When I did the original post for Eight Endangered Skills, I listed making and playing your own instruments, and then said it also reminded me of making toys. The point is that our ancestors knew how to entertain themselves, and they learned to have fun with whatever was available. That may be the skill that is truly endangered. Today’s post will focus on music, but we’ll look at toys and other forms of home made entertainment in a future post.
Music is universal. Yes, styles vary by era, by culture and by personal taste, but it is there nevertheless. People have made and played their own instruments as far back as we can remember. In the Bible, musicians are first mentioned in Genesis chapter 4. “ His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe” (vs 22). The one instrument we all carry with us, whether we use it or not, is the human voice.
I was hoping Ed would write this post, since he did most of the work, but his job schedule has changed a little, and we are still adjusting. When we started working on this series last summer, I found this article from Mother Earth News. I knew that we had to try and build a gut bucket, aka washtub bass. We would need a wash tub, something for the neck, something for the string (a plastic coated cable was recommended), and a way to attach the string to the wash tub.
I will admit that I kind of struggled with giving up my old washtub, but I have been promised a new one. Ed found an old closet rod for the neck and asked if I had any tin cans that we could cut the bottoms out of for washers. Was he kidding? Of course I did! We did have to go buy eye bolts and a small cable. After we got home, we both saw a cable we could have used, and I am quite sure eye bolts will turn up too. We learned a long time ago, that the best way to find something you know you have is to go buy a new one. Once we got started, the whole process took less than an hour. I have to tell you that Ed had a great time making this.
Chicken Girl was the photographer today.
Most home made instruments don’t need anywhere near that kind of time or construction. Have you ever given a small child a pot and a spoon? Yep, instant drum! Different surfaces and different materials make different sounds and lend themselves to all sorts of “instruments”. Dried beans in a tin can? Maracas! A comb and tissue paper? A kazoo! Glasses filled with different levels of water? Chimes! The possibilities are probably endless, limited only by imagination. The best thing is that you don’t have to be a “musician”. You can just have fun with it.
You can buy specially made musical spoons today, they didn’t start out that way. Ed actually got some pretty good rhythm going for awhile with two spoons from our kitchen.
Musical saws can also be purchased, but you don’t need a special one to learn. You do however, need something to use for a bow. Chicken girl was greatly concerned when I experimented with an old hand saw and her violin bow. I did manage to get a little sound, but probably needed a more flexible saw. The bow was no worse for the wear.
This is a basic tutorial on playing the saw, and Wikihow has instructions for making a bow here.
Several years ago, Ed and I started collecting primitive instruments. We used to play music at a couple different places and we liked to hand them out to whoever was there listening, and invite them to play along. We never got too many takers, but we did have fun, which was the whole point.
In addition to our usual instruments (guitar, mandolin, harmonica, etc), we have a washboard, a jug, a cowbell, and now, a gut bucket!
Do you play an instrument? Have you ever made your own?