Friday Freebie: Make A Rainstick


 Make Your Own Rainstick

Awhile back I shared a post with you on Homemade Musical Instruments.
I had made some for our kindergarten class out of empty paper towel rolls,
How To Make Rain Sticks. They turned out fabulous, if I say so myself.

I was excited to win a kit from Daria's Music. I put it together and absolutely
 loved the finished results. See first photo! I wanted to share this article with you.

What Is a Rainstick? by Daria

A rainstick is a long, mainly hollow tube that makes a quiet sound when tilted
from side to side, very much like running water or gentle rain.

Originally rainsticks were made of natural materials such as the dried lengths of
the chola cactus. These long "arms" of dried cacti have small spikes inside so
when they are filled with pebbles, seeds or small objects, the contents can't easily
swish back and forth. Instead, the seeds, pebbles or beads gently fall between the
spikes creating the unique sound associated with the rainstick. You often see these
instruments in South America countries such as Chile or in the American Southwest,
where these cacti are plentiful.

In other parts of the world, rainsticks are made of lengths of bamboo or long gourds
called "snake gourds". However, since there are no natural spikes inside the gourd or
bamboo, small thin bits of wood are inserted into place that create the gentle, flowing
rainstick sound.

Make Your Own Rainstick

Here's a way you can reuse an old mailing tube or poster container to create a great-
sounding instrument. If you can't find one of these at home, ask around. Your recycling
needs can often be met by a neighbor or family friend and you can save one more object
from getting into the waste stream!

rainstick materials

Creating The Rainstick Effect

To turn a mailing tube into a rainstick, you need to find a way to create an
obstruction - something that will block the materials inside form falling at one time.
In bamboo or gourd rainsticks. a series of wooden spikes are used. Instead of that
approach, we'll create a wire "maze" using a combination of floral wire/jewelry wire
(or any lightweight wire) and pipe cleaners.

pipe cleaners and wire

 Cut a length of wire about two to three times the length of the tube. If you cover the
ends with a bit of tape, it's easy for a child to help scrunch the wire up giving it many
twists and turns in a way that will still fit inside the diameter of the tube. Then, twist
in some pipe cleaners cut in half, throughout the length of your tangled wire. All these
things will help catch the contents as they go from side to side to create the pleasing
"falling water" effect.

Tune Your Rainstick

The sound of your rainstick will vary greatly depending on what you decide to put
into it as well as how much of that item you choose to add. For a quieter rainstick,
use smaller objects such as seed beads, birdseed or tiny pasta such as pastina or
acini de pepe. Slightly louder are objects like rice, dried lentils, small buttons or
paper clips. Even louder dried beans, pebbles, marbles or any large macaroni.

Here's a good way of "tuning" your rainstick. Have several bowls of contents
nearby. Close one end of your rainstick and add the contents. Seal the other end and
try the sound. Dump it back into your bowl and try another. What sound is most pleasing
to you? Or mix and match contents. It's a fun way of experimenting with sound to
discover what sounds best to your ear.

* In my rainstick, I used very little rice and I love the soft sound of rain.

homemade rainstick from mailing tube

Make It Beautiful

Once you've decided on the perfect sound for your rainstick, there are lots of creative
ways to decorate the outside of the instrument. You can color with crayons or permanent
markers, create stripes from colorful tape, or even decoupage photos or magazine pictures
onto the tube. you can paint a coat of glue on the rainstick and slowly wind different
colors of yarn around it. You can also cut squares or small pieces of fabric, cover them
with a layer of glue and create a quilt or collage effect for a beautiful handmade rain-
stick. Feel free to get creative and make something that is truly unique!

* I chose a monochromatic, earthy color of yarn. It was what I had on hand.

Play Your Rainstick

Rainsticks are most often played by simply turning them upside down. However, you can
also hold them horizontally and shake the contents back and forth like a rattle or shake
the stick as the contents fall producing some nice variations in ways to play this simple
but versatile instrument.

For more information, visit

David Lanz - Free Fall - Sheet Music (Digital Download)
Ella Fitzgerald - Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall - Sheet Music (Digital Download)
Esperanza Spalding - Fall In - Sheet Music (Digital Download)
Faith Hill - If I Should Fall Behind - Sheet Music (Digital Download)


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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