By Brian Clark Howard on Mar 21, 2011

The Best DIY Musical Instruments


For those of us who miss the buzzing of vuvuzelas from the recent World Cup in South Africa, comes a chorus of recycled facsimiles from Bash the Trash. Photo: Bash the Trash

If you’ve ever strolled through a bustling nightlife district in a major city, visited a developing world shantytown or seen the Broadway sensation Stomp, there’s a good chance you’ve seen someone jamming on an instrument cobbled together from bits of trash.

Maybe when you were a kid, you made a tambourine out of old pie pans, a kazoo out of cardboard and waxed paper or bongos out of used oatmeal containers. If you want to relive those glory days, super celeb Leonardo DiCaprio has instructions on how to do just that on his New York Magazine profile of hip musicians gracing the city’s subway platforms featured William B. Johnson, whose “funky, sweaty, free jazz” band, Drumadics, proudly pair horns with recycled bucket drums.

[search type=”recycling” what=”musical instruments” whatlabel=”musical instruments”]

It’s not just live music that can be recycled, either. As EcoFriend recently reported, someone in South Africa made a working, recycled-chic radio out of used bottle tops, cans, wire and scrap metal.

Take a look at these great recycled instruments, which can provide hours of fun for all ages. There’s no need to spend a lot of money to express your musical talents.

Bash the Trash

The New York City-based group Bash the Trash brings the magic of recycled instruments to school groups, concert halls, corporate functions and motivational seminars across the U.S. and Canada. Co-director John Bertles told us his team will soon be offering a CD of their lively performances as well.

“Whether performing with musical instruments built from trash, building artworks from found objects or consulting on environmental arts education, BTT always focuses on how the arts and science work together,” states the group’s website.

Founded by Bertles and his wife, Carina Piaggio, Bash to Trash reaches about 50,000 students, teachers and adults a year through performances, festivals and other venues. The group hosts “Recycle Idol” team-building exercises, provides detailed instructions on how to make your own trash orchestra, and even performs a trash version of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.

From left to right: A bang-cello made from reclaimed wood (John Maggiotto Studio); a recycled "French hose" (John Maggiotto Studio); stylish hub-cap drums (Paul Michaels, Man-Mountain Productions); a giant string gong (Bash the Trash).

Japan Turns Household Junk Into Musical Gold

As reported by Japan Probe, TV show contestants in Japan were asked to create musical instruments out of household items. This included such masterpieces as a saxophone made from a pipe, a film case, part of a balloon and a bit of air pump hose. Some computer printers were ingeniously modded to play songs. However, it was a plastic bottle horn that took home the prize.

blgupdatevideo by jpnvideos

Karam’s Residual Gurus

Treehugger recently reported on Barcelona-based group Karam, which has been touring Europe with a show called Residual Gurus. According to the website, “These talented musicians know how to transform rubbish into a spiritual performance that turns the street into a stimulating yet unpredictable haven. Eastern rhythms, electronic sounds, original instruments, laughter, meditation and improvisation combine in an unrepeatable, collective ritual.” Talk about classy trash!

The Lost and Found Orchestra

Guys sawing, trumpets made from hoses and traffic cones and a giant bellows that plays used wine and soy sauce bottles – these are elements of the Lost and Found Orchestra, a touring act from the creators of Stomp.

Vienna’s Vegetable Orchestra

With instruments made from fresh, organic veggies, the Vegetable Orchestra is where you’ll get to enjoy the cucuphone, made from, you guessed it, a cucumber, as well as a carrot and pepper. Leeks become sonorous violins, and a pumpkin serves as percussion. These guys have been playing with their food for nine years.

Recycled ‘Geetars’ and Beer Organs

It’s pretty amazing how great a guitar made from a cigar box can sound, no? People have also made “axes” out of used cookie tins, old cans and discarded bike wheels. Or, dig that organ made from old beer bottles, the “beergan.”

Circuitbenders Hack Electronics Into ‘Insanity Machines’

British Circuitbenders have been hacking common electronics devices into creative instruments since 2001. The first masterpiece was based on a classic Speak & Spell machine, remember those? Numerous other instruments based on calculators, toys and other devices tempt the budding electronic musician. It’s music for the dorkbot set.

Check out this beautiful montage of recycled instruments:


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