have found that local plumbers and plumbing supply as well as electrical supply companies are quite generous in donating scraps of PVC pipe (some as long as 6 feet!) for making rainsticks. The rubber stoppers I use for the ends though are a couple of bucks apiece, but worth it for their protective value! Before you actually spend money on this project, give these folks a call and see what you can scrounge up. Good luck!
he How To Make Cool Sound Effects Instruments Series:
- How To Be A Shaker Maker
- How To Make A Cuica (a.k.a. Chicken In A Cup)
- How To Make a Rain Stick
- How To Make Wind Tubes
- How To Make An Ocean Drum
- How To Make A 2X4 Xylophone, Old Wrench Xylophone, Wind Chimes etc.
- How to Make A “Paint Stirrer Rhythm Stick”
- How To Make A “Paint Stirrer Stir Drum”
To book one of Mark Shepard’s DrumSongStory programs now, call 1-800-378-4971 or e-mail mark[at]markshepard.com
See what other DrumSongStory Programs are available for: