Fourth Grade

Creating Musical Instruments


Fourth graders have been exploring sound energy by designing and creating their own musical instruments! Students learned about the famous composer, Ludwig Beethoven, who composed many masterpieces even after he lost his sense of hearing. Beethoven’s housekeepers remembered seeing Beethoven sitting at the piano with one end of a pencil in his mouth and the other on the soundboard on the piano. Beethoven used his mouth to feel the vibration of the instrument. Students tested out different materials to see which had the strongest vibration and began creating an instrument that can be played and “heard” by someone who is deaf.

Question to Explore

How can we use what we know about sound vibrations to create an instrument that can be played and “heard” by someone who is deaf?


  • Choose from recycled materials to create various instruments.  Some examples are:
    • cardboard boxes (various sizes)
    • rubber bands
    • tape
    • aluminum tray
    • paper towel rolls
    • string
    • rocks and beans
    • hot glue (optional with adult supervision)
    • aluminum can


  1. First, students tested out the vibrations of different materials by clanking them together or against the metal table while plugging their ears.
  2. Students recorded which objects had the strongest vibrations
  3. Next, students decided which instrument to create: guitar, ukelele, tamborine, drums, triangle, shaker, etc.
  4. Students drew their design and wrote down the supplies they will use
  5. Students gathered supplies and began building. I challenged them to include multiple pitches in their instrument using multiple materials. For example, different size rubber bands will create a different pitch on the guitar, or creating multiple shakers with different objects inside of them.
  6. Once their instruments were finished, students practiced playing them and even formed bands to play them together!

This is the worksheet I created to guide students through the process:


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