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Use Your Own Wind: Popsicle Harmonica

Boy playing harmonica
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How does a harmonica work? 

A little harmonica can produce a lot of sound!  While the one you make with this project can play only a single note, a real harmonica can pack a full concert in your pocket.

A harmonica is in a group called wind instruments.  While yours has paper as a reed and a single hole, a real one has metal reeds that connect to many holes in a row.  It produces different sounds based upon where your mouth is located. It also makes different sounds if you blow out or breath in.

What are some other wind instruments you might recognize?  Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bagpipes, Saxophone.  Can you name others?

Make your own harmonica

Materials needed:  2 wide tongue depressors decorated as you wish, 2 rubber bands, scrap paper, pipe cleaner or toothpick

wind harmonica materials

What to do:

  1. Place one tongue depressor on table.  Cut a piece of scrap paper about the same length and width of the depressor.  It does not need to be exact.
  2. Cut a piece of pipe cleaner about the width of the depressor (1 inch).
  3. Sit the pipe cleaner piece on top of the paper, which is on top of the tongue depressor, 1 to 1 1/2 inch from edge.
  4. Place the top tongue depressor on top, then wrap a rubber band around it to hold it all together.
  5. Slide another piece of pipe cleaner in the other end and wrap on the other rubber band.  There should be a slight space between the two tongue depressors.

That’s it!  Blow into your harmonica!

wind harmonica completed

For further thought

What happens if you use thicker paper in your harmonica?  What will happen if you move the rubber bands towards the center (keep the pipe cleaner on the inside)?

Other Wind Instrument Sources to find in the library

Charlie’s Harmonica by J. Jean Robertson (Hoopla)

Making Musical Instruments with Kids by Bart Hopkin (Hoopla)

Musical Instrument books for children