Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Make a Joyful Noise Outside With a Wooden Xylophone!

The Curriculum team at The Children's Center of Austin is always looking for ways to keep the students active and engage all the time. We consider our playgrounds and fields as an extension of our classroom. On occasion, we find that our students looking for other activities which make sound or noise. We found a really great "how to" for an xylophone to add to our playground!

If you choose to build your backyard xylophone, here's a list of what you will need. 

  • Three 2x4x8 dried kiln (steer clear of pre-treated wood, it's bad for young children)
  • 15 feet of rope
  • One wooden dowel 
  • heavy duty stapler and staples (upholstery stapler will do the job)

Measure, cut, and sand your xylophone wooden bars.  Start by cutting the 2x4x8 pieces into 9 wooden bars.  Cut as follows: 36", 34", and 26". It's helpful to keep these 3 sets of cuts together. The next set of cuts are as follows: 30", 24", 22", and 20".  You last set of cuts are 28" and 32".  We used a belt sander to smoother the corners and the wood. 

Measuring, cutting, and sanding take up the most time. Assembly is a breeze! Measure and mark the center of each wooden bar. Start with the 20" bar and then measure out 2" from the center making a mark for which the rope will be stapled. The 22" should be measured 3" from the center, and continue adding 1: from the center to the next larger bar.  Find the middle of the rope and leave about 1' of slack to tie the xylophone off.  Start stapling the rope at the marks on the first "note" and leave 1 1/2" of space between notes as you staple.  (why 1 1/2"?  because that's what the scrap wood is).  Making certain the centers are kept in line.  Don't cut the ends at the long side, as they will be used for tying up the xylophone too.

When you hang it, the angle and enough slack on the rope of the xylophone will have an impact on sound so play around with it to get the best sound from yours. Sand the dowels and used them as mallets. You could even use traditional marimba mallets if you wanted to. Marimba mallets can be purchased at a music instrument store. Make joyful noise and enjoy!

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