Making a Shoe-Box Guitar
This lesson developed by Reach Out!
Guiding Question: What is music?
- What we call music is sound vibrations that are
controlled by the physical characteristics of an instrument. Music is
created by manipulating the sound waves that
- Sounds can be changed by using different lengths and widths of strings,
changing the size and shape of the bridge, using
different materials, or altering the way the instrument is played
(plucking vs. strumming).
- Sounds can be amplified and pitch can be changed with different playing
techniques which produce different vibrations.
- We can make simple musical instruments.
- Guitar strings can be plucked or strummed, causing vibrations, which in turn make sounds.
- Following directions
- Making inferences
- Determining cause-and-effect relationships
- Shoe box without the lid
- 4-8 rubberbands - the same length but different widths
- Piece of board 3 inches wide and a little longer than the shoe box
- Construction paper, markers, paint, glitter, glue, etc. to decorate the
Plenty of elbow room for everyone
No precautions necessary
Procedures and Activity
- How does a guitar make musical sounds?
- Share ideas. Today, we will make a shoe-box guitar and learn about sound,
resonance and vibrations.
- Have students decorate their shoe boxes with paper, paint and glitter.
- Have students wrap rubber bands around the shoe boxes the long way. Be
sure there is space between the rubber bands.
- Pluck the rubber bands and listen to the sounds. How are sounds made? By
- Place the wooden board across the top of the box under the rubber bands.
- Pluck the rubber bands again. How is the sound different?
- Part of the difference has to do with resonance—or the vibrating of
the board and box as the rubber bands vibrate.
- Change rubber bands—you can make different pitches using different
widths and lengths of rubber bands.
Closing - Original Question
Ask again, "What is music?"
Have students share in writing, or orally, how they made their guitars, how
guitars work and how this knowledge may be useful. Also, have students help
other children make their own guitars. Observe and listen for how they
explain the process of making and playing these instruments.
- Have students experiment playing their guitars. Have them hold a finger
on the board or bridge and pluck; try strumming their rubber bands; try
plucking at different areas on the rubber bands.
- Research how string instruments were developed.
- Invite a guitar maker or player to class to learn more about making and
- Learn about other musical concepts using your guitars, such as pitch,
rhythm, timbre, melody and harmony.
- Try making a straw
woodwind—not as easy as it looks!
- Visit Music-Making and the
Brain, the American Music Conference site on the effect of musical
performance on spatial-temporal reasoning, language and math ability,
social behavior, and school grades!
Careers Related to Lesson Topic
- An arch that raises the strings of an instrument—our
- A device that produces musical sounds.
- When something vibrates from absorbing other vibrations.
- Something audible; what we can detect with our ears.
- The motions or quivering of something such as a rubber band that is
stretched, plucked, or strummed.
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