Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Make a Lint Roller Maraca

Here's a quick and easy instrument-making project for summer camp or school. Anytime I'm throwing something away, I explore its recycling options; and turning a used item into a musical instrument is my favorite recycling option! The other day, as I used the last section of sticky-tape on a lint roller, I immediately imagined a maraca. The handle fit perfectly in my hand, and most of the work was already done. It only took about 20 minutes to complete this project.


Plastic lint roller handle
1 pkg. of small glass
   beads (seed beads)
Small funnel
Glue (plastic cement)
Paper and markers
   (or scrapbook paper)

There is a small hole in the top center of the large end of the lint roller. You may need to make it a tiny bit larger, but keep it as small a possible. Using a funnel (or piece of paper wrapped into a cone), put the beads into the cylinder.

Break a tip off of the toothpick to serve as a plug. Then put a dab of glue over the filling hole, stick the toothpick tip into the hole, and put another tiny dab of glue over it.

Create a colorful, geometric design on a piece of paper cut to fit the cylinder section of the lint roller (or use some printed scrapbook paper as I did because I was in a hurry on this one). Glue the paper around and onto the cylinder.

Please note: the maraca will sound best if you hold it with the handle on top (upside down). This will allow the beads to move freely rather than get trapped in the handle. Cha-cha-cha!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Water Pipe Trombone

Here's a quick and fun instrument project I shared recently at BYU Arts Express in my 'STEAM' session. 

When designing/engineering an instrument, always keep in mind that any musical instrument requires three mechanisms: 
                  (1) material or technique to produce VIBRATION, 
                  (2) material to act as an AMPLIFIER of sound waves, and 
                  (3) mechanism or technique to control or VARY PITCH.

Since the player's buzzing lips are the source of vibration, this ‘trombone’ only requires the pitch variation and amplification mechanisms, and thus, it's very easy to make. 

A length of cold water pipe (blue PEX, 1/2” diameter)
A length of hot water pipe (red PEX, 5/8” diameter)

A plastic funnel that will fit either over or inside one of your pipes 
    (The funnel can be trimmed to fit if its neck tapers.)
Stickers or colored tape for decorating (if desired)

A ruler or measuring tape
A marker
A small hacksaw or sturdy knife for cutting
Duco Cement or other plastic cement for gluing funnel to pipe

PEX pipe is very easy and inexpensive to use. You will find it available at hardware and home improvement stores. I can cut it with small hacksaw (or even a sturdy paring knife), and its filings/dust doesn't have the respiratory dangers of PVC. 

Measure and mark each pipe, the blue, smaller one should be an inch or two longer than the red, larger one. For this instrument, I used 13.5 and 12.5 inch lengths. (Note: It's tempting to cut the pipes longer, but pitch control will be reduced by leaking air, and students' arms don't reach more than a couple of feet anyway.)

Determine whether your funnel will best fit inside or outside one of your pipes. You can trim the tapered neck of a funnel to fit your pipe. If you need to do so, ensure a snug fit by inserting your pipe into the open end of the funnel and marking where it makes contact with the neck.

Glue the funnel in place. Insert the wider diameter pipe over the smaller one. Decorate as desired. Press your lips against the end of your mouth pipe and slide the other pipe (with the funnel 'bell') in and out to vary pitch. Changing the speed and tension of your buzzing lips will also change the pitch.

                                                               Have Fun!

Music Notation Solutions: Note-able Font and Music Notation and Symbols Clip Art

Over the years, I've spent countless hours scouring the internet for good music notation clip art and music fonts to insert into music worksheets, flashcards, and presentations. (Yes, I do use music notation software, but sometimes music educators simply need to include music notation in word processing or presentation files.) I organized folders of various note, rest, clef and music symbol images I found on the Net, but their styles and sizes were inconsistent. I also found that I could insert some notes and symbols from my music software into text boxes, which was useful but non-intuitive and very time-consuming. I eventually purchased a rather archaic music font, and although it wasn't my dream come true, I was glad to have consistently sized and shaped symbols. While I kept wishing for something more user-friendly and efficient, I learned to work around or live with its limitations: (1) its preset note-spacing made it very hard to control document layout, (2) it wasn't intuitive, and (3) when I typed beamed notes for combination rhythms, the 'seams' showed.

Fast forward... A few years later, as I was studying clip art and font design, I realized I could solve my music notation frustrations and provide for my own needs! And now my resulting projects are available to others via the Web (TPT and Etsy). I figure it's time to 'toot my own horn' here on my blog and let readers know about these products since I'm receiving such great feedback about them.

In this post, I present my Note-ablFont and music clip art packages.

                              Sample page from user's quick-start guide. 
          Clicking on pictures will take you to a webpage where these are available for purchase.

This TrueType font set (for use on Mac/Apple or PC) allows a user to easily combine text, rhythm notation, articulations, Curwen hand signs and stick notation to create flash cards, music manipulatives, assessments, slides, posters and visual aids. This package includes two fonts: (1) traditional notation (notes, rests, articulations, etc.) and (2) Kodaly and Orff-style notation (stick rhythms, Curwen hand signs, icons, etc.) for a total of 175 sharp, professional music notes and symbols for personal, classroom and small commercial use. No additional commercial use license is required as long as you include credit and a link. The package also includes a detailed user's guide with instructions, keyboard charts, helpful hints and practice guides. 

     A few things that make this font different/better than others:
Beamed notes are single figures/keystrokes.
The user controls spacing between notes.
Ties and articulation marks can be inserted.
Traditional and Kodaly/Orff-style notation is included.
Intuitive layout, quick and easy to learn.
Detailed tutorial and charts are included.
Only $16.95 versus $20, $25 and $40 for others.

Here are some quotes from my TPT feedback page regarding my Note-able Font Package:

“Love this. It's an answer to so many questions and needs as a music teacher who likes to create her own teaching aids and materials! Thanks for sharing this!”  

“ Where has this been all my life? User friendly and so helpful!”

 “Fantastic! I've tried several music notation fonts and this is by-far the best one I've found.”

“Instructions on how to load the font were a great help and the charts are incredibly handy. Thanks so much! I am using it already.”

I am grateful to Tracy King for recently reviewing my Note-able Fonts on her excellent blog:

                        Additional sample pages from the Note-able Font Package:

At times, music clip art is a more effective way to go. I created this set to meet this need. It also includes a handy user's guide and templates.

And last, but certainly not least, I have created this clean, colorful set of music notation clip art. These images are great from creating posters, classroom decorations, and bell or Boomwhacker charts.


These files are also available in my Etsy Store and in my TeachersPayTeachers Store


Readers may have noticed my recent ‘leave of absence’ from blogging and music materials production. I have been in transition between jobs, homes, and cities, and the move has taken time and energy beyond description. I am happy and anxious to get back to posting!

In June, (yes, in the middle of moving), I had the opportunity to teach a couple of workshops at the annual Arts Express Conference, sponsored by the BYU Arts Partnership. This year, the theme was “Full STEAM Ahead,” referring to the inclusion of arts education (thus the “A”) with the ‘STEM’ subjects. Instrument-making aligned PERFECTLY with the engineering process and some important math and science concepts (fractions, harmonics, frequency, amplitude, acoustics, etc.). 

I had the opportunity to collaborate and present with a very fine dance educator, Angela Challis; and together, we helped teachers explore dance and music integrations, create instruments, and compose both music and choreography. The teachers who attended made it such fun because they were creative, collaborative, and willing to 'play' in more ways than one. It was an absolute blast!

Everyone who attended built a mini stomp stick (see previous post) and then composed layered ostinatos and movement using their instruments. Then we divided participants into four groups, and each group constructed a different instrument – (1) a mini washtub bass (post to come), (2) a water pipe trombone (new post), (3) a panpipe (previous post), or (4) a string-o-phone (previous post). When I get the instructions online for #’s 1 & 2, I’ll insert a link here, or follow my blog for notices of my new posts.

Constructing stomp sticks (left) and panflutes (above).

Participants created an ‘informance’ in which they played their instruments and danced in the conference's culminating event in the auditorium. I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity, collaboration and synergy of this event!