Musical Instruments WebQuest

A WebQuest for Grade 6 Music

Designed by Warren Dobson

Introduction | Learners | Outcomes | Process | Resources | Assessment | Conclusion | Credits | Student Page



In this small group activity, students use the World Wide Web to discover the properties of musical sound. Each team uses this knowledge to design and build an original musical instrument to share with the class. Top


The Musical Instruments WebQuest targets grade 6 music curriculum but also features strong elements of science skills. It could be adapted to suit other grade or ability levels by giving more guidance to students with emerging skills and expecting more, in terms of results, from students whose skills are more secure.  Top

Curriculum Outcomes

Music Outcomes

Recognize by sight and sound, and categorize by family, musical instruments of various cultures.

Understand that changing technologies produce new opportunities for musical expression.

Identify and describe connections between music and other curricular areas.

Experiment with styles, techniques and instruments from a variety of cultural and historical contexts in creating, making, and presenting music.

Express and communicate feelings through music and written and spoken language.


Cross-curricular Outcomes

The Musical Instruments WebQuest provides activities in cross-curricular content so that students have opportunities to learn through music.

For example, three components of scientific literacy are addressed: Inquiry, Problem-solving and Decision making.

General thinking and communication skills encouraged by this lesson include: Inference-making, Critical thinking, Creative production, Observation and categorization, Comparison, Teamwork, and Compromise. Top


Part I: Group Dynamics

In this part of the process, learners are assigned to groups of 3-5 students. Some groups may need teacher assistance in assessing individual strengths and assuming roles that are necessary to complete the process. Depending on how many are in the group, some students may take on more than one role... or they may wish to share roles with someone else on their team.

Part II: Research                                         

Students should work at computers cooperatively with minimal supervision during Part II. The group uses the links provided on the student page to answer questions and discover properties of musical sound. They will need to understand these concepts to be able to complete part III.

Part III: Design

Groups will use a 6-step process to design and build an original musical instrument. Designing and building the instrument will normally take place at home. Students submit plans, including a sketch, for teacher approval prior to construction.

Depending on class size, Internet access speed, and the number of computers available, the amount of time to complete the process can vary. Students with Internet access at home may be able to do the research outside of class time. Three to four weeks is usually a reasonable period in which to complete the activities.  Top

Resources Needed

Computer(s) with Internet access.

Browser software (Internet Explorer, Netscape)

Examples of musical instruments from each of the four categories.

Reference materials (print).

Hopkin, B. (1996) Musical instrument design: Practical information for instrument making. See Sharp Press. ISBN: 1884365086.

Hopkin, B. (1995)Making simple musical instruments: A melodious collection of strings, winds, drums & more. Lark Books. ISBN: 0937274801.

Mason, B., (1974) How to make drums, tom toms, and rattles: Primitive percussion instruments for modern use. Peter Smith Pub. ISBN: 0486218899.

Turner, J. & Schiff, R. (January 1997). Let's make music: An interactive musical trip around the world. Hal Leonard, book and cassette edition. ISBN: 0793540569.

Online resources.

  RhythmWeb Homemade Instruments - a treasure trove of ideas and information.

  New York Philharmonic Instruments Lab - an interactive kids site that includes activities and tips for musical instrument inventors.

  Virtual Museum of Music Inventions - a picture is worth a thousand words in this gallery of instruments invented by kids.

  Oddmusic Gallery - great collection of invented instruments, many with sound clips.

  One Man's Garbage is Another Man's Gold - an article from Drum Journal with more ideas and great pictures.

  How Guitars Work - the name says it all.

  The Speed of Sound - a ThinkQuest page describing the speed of sound and the Doppler Effect.

  The Sound Barrier - amazing photo and video clip of a jet breaking the sound barrier! (maximize window if you can't see the photo) Top


You can base your assessment on each group's one-page plan (20%), finished instrument (50%), and oral presentation (30%). All the students in a group should receive the same mark, based on these three products of their effort.










One-page Plan


Information incomplete - sketch not included -unrealistic or indefinite plan. Information  mostly complete - sketch  included -  impractical or indefinite plan. Information  complete - clear sketch -  practical and workable plan. Information is detailed - excellent sketch - shows creativity and careful planning. 20%

Instrument Design and Construction


Does not produce any noticeable sound - construction incomplete - no decorative elements. Sound is indistinct - cannot change volume or pitch - seems hastily constructed. Produces a clear sound - able to change pitch and/or volume - shows careful construction. Clear, distinct sound - able to change pitch and/or volume - quality original product 50%

Oral Presentation


Voice indistinct or inaudible - with prompting, unable to answer questions about instrument - confuses terms: pitch and volume Voice indistinct or inaudible - with prompting, able to answer questions about instrument - confuses terms: pitch and volume Voice mainly clear - without prompting, able to answer questions about instrument - uses terms: pitch and volume correctly Voice clear and confident - answers questions without prompting - uses terms correctly - informative and entertaining. 30%




By the time your students finish this project they should understand the properties of musical sound, (volume, pitch, timbre) and appreciate how the design of a musical instrument can affect its sound and playability. Perhaps, one of them could become the world's next Antonio Stradivari.

Science and the Stradivarius

Stradivarius Violins

Secrets of Stradivarius Top

Credits & References

Images from Microsoft Clips Online used with permission. 

Questions to guide oral presentation from Musical Instruments Technology Project.

Music Outcomes from Music Primary-6 Curriculum (2002) Nova Scotia Department of Education. English Program Services.

Background image courtesy of Absolute Background Texture Archive.

Thanks to Bernie Dodge for inspiration.

We all benefit by being generous with our work. Permission is hereby granted for other educators to copy this WebQuest, update or otherwise modify it, and post it elsewhere provided that the original author's name is retained along with a link back to the original URL of this WebQuest. On the line after the original author's name, you may add Modified by (your name) on (date). If you do modify it, please let me know and provide the new URL.


Last updated on (March 8, 2004). Based on Training Materials from The WebQuest Page.

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