Rhythm Sticks and Blocks

These are no more than two pieces of wood which are knocked together to provide a rhythm. Dowelling rod of various thicknesses cut in 9-inch lengths or blocks of hardwood about 2-inch by 4-inch by I-inch are useful. These should be rubbed down with very fine sandpaper and they look better if the corners are chamfered. They can be left plain or stained with wood stain but the noise is pleasanter if the surfaces are well wax-polished. In fact Tuxan or other wax-based shoe stains will both colour and polish wood at the same time but it is essential to rub away any excess which would stain hands.

Useful ‘sets’ would be: a set of pairs in three different thicknesses of dowelling all the same length; a set of pairs in three different lengths of the same thickness; a set of pairs of different-sized wood blocks; a pair of wood blocks which have one surface covered with sandpaper stuck on firmly. The latter are used in a rather different way from sticks and blocks as they are rubbed across each other rather than clapped together (it rhay be worth mentioning that many adults arid some children cannot bear the noise this makes).

Rhythm sticks only make a good noise if they are held lightly in the hand and almost bounce as they hit each other. Small children may hold them too tightly at first. They can be used for sound effects, to give a rhythm, or for games like guessing which child’s name the adult is saying with the sticks. They can be used singly to give different sounds. Holding the stick vertical to the floor or a table top and tapping it straight down gives a different sound from when the whole length is tapped or holding one end and bouncing the other on the floor. They can also be used three at a time by an adult. Two of different thicknesses are held in one hand and the third used to strike them in turn. This gives a variance in pitch suggesting the tick-tock of a clock or someone walking down a street.

Rhythm blocks can be used by striking the different-sized surfaces together. The older children in a group may become fascinated by these different noises and this can lead on to using rudimentary ‘xylophones’. The basic requirements are different-sized pieces of the same wood and some method of raising them from a flat surface – strips of plastic foam can be used for this. The easiest method I have found is to use a plastic refrigerator box, one of the long thin ones, as both a container for the pieces and as a sound box to support them in use. The bars can be different lengths cut from the same thickness of dowelling or the same length cut from varying thicknesses. Obviously they would roll off the open box if just placed across it so it is necessary to cut semi-circles from the long edges of the box slightly larger than each bar. A small strip of felt about ii inches long and :}-inch wide stuck across the bottom of each hole from the outside to the inside of the box will raise each bar slightly so that as much of its length as possible is not touching anything. An extra length of wood serves as a beater if no chime-bar beater can be found (or bought specially, they cost only about iop each). Again the wood pieces should be well sanded and polished and the better the quality of wood the better the sound is. If the sounds made by the bars are not to your liking it is a simple matter to adjust the ratio of the lengths by shortening some of them or with the other type of set by finding a different thickness of dowelling.