Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafesj

How To Make Carpet-Tube Bongos

Saw two lengths of carpet tubing (one 1 foot long, the other 8 inches or so). The longer tube will produce a lower pitch.
Use the end of the tube for a pattern and draw two circles on a piece of 1/8-inch paneling or plywood. Then saw out the circles for the drumheads with a coping saw.
Glue the Disks on the tubes. To hold the heads on the tubes tape them with masking tape.
Run a line of glue down one side of your short drum and stand it on its head. Press the longer drum (also standing on its head) against the glue line.
Tape the two drums together and let the glue dry. To make the drums look nice and to hold them securely together wrap them with string or colored yarn. For further decorations use paint, markers, and your imagination. To play your bongos hold them between your knees and slap the heads with your fingers and thumbs.

A Tubular Glockenspiel

The tubular glockenspiel has a brilliant ringing tone. It is made from electrical conduit (pipe). The one we'll make uses 1/2-inch diameter conduit. You can buy a 10-foot piece of conduit in a hardware store for a couple of dollars. You can make glockenspiels from other sizes of conduit or metal pipe, too. But you will have to tune them by ear.
With a hacksaw cut your tube to these exact lengths: 11", 10 1/4", 9 3/4", 9 1/2", 8 7/8", 8 1/2", 7 7/8", and 7 5/8".
Now you have a set of tubes already tuned to a major scale. Set the tubes on two strips of foam rubber or felt. Place the strips under the nodes to allow the tubes to vibrate freely. You can make a good beater by wrapping the end of a scrap of your conduit with three or four layers of tape. Make additional tubes if you like. Remember the shorter the tube the higher the pitch will be.

How To Make A Spike Fiddle

You need a tin can, a straight stick (about 2 feet long), and some string. Wire or monofilament line works best.
With a cold chisel and a hammer make holes large enough for the stick to go through the can.
Bend the flaps with pliers. Jagged tin edges can cut.
Wear gloves for safety.
Push the stick through the holes so an inch sticks out one side and the other end is 1 or 2 feet long. Wrap the stick with string so the can won't slide along it.
Most spike fiddles have three or fewer strings. Tie one end of the strings to the short end of the stick, then stretch them over the soundboard end of the can. Pull the strings tight and tie them either through a notch in the end of the stick, to a peg, or to an eye screw.
Spike fiddles often have a moveable nut. You can use it to help tune the string(s).
When you slide the nut up or down the neck, the pitch changes. Insert the bridge (a wedge of wood, short stick, seashell, or stone) between the soundboard and string.
To play a fiddle you need a bow. Make a musical bow, but use a strip of cloth about an inch wide folded over twice, a heavy cotton string, or a small bunch of lighter strings for the "hair" on your bow. Rub the rosin on the cloth strip string of the bow to increase its friction.
To Play:

Hold your fiddle upright with th sound box resting on your lap. With one hand slide the "hair" of the bow across the fiddle string(s) just a few inches up from the bridge. With the other hand you can change the pitch of the string(s) as you play. Move your fingers up and down the string(s) like a spider on a walk. Notice how the pitch changes. With practice you can produce the exact tones you want to play. Think the tone you want and match the sound you are making to it.

How To Make A Musical Bow

The stick should be longer than a foot, shorter than you, and strong. It should bend into a gentle arch without breaking. A thicker stick with a natural arch is also ok.
The string must be strong so you can pull it tight. You can use nylon fishing line, wire, cotton cord, plastic strings, guitar strings, banjo strings, or any strong string. Cut a length at least a foot longer than your stick. Tie one end of the string to one end of your stick.
Stretch the string to the other end of the stick into an arch. Wrap the string into an arch. Wrap the string around the stick 3 or 4 times so it won't slip, then tie it with a knot. Hold your bow as shown. The string lies across your open mouth, touching it at the upper corner. Pluck the string with your lower thumb or either index finger. Adjust your mouth to make the sound louder. Bend the bow to change the pitch.
Some ways to attach the string to a bow

You can decorate your bow with paint, whittling, feathers, or yarn.

Plastic Bottle Banjo

The banjo sound box is open on the bottom. It has been made in the past from fence posts, cigar boxes and cookie tins, so our plastic jug is not too far out of line. If you wish, it is possible to upend it, get a violin bow and play this creation like a cello.
a 1-gallon plastic jug, with a flat bottom. (thin jugs that hold distilled water are good.)
1 piece of wood, 30" x 2" x 3/4", for the fingerboard
nylon fishing line (at least 25-lb. test- the stronger the better)
2 large screw eyes for tuning pegs
2 small screw eyes
2 tacks or screws for holding jug to fingerboard
wood for bridge, 1" x 1/2" x 1/2"
hammer and nail
sharp, strong scissors
sandpaper and shellac (optional)

To make:
1. With scissors, cut the bottom half out of the plastic jug, about 5" up from the bottom (A).
2. With the scissors, make slots for the fingerboard to slide through, on opposite sides of the jug, as close to the flat bottom surface as possible (B). The fit should be snug and tight.
3. Slip fingerboard in the slots so that a short end (1 1/4") remains on one side (C).
4. Use two tacks or small screws to hole the fingerboard to jug (D).
5. Place the 2 small screw eyes 3/4" apart on the short end of the fingerboard, to hold the strings (E)
6. Put the 2 large screw eyes 5/8" in from each side of the other end of the fingerboard. If one is placed 1" from the end and the other 2", they will be easier to turn for tuning (F).
7. Cut 2 nylon strings at least 4" longer that the fingerboard. Tie on to each small screw eye. Pull the string tightly with pliers, wrap each around the corresponding large screw eye several times, and tie.
8. Strings can now be turned by turning the screw eyes. If they are tight, use a pencil or a nail through the loops in the screw eyes to turn them.
9. On a small piece of wood-1" x 1/2" x 1/2"-make grooves, using a pocketknife, 3/4" apart for a bridge (G). Glue this bridge in place between the center of the jug and the small screw eyes.

To play:
Hold like a regular banjo, with the left hand around fingerboard and the sound box off to the right side. The right hand strums near the sound box.

Tune as you like. One way to tune in fifths (five notes apart) like a violin. Another way of tuning is related to the dulcimer and the balalaika-two strings are tuned to the same note. Play the tune on only one string. Leave the other string open, as a drone string.

Box Drum

First came the hollow log. Then the large slit drum, which evolved into this portable version. Fine hardwood makes a much better sound than plywood.

4 pieces of wood, each 6" x 8". Hardwoods have a very nice sound. Any size will work nicely.
saw. A coping saw is best, for the blade can be removed for cutting the inside shapes.
twelve 1 1/2" finishing nails
white glue
mallet or drumstick(s)
To Make:
1. Draw patterns on wood (see diagram A).

2. Drill holes at each angle of each pattern; this is for inserting saw blade.
3. With the saw, cut on the lines drawn.
4. Glue and nail both together (B).
To Play:
Lay box on any side. Using one or two drumsticks or a mallet, tap the different areas of the box for different tonal patterns.

Nail Rasp

This makes a soft, bell-like sound.

1 block of wood 10" x 2" x 2". Try to have the grain of the wood going across rather than lengthwise (this keeps the wood from splitting when hammering nails).
nails of different sizes (16 were used in the diagram)
1 large nail for strumming
paint or marking pens (optional)

To make:
1. Draw a line the length of the wood in the center (A).

2. Mark where to place nails (B). The nails are grouped according to sizes (C).

3. Hammer the nails in the marked spots.
4. If desired, the block of wood may be decorated with paint or marking pens.

To play:
Use the large nail to run down the line of nails in a rhythmic fashion. The different lengths of the nails make different bell-like sounds.