Junk Musical Instruments

Build your very own orchestra with the contents of your recycling bin


Junk musical instruments are a great way to use up old left over packaging – and. create your own band.

Junk Musical Instruments

We all need to reduce the amount of plastic and other packaging waste we create. But when we are left with left over plastic, cardboard or other materials it’s great to re-use them as other things, before they get recycled.

Here are some ideas for making musical instruments out of your old rubbish and recycling. See what sort of materials you have and then explore these ideas to work out what you could make. Follow the instructions for a specific instrument, or come up with a new musical invention of your own!


For the drum: an empty tin can, a balloon, scissors.

For the drum sticks: two barbecue skewers, a cork, a sharp knife, glue.

Your tin can is going to be the main part of the drum – you might want to decorate it with coloured paper, string or wool.  Once it is decorated cut the very end off of your ballon and then stretch it over the top of the can (if it won’t stretch far enough, cut a bit more of it off to reach a wider point).

You can use anything to be drum sticks – different materials will make different sounds, so have some fun experimenting! You can try using your fingers, a couple of teaspoons, anything else you have that is about the right size. But, if you want to make some then carefully cut your cork in half with a sharp knife (or ask an adult to help you with this), make a hole in each half of the cork, put some glue in the holes and then push the skewers in and leave to dry.

Bigger and smaller tins will make different sounds – as will thinner or thicker cans and thinner or thicker balloons so you could experiment to make a range of drums to play together.


Cardboard box, rubber bands (ideally of different widths).

To make a homemade guitar, you can just stretch several large elastic bands around a cardboard box. A tissue box works well as it already has a hole in the centre, or you can cut a hole in another box. Elastic bands of different widths will make different sounds, so try and have a selection so each ‘string’ makes a different note.


Card board, bottle tops, glue, colouring pens or pencils (optional)

Cut some strips of cardboard the same width as your bottle tops and the length of the distance between your thumb and forefinger when you stretch out your hand.  Decorate one side of the cardboard if you would like to. Glue the bottle tops to each end of the undecorated side. Then fold the card in half so that the bottle tops meet and clack together.

Some more ambitious projects:

If you enjoyed making these instruments, here are some links to more advanced ones – which may need some more specialist equipment to make as well as the contents of your recycling bin.

A Panpipe flute using plastic piping.

A Mbira (or ‘thumb piano’) using hair pins and lolly sticks.

A Trombone using water pipe and a funnel.

A French horn using garden hose and a funnel.

Take it further:

  1. Have a think about what we can  all do to save energy. What things could you do differently in your life?
  2. What other creative things can we make out of waste objects?
  3. Can you now write a song about reusing and recycling? Try to play a musical accompaniment to it with your newly made instruments.


If you have younger children or want some simpler ideas, check out make some noise or water orchestra

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