Make your own Kitchen Carnival Percussion instruments

Montage showing the percussion instruments being played

Percussion instruments are the oldest form of musical instrument in the world and have been played for many thousands of years, long before professional instrument-makers existed. The history of Carnival percussion is also linked to the history of slavery. When slave owners banned slaves from using drums, slaves developed a range of alternative rhythm instruments in response. Following these examples, we can recycle and re-use things from our kitchen to make and play our own percussion instruments at home.

Once you have made your instruments, you can join in with our 2019 Carnival Percussion Workshops with Xi-mali Kadeena-Guscos. (Yes, we did recycle the bottles – our infection control policy means that everything served at events is pre-packaged.)


Kitchen Carnival Shaker

Shakers are one of the oldest percussion instruments in the world, and have been used for many thousands of years. Shakers were originally made from the hard shell of a fruit such a gourd, using seeds inside to make the rattling noise.

To make the Kitchen Carnival Shaker you need:

  • An empty plastic milk carton with a handle, preferably the larger size, or another empty plastic kitchen container with a handle. This will be your shaker.

Large empty plastic milk container

  • A second empty plastic container of any shape or size. This will make the rattling noise.

Empty plastic icecream tub

  • Scissors.

Scissors

  • Felt-tipped pens to decorate [optional].

Felt-tipped pens

  • Glue [optional].

A tube of super glue

1) Wash both containers thoroughly – be careful if either previously contained cleaning fluid. Get as much of the label off as possible from the container that will be your shaker.

Milk container being washed in the sink

2) [optional] Decorate your shaker using felt-tipped pens. Make sure you have a window or door open, because felt-tipped pens contain solvent that is bad for your lungs.

Partly decorated empty milk container with the top off.

3) Cut up the second container into pieces that are small enough to fit into your shaker.

Photo of scissors cutting into the ice cream tub.

Small cut-up pieces of the plastic on the kitchen worktop4) Start putting some of the cut-up pieces of plastic into your shaker. Experiment with the rattling noises that it makes until you are happy with the amount of plastic in the shaker.

Close up of a hand dropping pieces of plastic into the container

5) Put the lid back on the shaker. Glue the lid on if a child or adult might take out the cut-up pieces of plastic and put it into their mouths.

Glueing inside the lid.

Close-up of the lid glued to the container.

6) Now you are ready to play your Kitchen Carnival Shaker. It will make the loudest sound if you hold the handle at the bottom.

The shaker being used.


Kitchen Carnival Guiro

The Taíno people who originally occupied the Caribbean islands created the Guiro, cutting notches in a length of gourd or bone, and then scraping along the edges using a stick or pick to create the sound.

To make the Kitchen Carnival Guiro you need:

  • An empty plastic bottle with ridged patterns on it, for example a water bottle or a squash bottle.

The clean plastic bottle is held by its neck ready to decorate

  • An old wooden spoon or other wooden cooking utensil to use as a scraper.

Photo of a wooden spoon and wooden spatula on a food mat with a mug full of felt-tipped pens

  • [optional] Felt-tipped pens for decorating.
  • Washing-up sponge.

Washing-up sponge

1) Wash the bottle thoroughly and get as much of the label off as possible. Remove the lid from the bottle so that the sound can come out of the neck.

Close up of the glue left behind by the bottle's label

The bottle is being washed up2) Rub your scraper with the scratchy side of a dry washing-up sponge to smooth out any splinters.

The scratchy side of the kitchen sponge is used to smooth down the wooden spoon.

3) [optional] Decorate your bottle and your scraper with felt-tipped pens. Make sure you have a window or door open, because felt-tipped pens contain solvent that is bad for your lungs.

Close up of a hand decorating the bottle by filling in the existing pattern with felt-tipped pens

Photograph of a wooden spatula part-way through being decorated with felt-tipped pens

4) Now you are ready to play your Kitchen Carnival Guiro by scraping along the bottle. Hold the guiro from the bottom by the bottle neck in one hand, and hold the large end of the spoon in the other hand. You can also hit the Kitchen Carnival Guiro with your spoon to make a different noise.

Close-up of someone playing the finished guiro


Kitchen Carnival Percussion Pan drumsThe finished percussion pan drums

The Kitchen Carnival Percussion Pan drums are related to the original Steel Pan drums developed in Trinidad in the first half of the twentieth century. These were made from empty gallon oil drums from the local refinery. People such as Ellie Mannette, Winston “Spree” Simon, and Tony Williams are credited as pioneers of the Steel Pan drum, where 12 different notes can be played on a single can through hammering a series of differently shaped dents into the surface. Steel Pan drums are the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. The Kitchen Carnival Percussion Pan drums use different sizes of cans to make different sounds (not notes).

To make the Percussion Pan drums you need:

  • 2 or more different cans with metallic bottoms, such as drinking chocolate or instant potato cans.4 different empty kitchen cans with the lids off, each a different size.
  • Cling film.

Cling film

  • 2 wooden spoons or cooking utensils to make beaters. (Or you can use chopsticks.)

Photo of a wooden spoon and wooden spatula on a food mat with a mug full of felt-tipped pens

  • [optional] Acrylic paint and felt-tipped pens for decorating the pans and beaters.
  • Washing-up sponge.

Washing-up sponge

1) Brush out the cans thoroughly, take off the lids and turn the cans upside down. Experiment by hitting the metal bottoms with a wooden spoon to hear which sound each can makes – you want each can that you use to make a different sound from the rest.

4 empty kitchen cans in different sizes upside down on the kitchen worktop

2) [optional] Using the discarded plastic can lids as paint palettes, paint each can a different colour. This will help you to remember which can makes which note. (If you find it hard to hold a paintbrush or don’t have one, you can also cut off a piece of washing-up sponge and sponge the paint on this way.) You will usually need to put two or three coats of paint on each can, leaving time for each coat to dry before putting on the next.

The tins are partway through being painted different colours, using their lids to hold the paint. The painted cans drying outside.

3) Rub your wooden spoons or other wooden cooking utensils with the scratchy side of a dry washing-up sponge to smooth out any splinters.

The scratchy side of the kitchen sponge is used to smooth down the wooden spoon.

4) [optional]  Decorate your wooden spoons or other wooden cooking utensils with paint or felt-tipped pens. Make sure you have a window or door open when using felt-tipped pens, because they contain solvent that is bad for your lungs.

Wooden spoon being decorated with spots and wavy lines with felt-tipped pen

5) Pull off enough clingfilm to tie around each can once, and then again around all the cans together, leaving enough clingfilm to make a loop for your hand.

Cling film being tied around the painted cans.

The finished drums are held up by the hand loop.

6) Now you are ready to play your Kitchen Carnival Percussion Pans with your wooden spoons or chopsticks – hold the beaters by the larger ends. You can hold the pans in one hand and one stick in the other, or place the Pans on a surface and use two beaters. Experiment to make different rhythms.

A close-up of the wooden spoon being used to strike the pan drums


Kitchen Carnival Designs by ju90
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