In my post last week, I talked about all the things you can buy for the music classroom from non-music stores. But what if you don’t have a lot of instruments and only a little bit of money to spend? Obviously you would love to add to the classroom instruments available. Here, I’ve got my three must have inexpensive instruments for music class.
If you are teaching in a school that doesn’t have a lot, or nothing, or you are starting a program from scratch, these are the three things that gave me a lot of bang for my buck. When I travelled between 4 schools which had varying levels of materials, and didn’t have budgets for new things, these were not only available in almost all of the schools (2/4 had a few Orff instruments instead of #3 on the list), and all 4 had these available (although one school bought #1 the fall of my first year there.)
Full disclosure: some affiliate links. Doesn’t change your price and I get a small kickback if you purchase. Of course, they are also available at every Elementary Music Teacher’s favorite store, West Music.
1. Egg Shakers
These are seemingly simple but they can have a lot of uses. First, they are super sturdy for younger students and as long as you have some halfway decent ones, can withstand some bangs and bashes. They are easy to wipe clean, and easy for even young students to hold. They are great for beat keeping, and are perfect for students to hold and tap the beat on their leg. Tapping on themselves help them really feel that beat and internalize it. They are great for passing the beat between students. They also work really well with young students to prepare loud and quiet. These egg shakers lasted for the full 8 years I was at my last school completely unscathed with frequent use including preschool classes.
2. Rhythm Sticks
Rhythm sticks are SIMPLE easy. If you had nothing and NO budget, I bet you can get a parent or the local community to donate wooden dowels. Cut them down, sand them, paint them or cover the ends in some sort of electrical tape or a cute duct tape, and you’ve got rhythm sticks. These are great for passing games like Al Citron, or stick games like Sarasponda.
Then of course you can use them and create amazing dances and movement material like Franklin Willis has been doing. IYKYK. If you don’t know, PLEASE go check out his work. Brilliant. He’s even authored a book called “Edward’s Rhythm Sticks”. Also, take a peek at his Instagram so you can see a lot of this in action.
These rhythm sticks are $4.29 for 1 pair and include a smooth and ridged stick so they are perfect for adding in that guiro sound as well. If that is outside your price range, this set has 24 sticks for $18.99
Boomwhackers are a student favorite. There is something about those big plastic tubes that you are encouraged to hit (of course, provided they can be controlled). Here’s the benefit: they are great for melodic work. You can use them in place of Orff instruments to play a bordun or an ostinato. They are great for color composing, and for composing short pieces with melody. This could definitely be a fun way of “play what you hear” and let students take turn using the boomwhackers instead of singing back what they heard the teacher or a partner sing. There are also all those fun play alongs online!
This set comes with the octave caps which lowers the pitch on the boomwhackers by an octave. This one is a little cheaper and does not have the octave caps. While these are a little more money than egg shakers and rhythm sticks, they are a lot less expensive than even one Orff instrument so you may be able to get more for student use. There are also chromatic sets, bass chromatic sets, pentatonic only sets, and a full two octaves with and without chromatics. If you are really looking for a xylophone type set up, they even have a set that is set up like one for you.
Why These Instruments?
These instruments have a few things in common:
- Sturdy (provided you teach them not to lean on the boomwhackers)
- Easy to clean
- Multiple uses
- 2/3 can be easily replicated by students for home use
- Friendly for both your younger students as well as older elementary.
- Easy to store. If you are on a cart, in a shared space, or in a really small space, these can be easily stored, locked up, and hidden.
- Satisfying for the students. There’s a little bit of a cathartic release when you get to shake something really hard or smack something with a little bit of force.
I hope that this has given you some ideas if you are looking to add some instruments to your classroom or spend a little left over budget.