recycled instrument materials
K-12EducatorsThe Arts

Recycled Orchestra – Idea File

Students use recycled materials to make their own instruments, then compose a piece using them.
Grades: 5-8

Teaching Concepts:

  • Throughout history, musicians have made instruments out of the materials available to them.
  • Music can be performed on instruments made out of found and recycled materials.

Academic Content

  • Music: elements of music (tempo, rhythm, melody, timbre)
  • Music: folk instruments

Lesson Idea
View: Malcolm Dalglish playing the spoons and bones in Old Music for New Ears.

Discuss: How found objects such as the spoons and bones can be made into musical instruments. Define and discuss melody, timbre, tempo, and rhythm, relating these elements of music to the spoons and bones performances. Can students identify the rhythm Dalglish produces on the spoons? Can they discern a melody? Can they describe the timbre (tone color)? In what general instrument family would they place the spoons—brass, woodwind, string, percussion?

Create: Have students bring in recycled materials from home, such as clean empty cans, milk cartons, paper towel rolls, coffee cans, glass bottles, string or wire, etc. Have each student brainstorm an instrument he or she could make with these materials. How can they change the pitches of their instruments? Once all the instruments are made, have the class compose a piece with their homemade instruments. Each instrument should play a role in the orchestra. Choose a student to conduct the orchestra and keep the tempo of the musical piece. Record the class while they are performing to share at a parent-teacher night.

Author: Sara O’Keefe