Are there different types of musical instruments in different
parts of the world?
This chapter leads on from the last in that it is
taking movement energy further and looking at how movement energy produces sound
energy in the form of the parts of the instrument that move and the vibrations
which carry the sound energy.
suggestion is to do the next chapter on "Energy and Sound" before this
chapter on "Movement and energy in a system" instead of after it as stated in
There are many concepts in the chapter on "Energy and sound"
which can be used when learners have to make a musical instrument in this
chapter. Logically and conceptually, this does make more sense as sound is
introduced as a form of energy in the previous chapter on "Energy around us" and
then the chapter on "Energy and Sound" investigates sound further, before sound
is applied to the use in musical instruments. This, however, is your choice as a
teacher and as to how you would like to progress through the chapters.
Movement and musical instruments
Look at the photo of the orchestra. There are
many different instruments that all make music. All the sounds are combined
together to make a wonderful noise.
The joy of sound - making a body band
Work in groups of 4 - 5.
You can make music with your body. You can clap your hands or
stamp your feet. You can make clicking sounds with your tongue or puff out your
cheeks and tap them. You can beat a rhythm on your thighs.
In your group, find interesting ways to use your bodies to make
a short (1 minute) music piece.
Be creative. Present your 'body band beat' to your class.
Some of you could even dance while the others make the
Movement causes sound
In your body band, you made lots of different
sounds. Every sound that you made involved you moving a part of your
Many musical instruments use movement to make
sounds. Let us look at a few common musical instruments.
When a guitar string is plucked, the string
vibrates and causes a sound wave to occur. The sound is amplified (made louder)
by the air vibrating in the hollow inside of the guitar as well. We can then
easily hear the sounds produced by the guitar.
A drum has a thin membrane or skin that is
stretched tightly over the opening of something hollow. As the drummer beats
this membrane, the membrane vibrates and makes the sound we hear.
The trumpet player blows through closed lips into
the trumpet. This makes a buzzing sound which causes the air inside the trumpet
to vibrate. The vibrating air causes sound which we can hear.
Many musical instruments work because movement
causes vibrations which cause sound.
Indigenous musical instruments in South Africa
Music and musical instruments are very important
in many cultures and societies. Different cultures have different musical
instruments which are part of their traditions. The instruments which were
developed by a group of people and are used in a particular area, are called
indigenous instruments. Indigenous instruments are unique to a particular
society or culture.
Although the instruments are different, they all
work because movement causes vibrations which cause sound.
Africa has a rich musical culture and many unique
musical instruments. Some examples are shown below.
On the front cover for Energy and change, one of
the Thunderbolt Kids is playing an instrument on the beach! Who is it and what
instrument is it?
Farrah is playing a marimba.
Let's look at examples of Western and African
instruments. We will look at musical instruments in which you blow, and at
musical instruments where you pluck the strings. There are lots of similarities
in the instruments of these two cultures.
Musical instruments from two different cultures
The idea of this activity is not to juxtapose
the differences in the instruments between African and Western cultures. Rather, it aims to highlight the similarities between both cultures, such as similar instruments
which are played in similar ways, but made from different materials. A
suggestion here is to start this activity with a class discussion on what a
culture is, how different learners perceive culture and what it means to them
and to highlight the many cultures that we have in South Africa. Encourage
learners to start expressing their opinions and ideas by asking direct
questions. Then go on to do the activity below.
Study the examples of musical instruments shown in the following
Pay special attention to how each one is played and the material
they are made from.
Answer the questions that follow.
Traditional Musical Bow
Compare the instruments by filling in the table
How it is played?
What is it made from?
Traditional musical bow
How it is played?
What is it made from?
Horn of a kudu, beads to
Wood and nylon strings
Wood, cloth and string
Wood and string made from steel
Traditional musical bow
Sticks, calabash, string made from
Remember when we spoke about input and output energy? What do you think is the input energy and output energy for most musical instruments?
The input is movement and the output is sound.
Let's now make our own musical
Design and make your own musical instrument
Learners need to research, design, make and
evaluate a musical instrument. Examples they could consider include: guitar, pan
pipes, whistles, flutes. The scene is set below with the Thunderbolt Kids
needing to make musical instruments for a local festival. The emphasis is on
indigenous instruments, although not limited to this. The learners should be
encouraged to identify one of the characters to help to design and make an
instrument following the Design Process.
The educational value in Technology lies in the
investigating, thinking and designing that children must do. Technology aims to
make children capable; capability means the children's ability to turn thinking
into doing and completing. When they learn new scientific knowledge, the
learning has a purpose: they must use that knowledge in producing good designs.
When they have made a product, they should be able to explain to you all the reasons why they designed it like that
(even if they could not make it in the way they wanted to).
Some very important learning happens during a
Technology project, and you need to guide the learners through all the stages. If you
trained as a technology teacher, you will recognise the NCS pattern of
technology projects -- do you remember IDMEC? You can remind the learners of
I stands for Investigating the problem which some people have,
investigating existing products, and investigating concepts and skills that you
will need to solve the problem.
D stands for Designing -- that means using what you learnt from
investigations to think of good ways to solve the problem.
M stands for Making -- when you make your model, you use materials
and tools, you make your model look good, and you show the teacher what you
learnt in your investigating." (Notice that most children design with their hands, not only with pencil
and paper. As they work with materials they get more ideas, and their design
improves. So we should expect them to go back and forth between Designing and
Making. It's really all the same stage of a project.)
E stands for Evaluating -- after you have made your model to solve
the problem, you have to ask, does it work? Is this what the people wanted?
Could we make a better one?
C stands for Communicating -- you must show other people how you
decided on your solution to the problem. You need to write and draw your ideas."
(The learners should be drawing and writing all through the project. Don't leave
the writing to the end, because they find it boring at that stage. When they are
getting new ideas they often enjoy writing because they are writing about their
own ideas; this is a great strength of technology in school. A technology
project gives the children reasons for reading and reasons for writing. And so -
this is very important - we can address the literacy problem through the subject
of science and technology.)
The Thunderbolt Kids want to participate in the
local Arts Festival after the holidays. They want to make a band of four and
participate in the section for indigenous bands. Any instruments used must be
indigenous instruments which are handmade.
The Thunderbolt Kids want a variety of different
instruments. Sophie can play the flute so she would like an instrument which she
can play by blowing, such as a whistle or pan pipes. Tom likes to play his
electric guitar, but he can't use this as the instruments need to be traditional
and handmade, so Tom needs an instrument which he can play by plucking strings.
JoJo loves playing the drums and Farrah likes to dance with a shaker!
Check out their photo below which they had taken
for their poster to advertise for the festival!
The problem is, none of the Thunderbolt Kids have
an instrument to play. So you need to help one of them to design and make a
You need to design and make an instrument for one
of the Thunderbolt Kids. Write a design brief below where you identify which
Thunderbolt Kid you are going to help and which type of instrument you are going
The next step in the Design Process is to
investigate and do some research about the instrument that you are going to
make. You can use books and the internet to do your research. Perhaps you know
someone who plays this instrument?
We already looked at some instruments and what
they are made from and how they are played.
Answer these questions when doing research about
How do you play the instrument?
What is it normally made from?
Is this instrument part of any culture and their traditional
What other interesting facts did you find out about this
Now that you know a bit more about the
instrument, you need to design how you are going to make your own.
Your instrument has the following
It must make a sound by blowing on it or by plucking
You must be able to play at least two different sounds.
Your instrument has the following
You must make it in class.
Answer these questions:
What shape and size will your instrument be?
What materials will you need to make it?
What tools will you need to make it?
Now you need to draw some designs for your
instrument. Use scrap pieces of paper to do your first designs. Once you are
happy with your design, use the space provided to draw your design. Label your
drawing showing what materials you are going to use for the different
When you are making your instrument you might get
better ideas to improve the sound. So come back afterwards and draw on the
bottom half of the page; show what you really decided to make.
Now make your instrument in class! After you have
all finished making your instruments, take turns to play them for each other.
Perhaps you can even form your own bands!
Once learners have finished making their
instruments in class, go around and evaluate whether each learner's instrument
can be played. You can do this as a whole class where each learner has a chance
to present their instrument, explain what it is, and then attempt to play two
different sound. If time permits, you can break the class up into groups and
they can form a band where they have to put together a song and then present it
to the class.
Answer the following questions on your musical
instrument after you have finished making it and testing to see if it can be
Does your musical instrument look like your initial design?
How do you play your instrument?
Can you play two different sounds (notes) on your instrument? If
not, why can't you?
How would you improve your design so that your instrument makes
a better sound or is easier to play?
Now, do not forget that we were trying to help
the Thunderbolt Kids design and make musical instruments for their local arts
Write a paragraph, where you tell the
Thunderbolt Kid whom you decided to help, about the musical instrument that you
made. Tell them what worked and what did not work, so that they can also learn
from what you did and make a great instrument to play in their band!
Many musical instruments use movement input energy to work.
Many musical instruments have parts that can move or
Sound is the main output energy of musical instruments.
What do most musical instruments have in common
that allow them to make music?
A moving part that causes vibrations
Sounds are caused by vibrations. What is a vibration?
A vibration is a very quick movement (to-and-fro)
of an object or its parts in the same place.
How do you make a sound on a guitar? And how do you think the
shape of the guitar helps to make the sound louder?
You make sound by plucking the strings. The sound
is amplified (made louder) by the air vibrating in the hollow inside of the
What does the word 'indigenous' mean?
originating and characteristic of a particular
place or people
What is your favourite musical instrument? Explain how it
looks, how you would play it, and why you like it so much.