Make a Candy Box Guitar

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Finished guitarSounds are made when an object vibrates or moves back and forth. The vibration creates waves that travel through the air where it's picked up by your ears and interpreted as sound. It's fun to make sounds using musical instruments. Depending on the type of instrument you're playing, sounds can be created by blowing, striking, plucking, or playing with a bow.

You may be familiar with instruments that people play in a band or orchestra, but it's possible to make music with common items that you find around the house. One of the best places to look for such things is the kitchen. Egg beaters, wooden spoons, silverware, pots and pans, and metal lids are all possibilities.

While it may be interesting to experiment with items like these, wouldn't it be fun to make sounds with a musical instrument that you create yourself? In this activity, we'll reuse some common items to make a candy box guitar. Reusing things in this way will help to save natural resources and landfill space..

You Will Need:

  • Candy box
  • Rubber bands
  • Chopsticks
  • Corner Molding
  • White glue
  • Acrylic paint
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Hot glue gun
  • Paint pan
  • Paint brushes
  • Newspapers
  • Wax paper
  • White glue
  • Gesso
  • Saw
  • Pencil
Candy Box

How to:

 Have an adult cut a three-inch square opening near one end on the box lid. Working on the wax paper, paint the lid's top and sides with gesso, a primer that will help give the box a better painting surface and cover any lettering or designs.

Paint the box's bottom or underside with gesso. Give the lid and bottom one or two more, thin coats of the primer, allowing each to dry in between applications.

When the gesso has dried, fasten the two pieces together by applying white glue to the sides of the box's bottom. If necessary, use rubber bands to hold the pieces together till they dry.
primer on box
   Frets and Bridge  
The small bars of metal, which are located across the fingerboard of a guitar, are called frets. In order to produce various notes as the instrument is played, a musician presses the strings at these metal bars.

In making the frets on our candy box guitar, we'll substitute pieces of chopsticks for the metal. Cut five 2¾" sections from the sticks. The bridge on a musical instrument serves to raise the strings, and we'll use a ½" x 3¾" piece of corner molding for this purpose.
layout for frets
  Painting and Assembly  
Directions for one color:

If you make the frets and bridge the same color as the box, it will be easier to paint the instrument, You'll just glue the frets and bridge, as directed, and paint everything one color.

Have an adult use a hot glue gun to fasten one fret at the top edge or the end opposite the opening. Space the others evenly apart between the top fret and the hole. Glue the bridge just below the bottom of the hole. Paint the guitar a medium to dark color.
 

Directions for contrasting colors:

If you make the frets and bridge a color that is different than the guitar itself, paint the wood before you glue it to the box, but leave the wood surface that's to be glued unpainted. This will assure better contact. Paint the guitar a medium to dark color, and when the paint is dry, have an adult glue the frets and bridge into place.

To decorate the guitar in the dot painting style shown, just dip the end of a short dowel rod or small section of a chopstick into paint and apply to the surface.

painting two colors
  Stringing the Guitar  

The thickness of the rubber bands will determine the pitch or how high or low the sound is when the strings are plucked. Thin bands will make high sounds, while thick bands will produce low ones. Choose four different rubber bands. Arranging them from thickest to thinnest, slide them around the box, making sure that they pass over the hole.

Now it's time to make some music! Pluck and strum the rubber bands to play the guitar. Experiment with different sounds by holding down the strings (rubber bands) at the frets as you play. After you've practiced for awhile, gather an audience, and put on a show!

side view of fret clearance

Tips and Tricks:

 
  • If you don't have a candy box available, use a shoebox.
  • Rather than using gesso, prime the box with a light color of latex house paint.
  • Foil-covered candy boxes will be hard to paint. Cover them with paper instead.
  • Learn more about sound at The Sound Site, which is sponsored by the Science Museum of Minnesota.
  • The following are some terrific kids' sites where you can learn about music and how to make more instruments: Phil Tulga and Bash the Trash.

© 2008 Marilyn J. Brackney

Volume 17 No. 3

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