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Music Project – How to Make an Ocean Drum

Do you need a FUN simple elementary music project? Make an ocean drum then create accompaniments for any song about the sea.

Are you looking for a FUN simple music project for your elementary music classroom? Making an ocean drum is a project which can be accomplished in one class session or you can expand the activity to be included as a part of a larger unit. Ocean drums are easy to make and play. They create a perfect accompaniment for any song about the sea.

Do you want to offer your students more options to create different types of homemade instruments? Check out this blog post with 9 Activities for Recycled Rhythm Instruments.

How to Make an Ocean Drum | Elementary Music Class Project

Group or Individual Project

This activity can be structured as a fun small group or individual project. Students may experiment with various materials to create their own unique instrument with its’ own unique sounds. Be creative and involve students in the planning process.

Announce the project at least one week ahead of time and encourage students to bring in some of their own materials. My students have always surprised me with their creativity.

How to Make 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.

  • Shoebox
  • Pringle’s tube
  • Cereal box
  • Various plastic food containers
  • Oatmeal box
Cereal, oatmeal, and shoe boxes, & plastic container

Step 2: Choose Your “Fill”

To make 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.

  • Rice/Quinoa
  • Popcorn seeds
  • Dry beans
  • BBs or pellets
  • Course sand
  • Macaroni
  • Pearl couscous
  • Salt, fine or coarse

Many of these items may already be in your pantry.

How to Make an Ocean Drum | Project for Elementary Music Classroom

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 the lid on and they’re 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 some forms of decoration will change the sound.

How to Play Your Ocean Drum

Use both hands to hold the instrument level as you would hold your lunch tray. Give students time to practice playing the following types of sounds.

  • Gentle Flowing Waves. Tilt the instrument slightly from left to right, forward and backward in a circular motion so the fill rolls or slides around inside the drum.
  • Crashing Waves. Tilt the instrument to make the fill slide slowly and then jerk the instrument back quickly to create the crashing sound.
  • Rhythmic Sounds. Tap your fingers gently on one side of your instrument. This is a perfect way to create rhythmic ostinato patterns.

Have fun with your ocean drums. Experiment and practice different ways to play the instrument. When you vary the angle of the tilt and the speed, this will change the sound. Guide students to use critical thinking skills to evaluate and refine their sounds.

Practice Playing Your Ocean Drum

Ocean drums are easy to play but students DO need a little practice playing the instrument to create the three basic types of sounds.

Then use your new ocean drums to create an accompaniment for a simple song. They work well with songs about the sea such as Sea Shell, Kodály Song with Orff Accompaniment.


Making an ocean drum can be a stand-alone music project or you can integrate the project into the study of Caribbean, Hawaiian, or other island music. However you choose to use homemade ocean drums in your classroom, they’re sure to become a favorite.

Use this FREE How to Make an Ocean Drum presentation to guide your students through the process of creating their own ocean drums.

Related Info

Meet the Author

Terri Lloyd is a retired elementary music teacher with over 25 years of experience. She holds a Bachelor of Music, a Master of Science in Education, and a Technology Certificate in Instructional Design.

She is currently active in music education through blogging, workshops, and curriculum development. She also serves on the music staff at her church and volunteers for an after-school children’s program. Terri is an active musician in the community, performing in a local Big Band, pit orchestras, and various events.

More Ways to Connect – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.