Homemade Instruments



Introduction: Homemade Instruments

About: ideaLAB is the name of the Denver Public Library's free all-ages makerspaces. We have labs at 6 libraries around the city of Denver - Central, Hadley, Hampden, Montbello, Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, an…

In honor of Black History Month, we created a project that celebrates Jazz music and the essential part Jazz played in African American History. We will teach you how to make your own trumpet and percussion instrument, so you can come be a part of the band!

Jazz stems from Africans roots, which have rich musical traditions. The precursors that laid the groundwork for Jazz, came in the form of ragtime and the blues. Scott Joplin, was a notable ragtime composer that combined classical techniques with African melodies and rhythms. It is thought Jazz originated in the early 20th century in New Orleans, and gained wide popularity in the 1920s. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, and many other influential musicians helped make Jazz mainstream in America - to not only black, but white audiences. In more recent times, Jazz has influenced the modern sounds of rock ‘n’ roll, R&B and hip-hop.

Jazz is the music of emotion and expression. What makes Jazz special is the improvisational nature and the ability to create your own style and put forth emotions through music. If you would like to learn more about the history of Jazz, or to listen to some Jazz while you create your instruments as inspiration please check out the links below.

The Origins of Jazz

Jazz Radio Online

What is Jazz

20th Century Music

With this activity I encourage you to find your musical voice and create your own masterpiece. Below are instructions to make a basic trumpet and a percussion instrument. The trumpet is a brass wind instrument often featured in Jazz music and the sounds are made by vibrating the air through your lips. To practice making the right sound, make a loose fist and buzz your lips through the tunnel of your hand. You don’t want to sing or hum but vibrate and make a “raspberry” or beatbox sound.

The trumpet sound can be changed in three ways-

1- shape of the mouthpiece - the larger the mouthpiece the deeper the sounds

2- shape of the tube - the variation in shapes makes many different sounds

3- size of the tube - skinnier tubes produce a higher sound, fatter tubes produce a deeper sound

I have provided detailed instructions of a basic design and some photos of some variations that we tried. What kind of trumpet can you create?


Cardboard tube

Plastic bottle


Plastic Straw





Optional- exacto knife

Step 1:

Cut off the top 3” of the plastic bottle and place it on top of the cardboard tube. Mark a line where they meet and then cut along the line for the mouthpiece.

Step 2:

Tape the bottle top to the end of the cardboard tube, making sure to create a good seal between the bottle and the tube. It is helpful to start by taking small pieces of tape and taping vertically, then moving to one big piece of tape to tape horizontally.

Step 3:

Take your paper and fold it in half so that the shorter edges come together. Cut a half circle by rounding the open edges of the paper. If it is easier, you can draw a half circle along the bottom edge and cut it out.

Step 4:

Form the half circle into a cone shape and use tape and staples to secure the ends.

Step 5:

Place the cone with the pointy end into the bottom of the cardboard tube and mark the cone where they meet. Cut the end of the cone off along this line. It's okay if this doesn't come out perfect the first time. Start with cutting less, if you need to cut more you can always do that.

Step 6:

Securely tape the cone to the end of the cardboard tube. This is the horn of the trumpet. You can also start decorating the tube of your trumpet at this stage.

Step 7:

You can play your trumpet as is through the open mouthpiece of the water bottle, or if you want to add a smaller mouthpiece with a straw and the lid of the water bottle, it makes it a little easier to make a sound.

If your straw has the bendy top, cut that part off. On one end, cut the edges of the straw off to make a pointy tip. Try to make the cuts on each side as evenly as you can. You may need to adjust the tip a few times. You can also change the pitch of the trumpets by changing the length of the straw.Then take a knife and carefully cut an X into the top of the water bottle lid. Poke the flat end of the straw through the X and screw the lid back onto the water bottle. You can play your trumpet through the straw mouthpiece.

Step 8:

Decorate and have fun making some music!! Use markers to make your instrument your own and see what objects can be your three valve buttons.

Here are some different trumpets that we designed. What kinds of trumpets can you create?

Step 9: Create a Percussion Instrument


  • Plastic jar or container
  • Small rocks, marbles, dried pasta or rice
  • Pen, spoon or wooden stick

Another important element of Jazz Music are the percussion instruments. This provides the rhythm and backbone to the music. You can make many percussion instruments from things you have at home. You can make a drum set using different pot and pans or plastic bowls and tubs. You can use your hands to make the rhythm or you can use a pen or the end of a spoon or a wooden stick. Here we will show you a short video how to make many different percussion sounds from just a jar, some rocks and a pen.

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