Making a Shoe-Box Guitar

This lesson developed by Reach Out!

Guiding Question: What is music?







  1. Shoe box without the lid
  2. 4-8 rubberbands - the same length but different widths
  3. Piece of board 3 inches wide and a little longer than the shoe box
  4. Construction paper, markers, paint, glitter, glue, etc. to decorate the shoe box

Room Preparation

Plenty of elbow room for everyone

Safety Precautions

No precautions necessary

Procedures and Activity


  1. How does a guitar make musical sounds?

  2. Share ideas. Today, we will make a shoe-box guitar and learn about sound, resonance and vibrations.


  1. Have students decorate their shoe boxes with paper, paint and glitter.

  2. Have students wrap rubber bands around the shoe boxes the long way. Be sure there is space between the rubber bands.

  3. Pluck the rubber bands and listen to the sounds. How are sounds made? By vibrations.

  4. Place the wooden board across the top of the box under the rubber bands.

  5. Pluck the rubber bands again. How is the sound different?

  6. Part of the difference has to do with resonance—or the vibrating of the board and box as the rubber bands vibrate.

  7. 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.

Extension Ideas

  1. 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.
  2. Research how string instruments were developed.
  3. Invite a guitar maker or player to class to learn more about making and playing guitars.
  4. Learn about other musical concepts using your guitars, such as pitch, rhythm, timbre, melody and harmony.
  5. Try making a straw woodwind—not as easy as it looks!
  6. 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

Prerequisite Vocabulary

An arch that raises the strings of an instrument—our “board.”

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.

To Lessons by Subject or Age Group

To Michigan Reach Out! Home

Let us know what you think! E-mail our webmaster