how to make a drum & shaker



Remember these drums from Mekhi's birthday?  They come out beautifully in less than an hour.  I love each one looks & sounds different every single time. They cost absolutely nothing & as you'll see, the kids (ages 1-7) lead nearly every step.  They are so proud of these drums & shakers!  Our house has become an instrument factory, & they're making gifts for all their friends.  While the shakers sound really vibrant & satisfyingly "noisy," the drums do sound a bit dull when played by hand.  It's nice to have some mallets.  Using the metal bottoms of your tubs makes a tangy Calypso beat.  We're going to gather some sticks for our drums, & smooth down the edges with sand paper.  For mallets we'll cover the ends with a bit of felt stuffed with wool & tied with string.  



1 Large Tub with a sealable top
1 small or long tub with top
glue and/or glue gun
small paper bags
shaker fillers: beans, rice, corn, lentils, pebbles
masking tape
5 rubber bands


1/4 yard fabric, anything from fleece to calico
pretty string, yarn, twine or raffia
decorative bits like beads, feathers, shells

This drum was made with Japanese rice paper on top & feathers to cover the seam.   To make the top last longer we used a glue gun to attach it to the lid.  The older boys took turns using a low-melt one to attach the feathers.  The shaker is covered with a heavy fleece & they made a handle by beading several lengths of raffia & tying it around the ends.  It's filled with pinto beans.  


Shaker How-To:

Put a handful of corn into the shaker.


"Yup.  Yup.  Like this.  Very Good." ~ Lake


Close it.  


If you're using a thin fabric, the shaker will feel "chinsty."  Adding a bit of padding makes it feel much better in the hand & gives it a nicer quality, especially if you're making a gift.  Tape one end.


Roll & tape closed.


Tape the fabric down & roll it up.  It should go around at least 1 & 1/2 times.  Cut & fold under the end.  Tape.

Use rubber bands to gather the ends, like a tootsie roll.


Wrap pretty string or raffia around it several times & double knot.  Open up the ends a bit.  Walla!


Drum How-To:


Cut one of the small paper bags down the sides.




Roughly measure the height of your tub & fold the edges of the paper bag to match.  Tape one end to the tub.




"And then, Mommy, tell them to tape it.  Like this..." ~ Lake


If you are using the metal end, place a rubber band just below the top to help hold down the edges of the felt drum surface.  You could also just glue it.  Use a glue gun for that, or a very thin layer of white glue that won't seep through the felt or paper.


Cover with a rectangle of felt & use a rubberband to hold it down.  Make sure the band falls under the inside red band in the picture above.  See how it sticks?


Wrap several lengths of yarn or raffia around it & tie a lovely knot.


Try it out!  Technically, it's done.  Mahal cut several strips of felt to cover the seam.  He liked it so much he added them all around the drum.


For a two-sided tom-tom, just repeat on the other side: felt, rubber band, string.


Don't forget to trim!  Or, I guess you could.




It's important to use these drums with them a couple of times, regardless of how old they are.  Otherwise they'll just be more "stuff."  If you have any ethnic music or know a few songs, I recommend playing with the drum yourself a few times & letting them see you.  Then they'll use it themselves in context as an instrument, as opposed to a distraction.   We really use ours, everyday.