Musical Instruments Made From Gourds

musical instruments made from gourds

Gourd musical instruments such as gourd guiros and rain sticks, to lutes and pipes can all be made from gourds.

These instruments are made with gourds, which act as natural resonators that amplify vibrations from within the instrument. What an excellent way to teach children how to play percussion instruments!


Marimbas are musical instruments in the percussion family that consist of wooden bars that are struck with mallets. Each bar produces its own distinct sound, tuned by resonator pipes beneath each bar. This creates a warmer and deeper tone than xylophone’s and it usually uses chromatic bars for tuning purposes.

The marimba was first brought to America through slavery, where musicians from Africa brought it with them. These musicians modified traditional instruments by replacing wooden resonators with gourd ones and adding a second row of keys arranged chromatically – making it easier for people to play and spreading awareness about this instrument.

Nowadays, marimbas have evolved into a standard design, with rosewood being the most common wood for plates and various metals for resonators. Some resonators are made from alluminium or other types of metal; others feature tunable resonators which can be adjusted to alter the range of sound produced by the instrument.

In 1892, Mexican marimbist Corazon de Jesus Borras Moreno added the chromatic notes to her instrument by inserting black keys into its resonators. With this invention, all chromatic notes could now be played on a marimba!

At first, marimbas were constructed with gourds hung under wooden bars. But eventually manufacturers added resonator pipes below each bar as amplification devices and to fine-tune the sound, much like piano keys do today.

Rosewood is the most commonly used material for marimba bars, as it’s hard and has a Janka rating of 2200 – nearly three times harder than silver maple.

Rosewood bars come in various lengths and thicknesses, producing different pitches. The shorter the bar is, the higher its pitch; conversely, if it’s thinner it produces a lower one. That explains why marimbas with narrower bars sound higher than ones with wider ones.


Folkloric traditions around the world have long used natural objects to craft musical instruments. Examples include shakers made from pacay seed pods in Latin America, didgeridoos in Australia, bamboo stalks in Hawaii – but perhaps none more intriguing than gourds! These mysterious and vibrant creatures grow worldwide, perfect for creating an instrument that is accessible to players of all ages.

The shekere is a percussion instrument from Africa that is now found around the world. In certain regions of Africa, it may be referred to as lilolo, axatse or chequere. Played by shaking or hitting it against your hands, this instrument finds use in numerous folkloric music styles as well as Afro-Caribbean, jazz and salsa music genres.

Shekeres can be made from a range of gourds. Gourds come in large, medium or small sizes with various-sized openings to produce various sounds. Holding the shekere upright will produce deep bass tones while lightly tapping its bottom will generate tap sounds.

West Africa’s shekeres, or bass drums, are often covered with a net and feature an extended tail of loose strings. They often accompany a drum or bell orchestra and form an integral part of some traditional music genres.

Shekeres were traditionally handmade and strung using string and beads. Nowadays, however, you can purchase shekeres made of fiberglass and plastic beads which produce a distinct sound from those created with natural materials.

Make your own shekere by drying a vine gourd for several months. Remove any seeds or pulp, scrub it clean, then add skillful beadwork and colour. Once dry, you can transform it into a rattle by stringing bangles or other objects to the top. Additionally, shells, jingle bells, buttons or other objects around can be added for different tones and effects.


The axatse is a West African rattle-like percussion instrument made of dried gourd wrapped in beaded net. It originated with the Ewe people of Ghana, Togo and Volta Region. A hole at the bottom allows water to drain away so that your gourd doesn’t rot.

The Axatse is a musical instrument commonly used by several West African groups. It’s played with the hands and can produce various sounds. Some ways to play include holding its globular part against your open palm or striking it against the bottom of your thigh. Alternatively, you could slap it against your hand for a slap sound.

The shekere, commonly referred to as the shekere in Africa, comes in various forms. When shaken or hit against hands, its globular section produces a bass tone when slapped.

Gourd-based instruments such as the shekere, axatse and gankogui provide beautiful accompaniment to bell-based rhythms. Not only do these gourd-based idiophones add color and vibrancy to an ensemble, but they are also great for strengthening ensemble dynamics.

Axatse drums are often accompanied by gankogui bells. This basic rhythm instrument plays an integral role in many African cultures, often providing close synchronicity to bell timeline patterns.

This percussion instrument is typically played with the hands, providing children with an enjoyable way to learn about African culture and develop their coordination. As they perform various techniques to play the axatse, you may help them hone these skills as well.

In the Ewe tradition, an axatse is typically played by two players. In other cultures, however, five or more individuals sit in a line to create the same rhythmic sound produced on a single gankogui.

Typically, the axatse is struck with its globular section against your open palm and thigh, or slapped against it for bass tones. Other techniques that can be used when playing this instrument include:

Water Drum

The Water Drum is an intriguing musical instrument made from a gourd that floats in water. Its distinctive soundscape makes it highly sought-after across various tribal cultures around the world, from Africa to Native America.

Water drums are played by placing a gourd in water and hitting it with a stick. When hit by a shaman or drummer, vibrations in the water cause it to resonate. There are two primary types of water drums: Southwestern Water Drums – composed of large gourds that float in a basin of water; and Northeastern Water Drums – miniature barrel-filled water-filled containers with tanned leather drumheads that seal around their mouth.

Water drums come in a wide variety of styles and can be utilized for many musical applications. A Southwestern water drum, for instance, can be played as either a single-note instrument with one beater or it may have multiple beaters for complex rhythms.

Playing music with a gourd can be quite the task, but the rewards are immense. There are various types of gourds that can be used for various instruments; the most popular being the snake gourd which features long, thin ridges which can be rubbed or scratched to produce various tones.

When crafting a water drum from a gourd, the initial step is to prepare its skin by scraping away its outer shell. While this can be an extensive and laborious process, the end result is stunning and resonant.

Once the skin has been taken off, carefully cut a hole in the center for your gourd’s opening. This may take several hours depending on its thickness and room temperature.

Once you’ve trim the skin, it should be placed in a warm and dry location to dry. The drying time will depend on the thickness of your skin, the temperature and humidity of the room, as well as how much tension is applied while drying.