The rasp (a notched stick) is used by many Native American tribes.  By notching sticks in different ways, tribes can vary the sounds and create new sounds to accompany their dances and ceremonies.

The Sioux were able to create an angry bear sound used in the Bear Dance, by rubbing a short heavy rasp with another stick.  This was done over a metal sheet covering a hole in the ground.  Using this sounding chamber, they created a growl representing the angry spirit of a charging bear.

Quick and Easy Rasp:

Use a piece of corrugated cardboard carton and a pencil or small stick.

More Traditional Rasp:


To Make:

To Play:  Rub 8" dowel along the notched dowel.



There are four major types of drums--the small hand drum (which could be carried into battle), the large drum (usually made from a hollowed log), the water drum used by the Apache, and the basket drum used by the Southwestern tribes.

The drum heads are usually made from hides.  The drums are decorated with painted symbols and designs having religious or protective meanings.  The Native American never plays the hide drums by tapping with his hands--this is an African method.  A drumstick is always used.

Quick and Easy Drums:

  1. Coffee cans with plastic lids are instant drum material.  First remove metal bottom for better sound.  Cover with construction paper.  Add Native American symbols and designs.
  2. Oatmeal boxes or salt boxes make a different shaped version and can be made in an instant.

                  Paper ice cream containers provide other sizes for these instant drums.

  1. Pottery jars, flower pots, and metal buckets also make excellent drums.  Tie on a head of light 100% cotton canvas.  Dampen the fabric to shrink, which gives a drum-like sound.

                  These drums should be struck with beaters.  A wooded kitchen spoon with painted Native American designs would work well.

  1. For a basket drum, use any size woven basket.  Turn it over.  This can be struck by hand or with pine needles to make a whisk-like sound.

Paper and Cloth Drumheads:


To Make:



Rattles were very important to the Native Americans and they used many different types of rattles.  Medicine men shook special rattles in ceremonies and healing rituals.  Rattles were used as musical instruments during dances and as background to singers.  A birchbark rattle accompanied the mournful chant of a Northwest tribal funeral.  The Navajo used a combination drumstick rattle made from rawhide soaked around sand and pebbles, which could give a drum and rattle sound.  Bright paint, feathers, colored ribbon, beads and shells were used to beautify these instruments.

Nineteenth century Native Americans prized the empty metal spice boxes used by the settlers.  Tin cans and other metal containers were used for rattles also.

Quick and Easy Rattles:

  1. Make a rattle from a cardboard tube.  Tape one end of the tube (paper towel, etc.) closed.  Place beans inside.  Shake to determine the sound.  Add beans until desired sound is achieved.  Tape open end closed.  Decorate with marking pens.
  2. Use a metal box; a candy or bandage box works well.  Put in beans and experiment with sound.  Tape box lid closed.  Decorate with paper and markers or paint.

Soda Pop Can Rattle:



Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society