Making Musical Instruments with Kids Book Review

What better activity could there be than to spend an hour or two making a couple of these projects with a child and then playing them together afterwards?


Making Musical Instruments with Kids

Bart Hopkin is an ethno-musicologist and high school music teacher; but I suspect his real calling is to make joyous musical sounds by any means possible. Just about anything has the potential to produce sound. Musical sounds are just sounds that are organized either harmonically or rhythmically into an order that appeals to our brains. Blowing across the mouth of a pop bottle, plucking on a rubber band or tapping on a hollow cylinder are the kinds of things that Hopkin builds on.
For the most part, the author steers away from what most of us would consider orthodox musical instruments. Instead, what you will find here are sixty-seven instruments such as box zithers, a mailing tube lute, a soda straw oboe, bamboo woodblocks, a rattelam, a xylophone, and the instructions to build and play them. What’s more, the projects have been selected so as to be kid friendly both in the building and the playing. I doubt if there’s an instrument here that would cost five dollars, require anything more than a hammer and some nails, or take more than a couple of hours to make.
The teacher in Hopkin shines through in every project; clearly he wants to help kids (and adults) to develop an appreciation and understanding of fundamental musical sounds and how to produce them. Once a child has built a simple percussion instrument, it isn’t a huge leap for him to see the connection between that and a full drum kit. Or the link between a rubber band zither and a guitar. Or a simple xylophone and the keys on a piano.
There isn’t a single instrument here that could be considered even remotely sophisticated. Most are built using the simplest of materials including 'found materials' (cut-offs of wood, rubber bands, nails, drinking glasses, PVC pipe, string, balloons, etc.). Each project is presented with straightforward building instructions, a materials list, what-to-do-if suggestions, illustrations and playing tips. The book even comes with a CD of demonstrations of the instruments.
Part of the appeal of the book lies in the author’s sense of joy over making music in its purest form minus high-priced instruments, electricity and years of lessons. He wants to share the secret of making music with the rest of us and he does this admirably. Besides, what better activity could there be than to spend an hour or two making a couple of these projects with a child and then playing them together afterwards?


  • Introduction
  • Tools
  • Projects
  • CD Track Listing
PUBLISHER:See Sharp Press
AVAILABLE FROM:Your local bookseller or online
FORMAT:Softcover, 116 pages
AUTHOR:Bart Hopkin
Reviewed by Gerry Tsuji, December 2010
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