Musical Instruments WebQuest

A WebQuest for Grade 6 Music

Designed by Warren Dobson

Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Assessment | Conclusion  | Credits | Teacher Page




Did you ever wonder how musical instruments were invented ?

A drum doesn’t seem like it would take much imagination - but, what about a violin?

Do you think you know enough about how sounds are produced to become a musical inventor? Top




You are a member of a famous musical group and your CD sales have been slipping lately. The group's manager says you need a fresh new sound.

Design and build a new musical instrument for your group. You can build an original design, or try to improve an existing instrument.

Bring it to school and demonstrate it for your classmates. Top



Part I: Group Dynamics

Take stock of your group - if you don't already know them - take time to find out what strengths each team member has.

Using what you know about each other, determine who should take on these roles...

Peacemaker - helps to keep everyone focused on the task; resolves conflicts fairly.

Senior Researcher - good at finding information and explaining it to others.

Lead Designer - has a good imagination; can draw and paint well.

Chief Engineer - "hands-on" type - knows a lot about how things work; likes to build things and fix things.

Anchorperson - calm and dependable; has a clear voice; able to deliver most of the oral presentation.

Depending on how many are in your group, you may have to do more than one job... or you may have to share your job with someone else on your team.

Part II: Research                    

Work with your group to refresh your memory about sound. Make sure you can answer these questions:

1) What is sound?                                 

2) How can you make sound louder or softer (volume)?

3) How can you make sound higher or lower (pitch)?

4) What makes a sound distinct (timbre)? In other words, why doesn’t a trumpet sound like a ukulele – even when they play the same note?


Next, find out about different musical instruments. Be able to answer these questions and give examples of each:

1) What is an aerophone?   

2) What is a chordophone?   

3) What is an idiophone?      

4) What is a membranophone


Part III: Design

Follow these steps to design and build your instrument:

1)      State the problem as a question. For example, your parents may give you a box of junk and tell you that you can use anything in it to make your instrument. Your question might be… what kind of instrument can I make using these materials?

2)      Design solutions and make a plan. Brainstorm some ideas; choose the best one. What materials will you need? What will it look like?

3) Submit your (one-page) plan for teacher approval before going on to the next step. Include this information:

  • Name of group?

  • Name of instrument?

  • Type of Instrument?

  • How will it be played?

  • What kind of sounds will it make?

  • How will you change pitch and/or volume?

  • Sketch of instrument?

  • Materials and Tools needed?

4)      Build a product. Get help, if needed, and get permission from parents - especially if you are using tools. Always work safely.

5)      Test and evaluate the product. Does it do what you want it to do? Make any necessary changes. Finish (decorate) your instrument.

6)      Share what you have learned. Bring your musical instrument to class on or before the due date. Be ready to make some music with it, and answer questions about it. Top



  RhythmWeb Homemade Instruments

  New York Philharmonic Instruments Lab

  Virtual Museum of Music Inventions

  Oddmusic Gallery

  One Man's Garbage is Another Man's Gold.

  How Guitars Work

  The Speed of Sound

  The Sound Barrier - you have to see this! (maximize window if you don't see the photo) Top



Your assessment will be based on your one-page plan (20%), your finished instrument (50%), and the oral presentation (30%) you will make to the class. Here are some questions to help you think of interesting things to tell your classmates:

1. Which instrument did you choose to make and why?

2. What materials did you use? Were they good or bad choices?

3. What tools and equipment did you use? Say how they helped you with your work.

4. Did you have any problems during the making of your instrument? If so, how did you solve these problems, did you need any help?

5. Did you make any changes or improvements to your instrument as you went along?

6. Is your finished instrument different from your plan and sketch? Explain how it is different.

7. If you were to make your instrument again is there anything you would change or improve?

8. Which parts of the instrument project have you enjoyed the most and why?


All students in your group will receive the same mark, based on these three products of your efforts.










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 you finish this project you 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, you could become the world's next Antonio Stradivari.

Science and the Stradivarius

Stradivarius Violins

Secrets of Stradivarius         Top



Images from Microsoft Clips Online used with permission. 

Questions to guide oral presentation from Musical Instruments Technology Project.

Background image courtesy of Absolute Background Texture Archive.


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

Visit Teacher Page Visit U for Ukulele.  Top