The Art of Musical Instruments

Continuing their study of Art Around the World, 2-4 team students are learning about musical instruments of South America, most notably zampoñas and rainsticks.

The earliest music of South America mimics sounds of nature including wind, rain, thunder, birds, insects, and more. Early instruments were made from materials found in nature — items like reeds, seeds, dried gourds, pebbles, and bamboo. Mrs. Hoffman’s students made their zampoñas and rainsticks using drinking straws, papertowel tubes, and other materials.


Zampoñas consist of a series of hollow pipes made from reeds found near lakes in the Andes Mountains which are among the world’s highest mountain ranges. The reeds are cut to different lengths and bound together from longest to shortest. Zampoñas are played by blowing over the tops of the reeds, just as you would blow over the top of a soda pop bottle. It is said the early performers would “steal” their music from nature by allowing the wind to blow over the top of their instruments and listen to the resulting melody.

Rainsticks are thought to have originated in Chile, a country that occupies a long narrow strip of land between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Northern Chile if home to the world’s driest desert; the rainstick was often used in desert ceremonies performed to bring rain to the region. Rainsticks were made from long, hollow cactus tubes dried in the sun. Then the spikes were removed and driven back into the cactus like nails. Small pebbles were then placed inside the tubes and the ends sealed. When the rainstick is turned it makes a sound like falling rain.







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