Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Boom Pipes Recipe

Boom Pipes
Instructions for Boom Pipes 
                                                                            by Jeri Crosby
Boom pipes are a novel yet musical addition to my Orff instruments (substituting for bass bars) as well as to my Boomwhackers and home-made instrumentarium. Students (of all ages) LOVE these!
Use four-inch, double-walled drain pipe (white plastic with black inner lining, which usually comes in ten-foot lengths). Buy a four-inch end cap for each pipe and some adhesive. (Three ten-foot lengths will make a full set. You can make a basic ‘bass bar’ set from two lengths.)

These measurements are approximate. (It is best to cut a tiny bit long because a pipe that’s too short will be sharp and difficult if not impossible to correct.) After initial cuts, check pitch with a tuner or match to a piano. Sand or carefully shave with a paring or pocket knife to fine tune.

C       50 ½ “          128.3 cm       (Cut from piece #1.)
D       45 “              114.3 cm      (Cut from piece #2.)
E       40 ½“           102.9 cm       (Cut from piece #1.)
F       37 ¾ “            95.9 cm       (Cut from piece #2.)
F#        35 ½ “            90.2 cm        (Cut from piece #3.)
G       33 ½ “            85.1 cm        (Cut from piece #2.)
A       29 ½“             74.9 cm         (Cut from piece #3.)
Bb        28 “                71.1 cm          (Cut from piece #3.)
B       26 ¼“              66.7 cm         (Cut from piece #1.)
C       24 ¾“              62.9 cm         (Cut from piece #3.)

‘Boom’ on carpeting or other soft surface. If you’ll be using these on cement or tile, glue a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet to the bottom (cap) of each tube.
The range of these instruments is from two octaves below middle C to one octave below middle C. (This is the same as bass Boomwwhackers with Octavator caps applied, but the volume and timbre are bolder.)

A printable version of instructions and picture is available here: 

For color-coded music and activities, please check out my TeachersPayTeachers store:
I'll be posting more home-made instrument ideas soon : )

Monday, April 29, 2013

Multicultural Scales Activity

Like many adults and children, I am intrigued with multicultural music, and I find the theory that underlies ethnic scales, rhythms, ragas, etc. fascinating. Tonality seems to pull on the soul like an invisible tide. Children are capable of exploring much more than major, minor, and pentatonic scales if we set them up to succeed. One of my favorite activites to engage upper elementary through college students in exploring ethnic tonalities involves, believe it or not, Boomwhackers (or bells). Here's a basic outline:

You may click on this FREE poster to save and print it.

Lay a chromatic set of Boomwhackers (or bells) out along the front of your classroom in order from left to right (as in my chart). Invite 13 students, one for each instrument, to come and take their places. Have them sit on the floor or chairs.

Call out note names belonging to a particular scale and have students who have these notes stand. Then direct students in playing the scale ascending and descending as the rest of the class listens carefully. Challenge students to guess the country or culture that uses the scale. Explore half-steps, whole-steps, and wider intervals by looking at the visual spacing created when student players stand.

Here are a few scale examples to try:
C     D     E  F     G      A     B  C     (Major to establish familiar tonality)
C C#           F      G  Ab           C      (Japan, diminished pentatonic)
C     D  Eb      F# G  Ab       B  C      (Russia and Hungary, 'gypsy' minor)
C          Eb  F  F# G          Bb   C      (U.S.A., blues scale, Afro-American)

Try it out with your kiddos and enjoy some FUN music theory! If you'd like more in-depth materials, check out my Music and Scales Around the World package on TPT:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Color-coded Labels - Freebie 4 U

If you have older, plain, or home-made pitched instruments, you can include them in your Boomwhacker or bell activities by applying these colored labels. Simply print, cut out, and apply them with a piece of tape slightly larger than the label. If you have access to sticky-backed printing paper, this will save you the hassle of cutting and applying tape. However, tape gives protection to the label, so it may last longer. When using tape for label application, I have found that Scotch Magic Transparent tape (specifically this brand) is less likely to get gummy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pomp and Whack-'em-stance Freebie

Make graduation fun and extra memorable this year! Here's another FREEBIE: the melody for Pomp and Circumstance arranged for Boomwhackers or bells. (This is a JPEG file. Click it to download or print.)

If you're interested in doing a larger-scale performance, I've created an arrangement with full harmony and materials & suggestions for adding recorder, flute, violin, xylophone, guitar and/or ukulele. It's avaiable from my TPT store. (You can click the picture below to check it out.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Boomwhacker Pentatonic Chart - Freebie

Here's another FREE Boomwhacker Chart for my visitors. This is a downloadable/printable JPEG file, or you can download a free (higher resolution) PDF from: 

If you use Boomwhackers with your students or family, I invite you to check out some of my Color-Chord-inated Song Collections. Teachers tell me these materials save them a lot of time (and knowing how much time I put into them, I must agree!). They are great for end-of-school-year activities, summer programs, and easy-to-put-together performances. I am delighted to know that students and teachers are having great success with these materials!

Friday, April 5, 2013


When I first encountered a set of Boomwhackers years ago, I would have never guessed the phenomenal success they would have. I've always enjoyed making homemade instruments, so these 'boom tubes' fit into my novelty category, and that seemed good enough. I didn't think Boomwhackers were especially musical, the intonation was often poor, and the name conjured up visions of students smacking everything in sight! So yes, I resisted them for a while...

But then I began working with dozens of schools with very limited budgets. Orff instruments weren't an option; handbells or ukuleles - not a chance. Yet, I still needed to train teachers and their students how to play melodies and create ostinatos and chord accompaniments in a hands-on, enjoyable way. Happily, I discovered the Octavator Caps, which (1) greatly enhance the BW tone, (2) drop the pitch an octave, and (3) enable tapping the capped end on a soft surface such as the heel of the hand or carpeted floor. And I found that kneading the tubes into a round, smooth shape (and avoiding squishing them in storage) helped improve intonation.

I started experimenting with techniques I've used with resonator bells and handbells. (I'd used a color-coded system of my own for 20 years, so I simply tweaked it to match BWs.) Another 'booming' surprise has been how well my Color-Chord-inated song collections have been received by many teachers. (See my TPT listings at

Anyway, after seeing these cRaZy TuBeS work well in so many situations, I must admit I'm a fan! They have enabled thousands of students in my district to engage in, explore and create music, and I've discovered some useful integrations too. (I mentor elementary classroom teachers as well as music teachers.)

Here's a
 FREEBIE chart with the color-coded chromatic scale and common chords on the treble staff, which you can project or print. (Click on the image above to open and save/print a high-resolution file.) If desired, you can scale/enlarge when you print and then cut out note or chord cards. Simply click on it to download. You'll find another Boomwhacker FREEBIE in my Partner Song Freebie post (3/7/2013). In coming days, I will post additional ideas for using Boomwhackers to engage students in enjoyable learning experiences. Thanks for visiting!