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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.