Welcome to WEEK 2 of "Montessori Music Week(s)" here at What DID We Do All Day? !
In Friday's post, Rhythm Instruments NOT to Buy, I posted about rhythm band instruments for home or classroom. I talked about kits, such as the one in the picture above (example set from Cascio) that run between $90-140. One of my readers (thanks Mel!) let me know about a Hohner 6 Piece Rhythm Instrument Set that is available on Amazon for about $30 which, if you have your heart set on those types of instruments, is a really good price and a good-sized set for home use. I'm just not that excited about what's in it. Many other sets are 15-piece sets (read: filled in with extra rhythms sticks and many ways to jingle). However, if you read my post on Friday, you know that I think that the instruments included in these kits are generally not fun or sturdy choices.
Today I would like to show you what I chose to put on our music shelf in our home classroom for two children. My own kids have a "10-piece" set if you like to look at it that way. If you are trying to outfit a larger classroom I would recommend that you double or triple the set accordingly. I would also recommend outfitting the whole class with rhythm sticks which, at about $1.30 a pair, are very economical.
My mixed bag of life experiences includes several years in charge of purchasing and using these types of instruments with large groups of adults and children. The recommendations I am making are for specific brands and instruments that I really liked, the children really liked, and that I found both economical and superior to other choices.
Here is some photos of our rhythm instrument basket:
Hmmm...the professional photographer at the instrument company managed to photograph the tiny instruments in their kits so that they look huge. I've managed to photograph my large instruments so that they look small :(
I thought it might be nice if there was one concise description in one place in this post that lists what it contains: One great tambourine, two-pair of rhythm sticks, one pair of 7" cymbals, one excellent guiro, two inexpensive but great triangles, and a couple pair of maracas. I also recommend buying a good drum. We have two on loan from friends. Based on the specific instruments I will recommend, not counting the drum, you can outfit yourself with a similar collection for about $35...WITH the drum, $65. That is a lot better than the $90 set pictured at the top of this post and you'll have great instruments that kids and adults will love.
The most expensive parts of a kit like this (not including the drum) are the tambourine and the cymbals. There seems to be an unwritten rule that states "tambourines must cost a minimum of $20." The tambourine the boys use is identical one I used in the classroom for years and was superior to all of the other 20 tambourines I had. I splurged on it ($18) because of the combination of great sound and fun shape:
However, I also strongly recommend this tambourine:
I've used it, it sounds great, and it is a steal at only $10.
I think cymbals may be so expensive because they are brass. Kids like BIG cymbals. 7" are a good size for the classroom. My favorite economical choice are this pair by Rhythm Band.
Trophy Rhythm Sticks $1.29
There are some variations on these: smooth or fluted, color, and length. I like each pair to have one smooth and one fluted so the child can run the smooth stick along the fluted to represent longer notes. I think the 8" and 10" sticks feel too short (although they may be good for very young children) but think the 12" and 14" feel great. As I said before, I recommend getting enough of these for everybody. They are fun when everyone has them, but not as fun when the kid next to you has the cymbals.
For children, one usually finds the highly-breakable handled guiros like I talked about on Friday. Otherwise, another common one is a big wooden fish (my students broke three of those over the years). You can find some really cute ones shaped like frogs, grasshoppers or turtles starting at about $10 (price increases as size increases, the small ones are always smaller than you think they will be. Oh, and F.Y.I., the grasshopper gets the best sound). The benefit of those is that they can work double duty along with some continent work.
I thought I was going to get the boys a large grasshopper until I found this guiro:
I LOVE this guiro! In my experience, this is a very unusual guiro. It is made of sturdy plastic and shaped like the traditional fish guiros. It has indentations on the bottom to encourage children to hold it properly. At 8", it is a great size. Unlike most guiros this size, it has three different ribbed sections each in a different size and spacing of ribs. You can get a LOT of different sounds on this thing. AND, it has an area where it can be hit rather than scraped so it can double as a wood block (now you can cross "wood block" off your list). I also like that the mallet/scrapper is a little bit flexible which will prevent breakage somewhat (thin, rigid scrapers can be very brittle).
You can pick up a triangle just about anywhere. It is hard to mess up a triangle. My favorite ones have a round ball hanger like in the picture. I picked up triangles for the boys for $2 each at the craft store, they sound great, and they even came with extra ball holders. If you lose your holders, you can order new ones online, or just use a rubber band or loop of yarn. Our $2 triangles are six-inch triangles. As with all things, I find that if given a choice of different-sized children will always choose the very biggest one they can find.
Rhythm Band Musical Steel Triangle (I paid $2)
If you insist on some kind of "jingle bell" instrument (I admit, they CAN be fun around Christmas), I like the jingle "cluster" version the best.
The wrist loops are cheaper than the cluster bells. If you are choosing a wrist loop, get the nylon rather than the plastic because the plastic gets brittle and breaks. None of the wrist loops are adjustable, even though you would think they would be.
We have a few choices of maracas at our house. One is a large wooden handmade pair that are a souvenir from a trip that a family member took. They work really well. We also have a couple of small plastic pair that I found for $1 a pair cheaply at a craft store. Whenever I'm in a craft or toy store I try the various sets of maracas. 99% of the time they are duds, but every once in a while you'll find a THICK plastic pair (watch out for cheap, separating seams) that has a good sound. It is a little more expensive to set out to buy a pair on purpose. But, if you do, these maracas by Nino are really durable and have a great quality, loud sound:
The egg shaker version is just as good (although kids seem to feel more grown up and authentic with a handled pair), and more economical for a crowd because you get 4 pieces altogether:
The Remo fruit or vegetable shakes are great also, but more expensive. They look super realistic (like food) are durable, and have great sounds. They are usually sold online in big sets, but you can usually find individuals for sale at a music store. You can buy an individual online, but they are often $10 apiece that way.
That covers everything that I chose for our basket! There is one item that is not pictured because it was backordered and I'm still waiting. I wouldn't consider it a "staple" but I wanted us to give it a try. It is a pair of claves:
Toca Claves, $7
I've used claves successfully in upper elementary, but haven't tried them in lower. I'll let you know how it goes.
There is one item that is on my wishlist for the future (I don't need everything right away!), just in case you are curious...a mini afuche/cabasa. They are easy for kids to play, particularly in this smaller size.
Mini afuche/cabasa, $18
I know I didn't get into the interesting topic of good drums. This post was getting too long as it was. I have written a separate post about drums and will try to get that up soon!
If you are looking for the rest of my series on Montessori Music, there is a tab at the top of my blog under the header, or they can be found here!
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