Making an ocean drum is a simple and fun project that can be accomplished in one class session. Ocean drums are very easy to make and play. They create a perfect accompaniment for any song about the sea.
This activity makes a great group or individual project. Have students experiment with with various materials to create their own unique instrument with it’s own unique sound. Be creative and involve students in the planning process. Announce the project at least one class session ahead of time and encourage students to bring in their own materials. My students have always surprised me with their creativity.
Making an Ocean Drum
Step 1: Choose Your Container
The sound will vary considerably depending on the materials you use. Various items may be used as containers. Containers that have at least one long, flattish side will allow for a longer “wave” sound. Try out some of the items below for containers.
- Shoe box
- Pringle’s tube
- Cereal box
- Various plastic food containers
- Oatmeal box
Step 2: Choose Your “Fill”
Making an ocean drum is more of an art than a science. Allow students to experiment with different combinations of containers and fill. Once again, be creative with materials. Below are a few ideas for fill.
- Popcorn seeds
- Dry beans
- BBs or pellets
- Course sand
- Pearl couscous
- Salt, fine or coarse
Many of these items may already be in your pantry.
Step 3: Secure All Openings of the Container
If all the openings of your ocean drum are not securely fastened closed, the fill material could spill out. This could spell disaster during your rehearsal or performance. The last thing you want is fill materials all over the floor.
The easiest containers to secure are plastic food storage containers. Simply snap them closed. For other types of containers such as cereal boxes, shoe boxes, etc., provide wide tape to securely fasten all seams.
Step 4: Decorate if Desired
If desired, ocean drums may be painted, decorated with colored tape, or colored with permanent markers. Students should be aware that some forms of decoration may change the sound.
Practice Playing Your Ocean Drum
Ocean drums are very easy to play but students do need to practice. The instrument may be used to create a flowing undercurrent or crashing waves. Ocean Drums work especially well with songs like Sea Shell, a Kodaly Song with Orff Accompaniment.
How to Play Your Ocean Drum
- Using both hands, hold the instrument level as you would hold your lunch tray.
- To create the sound of flowing gentle waves, tilt the instrument slightly from left to right, forward & backward in a circular motion so the fill rolls or slides around inside the drum.
- To create the sound of crashing waves, tilt the instrument to make the fill slide and then jerk the instrument back quickly to create the crashing sound.
- To create rhythmic sounds, consider tapping your fingers on one side of your instrument.
Have fun with your ocean drum. Experiment and practice different ways to play your new instrument. Varying the angle of the tilt and the speed will vary the sound.
Tie Project into Study of Island Music
Making an ocean drum can be a stand-alone project or you can integrate the project into the study of Caribbean, Hawaiian, or other island music. However you choose to use ocean drums in your classroom, they are sure to become a favorite.
Have you made ocean drums? Do you have any tips or suggestions? Leave a comment below.
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