Homemade Musical Instruments — Xylophone — waterbottles

Water Bottle Xylophone

Welcome to my water bottle xylophone activity page.  Here you will find: 1) a Virtual Water Bottle Xylophone you can play right now on your computer; 2) directions on how to build a 5-note water bottle xylophone; and 3) information on building and playing an 8-note water bottle xylophone  including step-by-step instructions, playing tips, beginning exercises and songs, and music you can play with two to four people.  So take a couple of minutes, play the virtual xylophone, learn how to make your homemade instrument, and discover all of the great songs your water bottle xylophone can play. 

Virtual Water Bottle Xylophone

Our Virtual Water Bottle Xylophone plays the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th & 6th notes of the Major Scale.  It's called the Pentatonic Scale (see below). 






As you will hear: more water produces a lower pitch, and less water produces a higher pitch.  In the activity (below) you can play my water bottle xylophone — with the actual sounds I recorded in my kitchen. 

Start by clicking your mouse on each bottle.  Then, choose a song and start playing.  If you would like to make this instrument, follow the directions below.

Building a 5-note Water Bottle Xylophone

Start by getting five 20-ounce Sobe juice bottles.  Fill each bottle with the amounts of water shown above using U.S. fluid ounces or milliliters.  Mark your bottles carefully at the water level with a permanent marker.  Number your bottles 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 and arrange them in the order above — 1 on your left and 6 on your right.  Gently tap the middle of the bottle with a metal spoon.

If you would like to build an 8-note xylophone that plays many more songs, see below.

Building an 8-note Water Bottle Xylophone

Phil and his daughter, Sarah, went to three different grocery stores and listened to every bottle by striking it with a spoon.  They found the best sounding bottles that were readily available, they brought them home, and they cataloged all the notes each bottle could play.  Eventually, they had a select list of bottles that sounded great and could be combined to play a full 8-note scale in the key of C  — just like Phil and Sarah's homemade panpipes, glockenspiel, fraction tubes and melodic tube drums,.  Played together, they created a homemade instrument band with musical arrangements that worked for everyone!  You can see all the songs these instruments will play  — they're in the table of contents.

  “Building and Playing a Water Bottle Xylophone"
by Phil & Sarah Tulga



In “Building and Playing a Water Bottle Xylophone” Phil’s daughter, Sarah, shows you everything you need to know to make a great sounding instrument. You will learn exactly how to combine two or more types of bottles to design a full 8-note xylophone that is tuned to the key of C.

Sarah also covers a number of helpful tips on how to play each type of bottle so it sounds its best and consistently plays in tune.

Lastly, you will learn some great songs to play by yourself and with your friends. To help you learn faster, Phil and Sarah have included both sheet music and play along tracks for each song.

It's the perfect project for scouts who are making a homemade instrument.  In fact, you will see many scouting songs in this package.  Homeschoolers will also enjoy the project as a cross-curricular activity on math, measurement, music, and the physics of sound.

This complete package (including step-by-step instructions, playing tips, exercises, songs, duets, and quartets) costs only $14.95.

To download this PDF book on "Building and Playing a Water Bottle Xylophone" along with all the music tracks, just click the "Buy Now" button below.

Table of Contents



I. Choosing your bottles
     - Table 1: exact water measurements for each bottle
II. Making your xylophone
III. How to play your xylophone
     - Table 2: what you need to know about your bottles
IV. Playing basics
     - Scale, Counting rhythms
V. Beginning songs
     - When the Saints Go Marching In
     - Lightly Row
     - Go Tell Aunt Rhody
     - Matarile (folk song from Mexico)
     - Oh Susanna
VI. Intermediate songs
     - Ode to Joy (Beethoven)
     - Song of the Dragon (Chinese New Year song)
     - Camptown Races
     - Oh My Darling Clementine
     - Tue Tue (folk song from Ghana)
     - This Land is Your Land
     - On Top of Old Smokey
     - Daisy / Bicycle Built for Two
     - Home on the Range
VII. Playing with a friend
     - Hot Cross Buns (duet)
     - Mary Had a Little Lamb (duet)
     - Yankee Doodle (duet)
     - Good Night Ladies (duet)
     - Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me (duet)
     - Jingle Bells (duet)
     - Jolly Old St. Nicholas (duet)
VIII. Playing with four or more
     - Row Row Row Your Boat (4-part round)
     - Frère Jacques / Are You Sleeping (4-part round)
     - Taps







The bottles we selected were found at all the grocery stores we visited, produced a nice quality sound, and could be combined to play an 8-note scale in the key of C.

You can learn how to make an all-Perrier xylophone, or perhaps a series of Starbucks Frappuccinos topped off with a Kiikkoman bottle, or just go with every kid's favorite — the Coke and Root Beer combination. 



Copyright © 2000-2020 Phil Tulga

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