DIY Music Therapy Instruments Blog

DIY Music Therapy Instruments on a Budget

by Jordan Menczywor-McMahon, MTI

My internship started and has taken place in its entirety during the pandemic which has brought some interesting obstacles with it. After observing a few sessions I noticed what instruments my clients were using and what instruments I needed to have. Since I didn’t have access to instruments that my supervisors would have had for me to use, I had to get creative on how to obtain necessary instruments quickly.

DIY Music Therapy Instruments Square

Recycling and upcycling items, and keeping it budget-friendly, was the name of the game! The only items that I had to go out and purchase that I normally wouldn’t have were a paint bucket, PVC pipe and 2 nuts, which cost me approximately $7 from Lowes. With items I had at home and my small purchase I was able to create a tambourine, spinning hand drum, a pair of castanets, and a drum!

DIY Instruments for Music Therapy

Let me just say that there’s something about having instruments that you made that make sessions that much more fun!

And now the information you’ve been waiting for…the instructions and supplies to make your own tambourine, spinning hand drum, pair of castanets, and a drum!

DIY Tambourine

DIY Tambourine

  • 2 round tomato containers (I used Nature Sweet Cherub tomatoes)
  • 6 2 inch nails (I had a picture hanging kit that I used nails from)
  • 12 bottle caps
  • Hammer
  • Hot glue gun
  • Box cutter or scissors (a cutting board is recommended if you’re using a box cutter)
  1. Rinse out the tomato containers and remove the clear plastic “top” (you don’t need the tops)
  2. Cut out the raised center piece from the yellow bottoms, you won’t be needing it!
  3. On a hard surface, hammer a nail through the top of each of the bottle caps, making sure that the holes line up for each pair, and remove the nails from each cap as you go. Set them aside.– It is important to put the nail through the labeled top so they are able to slide across the nail
  4. Take your 6 nails and space them evenly on the innermost ridge of the container. *You can mark where you will put them or space them as you go.
  5. Carefully push the nail through one of the containers starting on the smaller side (this will be your model for the second container), repeating until all 6 nails have been added
  6. Place the container with the nails on top of/inside the second container, with the tip of the nails down toward the container
  7. Push the nails one at a time through the second container (they will be stacked facing the same way here)
  8. Remove the bottom container and thread two bottle caps, tops touching, on the nail
  9. Repeat on all 6 nails
  10. Once all nails have 2 bottle caps on them, place the second container onto the nails, the smaller sides of the containers will be toward each other
  11. After your tambourine has both sides attached, apply hot glue to the head of the nails to secure the nails to the containers. Repeat on the pointed side of the nails
  12. Once it dries you now have a ready to use homemade tambourine! *please check your tambourine after playing, as the glue may loosen and need to be reapplied
DIY Taiko Spinning Hand Drum

DIY Spinning Hand Drum

  • 1 unsharpened wooden pencil or paint stir stick (if you are not using a drill you will need the stir stick)
  • 2 small nuts
  • 1 two-inch PVC pipe ring
  • 2 pieces of string (about 6-8 inches each)
  • Sturdy plastic (I used an iced coffee cup from Dunkin’ Donuts)
  • Scissors
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Heavy books
Instructions (with drill and drill bits):
  1. Mark two dots, equidistant on each side of the PVC pipe *this will be where you thread your string through
  2. Drill 1 small hole on each side of the PVC pipe at the marks 
  3. Drill a hole in the bottom middle of the pipe, in between the holes on the side, for the pencil. *it’s important to not drill through both the top and bottom sides of the PVC pipe, only drill through to the center opening of the PVC pipe.
  4. Push the pencil through the bottom hole and apply glue to the top of the pencil and push to the inside top of the PVC pipe
  5. Apply glue to the inside and outside of the bottom hole around the pencil.
  6. Thread the string through the side holes, cut the string and tie knots inside the PVC pipe, there should be string sticking out the side of the circle
  7. Cut 2 2 inch plastic circles to fit the entire flat side of the PVC pipe 
  8. Glue plastic circles to the flat sides of the PVC pipe, one on each side (set heavy books on top to apply pressure)
  9. Attach nuts to the string, one nut on each string
  10. After the spinning drum has dried feel free to paint and decorate however you want!
Instructions (without drill and drill bits)
  1. Mark two dots, equidistant on each side of the PVC pipe
  2. Glue one string to each side of the PVC pipe at the dots
  3. Attach nuts to the end of each string
  4. Cut 2 2 inch circles from the plastic to fit the entire flat side of the PVC pipe
  5. Glue plastic circles to the flat sides of the PVC pipe, one on each side (set heavy books on top to apply pressure)
  6. After the glue has dried, take your paint stick and glue it to one side of the plastic circles, making sure to have it attached to the top and bottom of the PVC pipe, this will become your handle 
  7. After the spinning drum has dried feel free to paint and decorate however you want!
DIY Castanets


  • 2 1 inch x 6 inch strips of cardboard (cereal boxes, amazon/shipping boxes or corrugated cardboard all work great) 
  • 2 medium size rubber bands (hair elastics work great!)
  • 4 bottle caps
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Pen/ marker

  1. Cut a one inch thick by approximately 6 inches long strip of cardboard
  2. Fold your strip of cardboard in half
  3. Open your cardboard strip up and place a bottle cap on end of the cardboard, outline where the cap sits (make sure it is completely on the cardboard)
  4. Apply hot glue to the rim of the bottle cap and place on the outline on the cardboard
  5. Fold your cardboard and place the second bottle cap under the first cap (the flat side of the caps will be touching)
  6. Mark where the second cap is on the cardboard and repeat step 4
  7. After the hot glue has dried, slide rubber band on one side of the castanet, twist rubber band to make an “8” and place over the other side of the castanet to create loops for your fingers

DIY Castanets Final
DIY Drum


  • 2 1/2 quart paint mixing bucket with lid

  • Paint

  • Construction paper/ decorating supplies such as stickers, markers, etc to make it personal


While a plastic bowl from the kitchen is always an option, I prefered having something that is specifically designated for my sessions. After a quick trip to Lowes I found a 2 ½ quart paint mixing bucket was just what I was looking for!

  1. Purchase or locate a small bucket
  2. Turn it upside down 
  3. Play away!
  • Bonus! It doubles as storage for all your new instruments when not in use

Thank you for joining me on this adventure of homemade instruments on a budget! 

Stay safe and happy music making!

Jorda Menczywor-McMahon, MTI

Music Therapy Intern

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