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musical instruments — LESSON 17

usic is a key part of everyday life in many African societies. Musical instruments are used to summon, communicate, entertain, unite, rally and inform. This lesson studies the science of making sound and the art of making a musical instrument. After investigating the roles that music plays in African cultures, students produce musical instruments designed to imbue everyday occurrences with added significance.


Ohio Learning Outcomes

Fourth Grade Learning Outcomes Science 7. Identify and/or discuss the selection of resources and tools used for exploring scientific phenomena. Sixth Grade Learning Outcomes Science 3. Make inferences from observations of phenomena and/or events. 6. Recognize the advantages and/or disadvantages to the user in the operation of simple technological devices.
Ohio Model for the Arts

Fourth Grade Goal I – Historical, Cultural, and Social Contexts: Understanding the Role of the Arts in People’s Lives c. Investigate how different cultural groups contribute or have contributed to existing arts forms. Sixth Grade Goal I – Historical, Cultural, and Social Contexts: Understanding the Role of the Arts in People’s Lives a. Identify the impact that scientific and social events have had on the ideas expressed through arts forms.


Sierra Leone Side-blown Trumpet mid-19th century ivory 21 x 3" Gift of William H. Although this horn functions as a “natural trumpet” and the length of its playing tube cannot be altered by telescoping slides or valves.LESSON 17 — musical instruments And a One. Four— Making Music Possibly Mende. Two. 244 . it could still produce many notes or pitches through the process of over-blowing. a term derived from the word elephant.329 Title Date Medium Dimensions Credit he chief’s trumpet was carved from elephant ivory and its shape is closely related to the animal’s tusk. Doane Accession No. Three. The chief’s trumpet was a status symbol and was used to announce the arrival of a chief or an important visitor. It has a square carved mouth opening with a group of three plain carved bands at its center point. Similar horns made of elephant ivory are sometimes decorated. T African trumpets differ from European ones in the placement of the mouthpieces: lateral for Africans (meaning the horn is placed to the side as when playing the flute) and apical for European ones (meaning the horn is placed in a forward position as when playing the trumpet). The chief’s trumpet is called an oliphant. The remaining surface of the horn is smooth. 1919. Many similar sideblown horns were made from the horns of east African antelopes.

1878 wood. Patterns of lines. 1914. Its size and height suggest that the musician would have played this instrument while standing. rattan.315 Title Date Medium he drum is wooden.musical instruments — LESSON 17 Group unidentified. triangles and diamonds have been burnt into the wood. T 245 . The drum surface is skin tightly bound with vegetable fiber and held still tighter with wooden pegs. incised decoration Dimensions 42 x 111⁄2" Credit Gift of William H. shaped at one end like two four-legged stools. Doane Accession No. Democratic Republic of the Congo Drum ca. one below the other. animal skin.

1551 Title Date Medium he zoomorphic handbell is carved from wood and has a handle that resembles the closed beaked bill of a bird figure. T ery similar to the zoomorphic handbell. there are three wooden clappers. Democratic Republic of the Congo Double Handbells 1875–85 wood. Inside the bell. cord.LESSON 17 — musical instruments Group unidentified. Gift by special subscription Accession No. Two intricately carved geometric patterns decorate the dome.1549 Title Date Medium Group unidentified. The double handbell would have been gripped at its center point and played by rotating or twisting the wrist. 1890. the double handbell is also carved from wood with a set of three wooden clappers. Democratic Republic of the Congo Zoomorphic Handbell 1875–85 wood. burnt and incised decoration Dimensions 7 x 11⁄2" Credit Museum Purchase: Steckelmann Collection. cord. 1890. burnt and incised decoration Dimensions 6 x 13⁄8" Credit Museum Purchase: Steckelmann Collection. V 246 . Gift by special subscription Accession No.

it was usually played alone or in small instrument groups. hollow body which helps the sound resonate. It has a wooden. Central Africa Harp (pluiarc) 19th century wood. Because of its rather soft sound production. reed. 247 . Attached to the soundboard is a curved wooden rod.330 Title Date Medium he harp is a five stringed wooden musical instrument similar to the guitar. fluted tips that allow the strings to be tied and stretched.musical instruments — LESSON 17 Group unidentified. white clay. Doane Accession No. known as a saddle. T This instrument might have been used to communicate the oral history of a people or family or simply to entertain. upon which the strings rest. incised decoration Dimensions 40 x 61⁄2 x 5" Credit Gift of William H. The tops of each rod have intricately carved. The strings were often made from fibers taken from creeping vines native to the area. The neck of the harp is made of five rods of varying lengths that create different pitches and are bound together by woven reeds. 1919. The soundboard is the flat wooden piece mounted to the front of the body responsible for making the vibrating sounds loud enough to hear.

There are lullabies. music is used to organize work activities. Everyone is encouraged to sing. weddings. music for initiation rites. Because music. In making a musical instrument. The artisans who make them use various materials to create pleasing and artistic pieces. drama and visual arts in community events and rituals. bringing the community together to complete tasks. the artist considers the role. inform. The Message of the Instrument African musical instruments are primarily valued for the sounds they produce but are also regarded as aesthetic objects. In the great African kingdoms. 248 . The ability of all individuals in the community to participate in musical events is crucial. Knowing who made the instrument and what they thought about it can also provide clues as to what the form means. The important stages of a person’s life are often marked by specific types of music. The instrument must be sized to suit the musician physically and he must decorate it with the appropriate symbolic imagery. Music is often combined with speech.LESSON 17 — musical instruments INSIDE THE CULTURE: behind THE MUSIC MAKERS The Life and Times of African Musicians Music plays a very important role in many African cultures. children’s game songs. function and context of the object. funerals and ceremonies for ancestors. The form and decoration of the instrument help communicate these messages. dance and theatre are integral aspects of belief systems in African cultures. Today. dance or simply clap along as part of the performance. Many African religions believe that deities and humans use sound to impose order on the universe. which developed from the 10th to the 20th century. It can be used to communicate. there is no separation between the sound that the instrument creates and the emotion that is felt as a result. professional musicians played a vital role as historians. The instrument’s appearance combines with its particular sound to create messages for the audience. entertain and celebrate. it is important for the instrument’s design and sound to match the intended symbolism. Traditionally.

design and decoration. Some people use them to talk to their gods. Some are used during dances that prepare soldiers for war. the lower the pitch. Leaders use wind instruments to let people know where they are and what is important to them. tusks or wood. 249 . ancestors and other people.musical instruments — LESSON 17 Making Music: African Instruments Horns Wind instruments are fashioned from animal horns. Horns have many different uses in Africa. Oliphants or ivory trumpets are made from elephant tusks. These messages are about politics. larger drums produce lower pitches. The sound occurs as a result of the vibrations caused by striking the membrane. among many other things. Drums Drums are rhythmic instruments consisting of two parts: a hollowed out end and tightly woven membranes or animal skins tied to the hollow end with leather strips. The sound of the drum carries one message. The sound helps them to be brave and strong like the elephant. poetry and dance. This vibration causes the air column inside the instrument to vibrate. The drummer must have knowledge of history and all it represents and must understand chanting. The African people use drums as communication devices allowing them to talk to their gods. religion and entertainment. The longer the column of air. the size of the instrument and the part of the instrument struck. The sounds produced depend on the material from which the membrane is made. Healers use them and hunters call animals with them. while others see them as the voices of their ancestors. allowing people to “talk” when they are far apart. These instruments produce sound when the player blows air through the opening of the horn causing his lips to vibrate against the mouthpiece. spirits. A musician can change the pitch of a wind instrument so that it mimics speech. but there are also messages in its size. They announce the arrival of a chief or other important visitors and are viewed as objects of prestige. and when blown they sound like an elephant trumpeting. For example.

LESSON 17 — musical instruments Strings String instruments are usually carved from wood and have strings that vibrate when plucked. thickness and tightness of a string also affect the pitch produced. The person playing the instrument often sings along as well. The patterns and colors used in the beadwork often have meaning. These instruments can also communicate with ancestors. necks or ankles. a harp might be used for songs that tell the history of a people. struck or rubbed with a bow. They can be played alone or in small groups. Bells are often carved from wood with clappers made of wooden rods suspended from the interior of the bell’s dome. There are many different kinds of instruments in this category with many different sounds and uses. The zoomorphic bell handles are carved to represent birds or other animals. Percussion This group of instruments is the largest in Africa. They are dried in the sun and covered with beads to create rattling sounds when the instrument is tapped or shaken. similarly a long string produces a low pitch. Clappers reflect traditional African ideas of the use of the body as a percussion instrument. They are gripped at the center point and played by rotating or twisting the wrist. 250 . These carved wooden clappers are used to reproduce the clapping of the hands for ritualistic. Or it might be used for poems or stories that are sung. The material. town or family. African musicians use string instruments to accompany songs that pass on information to those who are listening. Rattles can be made from gourds. A short string vibrates at a higher frequency and so it produces a high pitch. musicians place their fingers on different places along the string to vary the pitch. ceremonial or social purposes. For example. but they are usually not combined with other types of instruments. Dancers may wear rattles around their waists. They often are adorned with intricately carved geometric shapes. As they play.

Beyond the information offered in this lesson. The student creates a musical instrument designed to fit a need in his or her own life. Using the background information gained in step one. S • oliphant – generally made of ivory. the chief’s trumpet was used to announce the arrival of a dignitary.musical instruments — LESSON 17 Digging Deeper: The Cross-Curricular Experience tudents explore the significance of music within African societies. 2. Students study the photos of various African musical instruments that are included with this Curriculum Guide. Students study the various ways that instruments are used by societies. Various African musical instruments selected as a part of this lesson plan will be categorized according to instrument classification. A study of sound will enable them to look at those instruments with a new eye. Materials • • • • tuning forks cups of water for small groups Slinkies® for small groups recycled objects chosen by students for musical inventions Vocabulary List • music – a set of tones and rhythms combined in ways to produce an emotional response • sound – a form of energy that travels through matter as waves • vibrations – back and forth movements of matter that produce sound • timbre – the quality of a sound that separates one voice or instrument from another • pitch – the highness or lowness of a sound • amplitude – the loudness of sound waves 251 . focusing on the science of the sound produced by each. A culminating activity allows students to play a simple tune or rhythm upon their instrument. They will then focus upon the diverse roles that music plays within everyday life. For example. students may be encouraged to complete research using the Internet or reference materials in their library. students will conjecture as to what purpose these instruments served in their social settings. Music and Technology Activity 1. a horned instrument that draws its name from the elephant • zoomorphic – a term used to describe an object designed to suggest the form or attributes of an animal Estimated Time for Completion Eight to ten class periods Subject Areas Covered Science. to call others in the society to receive this person as someone of importance and to reflect the social status of the chief as owner of the horn. Students examine the intrinsic significance of music within African societies reflected in the many uses of musical instruments in African cultures. Visual Arts.

Students study the various classifications of classical musical instruments. Explain that sound moves through air or water in patterns similar to the waves created by the Slinkies®. Challenge them to see how many different kinds of waves they can make with the Slinkies®. For example. 5. Students will list them for future reference. such as wind. students discuss and list a variety of circumstances where a musical instrument could serve a particular need or provide a significant service. For example. Investigate how sounds are produced on instruments in each of the instrument families. 6. Introduce the concepts of vibration and sound waves as the means by which all these instruments produce sound. Have students discuss the qualities of each instrument family’s sound. By experimenting with tuning forks students will see that sound produces vibrations and waves. percussion and brass. Students continue to investigate the properties of sound and learn how sound is produced by musical instruments. construct and modify it and play a simple tune. They can see the waves by putting a vibrating tuning fork very close to water in a cup.LESSON 17 — musical instruments 3. Using the Internet (sites listed in the Bibliography) or their science books. Students visit The Soundry interactive website http://library. 9. Students can feel the vibrations by gently touching the fork while it is producing sound. The water will splash due to the sound waves. 8. A stringed instrument would not be a viable choice due to its subtle sound. 252 .thinkquest. 4. Have students divide into pairs and hold a Slinky® between each other. The students will now take the list generated in step eight and match each need to a specific instrumental classification. the football team’s need could be met by creating an instrument capable of producing a sound with a high pitch and great to create and manipulate their own sound waves and to learn basic properties of sound. the school football team needs to rally the support of its fans and to generate spirit among its players or a student may see that a teacher needs an instrument to call students in from lunch recess. 7. Students can learn about waves by experimenting with a Slinky®. each student will gather enough knowledge as to the scientific principles of sound to enable her/him to design a simple musical instrument. Working in small groups. string.

il. It is a ceremonial object that reflects its owner or the significance of its social setting. With this in mind. taking note of the visual and sculptural level of adornment found on each example.op97.musical instruments — LESSON 17 10. 16. the students are asked to modify and adorn their instruments to be reflective of their owners and the significance of their uses in a specific social setting. Submit the classes’ musical inventions to the Virtual Museum of Musical Inventions website. Students return to the examples of African musical instruments. 11. 15.op97. Students create the instruments using recycled or scrap material found at home or at school and check their sound production and effectiveness.html Be sure you have permission from parents before you post photos of students on any longfellow/lrexford/base/page2. Submission directions can be found at http://www. 12. 14.k12. Students visit the Virtual Museum of Musical Inventions website http://www. The students are reminded that in African societies the instrument is more than a simple sound producing tool. This will help them develop ideas about how to create their own musical inventions. Each student designs an instrument that meets a specific societal need and reflects an understanding of the scientific principles of longfellow/lrexford/base/ to see musical inventions created by other students. A discussion could then be held within the class conjecturing as to the purpose of each tune or rhythm. The students can also work together to form an orchestra. Have students write a paragraph about their instruments and use a digital camera or a regular camera to take a photo of each student with his or her instrument. 253 . modifying them if needed. As a culminating activity students explain how their instruments produce sound and play simple tunes or rhythms using the instruments they have created.

LESSON 17 — musical instruments assessment NAME _______________________________________________________DATE____________ MUSICAL INSTRUMENT ________________________________________________________ SKILL IMPROVEMENT NEEDED 1 Comments: COMPETENT 2 FLUENT 3 • The student communicates an understanding of the significance of musical instruments used in African society. • The musical performance reflects an alignment between the stated purpose and the sound produced. • The creation of the instrument reflects a correlation between the purpose and the design of the instrument. • The student communicates an understanding of the scientific principles of sound production. Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: Comments: 254 . • The representation of the setting and the owner is reflected in the adornment of the musical instrument. • The creation of the instrument reflects an understanding of the scientific principles of sound production.

Kinesthetic movements can be developed to enhance the rhythm of the musical sounds created by the instruments. have students interpret the works of art using music. For example. times. Have a selection of CDs or taped music available and possibly a few borrowed percussion instruments from the music department. Dance Within the African culture no one is considered to be simply an observer of a musical performance. Have each group perform their interpretation ending in a tableau to represent visually the work of art for the class. Working in small groups and given only five to eight minutes for rehearsal. allowing the listeners to become part of the rhythms and producers of sound. fully engaged in the production of the music.musical instruments — LESSON 17 Curriculum Connections and Extensions Science and Social Studies Students examine animal rights and conservation issues in relation to the production of musical instruments. allowing the students to be as whimsical or realistic as they desire. subject matter and cultures. the chief’s trumpet is made from the tusks of an elephant. Language Arts A story could be developed around a societal setting that generates the need for musical instruments. The story could be fiction or nonfiction. visual arts and music Select a variety of works of art styles. Everyone is expected to be a participant. 255 . Encourage the students to include movement or dance as part of the musical interpretation to enhance this performance.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin.fatlion.LESSON 17 — musical instruments bibliography Print Resources Bassani.html Explore Africa’s Music http://www. 2000. Sound Experiments.htm The Soundry shell. Discovery Works.k12. click on “exhibitions” then click on “Music for the Eyes: The Fine Art of African Musical Instruments”) Music of Africa African Culture Massachusetts: Prentice Hall. Chicago: Children’s Ezio and William Needham. New York: Neues mic/music/default.html Homemade Musical Instruments http://www.k12.cfm/ music_education/5804 Virtual Museum of Musical Inventions http://www.lacma. 1999. Science Explorer: Sound and Light.virginia. Electronic Resources African Musical Instruments Representing Art and Life http://cti. instrum.thinkquest. Fagg. Ray. Jay M. 1983. ongfellow/lrexford/base/ How Musical Instruments Make Sound Sound and Noise Fatlion Kidscience http://www.htm 256 (after entering the site. Brocket.html Music for the Eyes The Los Angeles County Museum of Art http://www.itc.arthur. Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory.suite101.