Melodic Gourd Instruments



Forget maracas, just about any instrument in the orchestra can be made from gourds.  Want to grow a violin in your back yard?  You can.  Want a marimba for $30 instead of $1200?  You can have that, too.  Need a custom fit?  Make it.  There is no end to the fun.


But gourds have some serious advantages over wood for some applications: They grow in naturally-strong shapes without corners or glue joints to weaken them.  The walls are very thin, which is good for vibrating surfaces, yet they are much stronger than wood of the same thickness.  They have no grain to contend with.  They are cheap and easy to grow, and can be molded to shape as they grow.

Here you can see and hear instruments that I've made with gourds.  When listening, you will notice that my playing of some is quite poor, since I like to build instruments I've never played.  So listen for the quality of the instrument, rather than the player.

The gourd as sound board

Gourds as resonators is a familiar use, but they also make great soundboards.




Appalachian Dulcimer


Horns and woodwinds







Gourd resonators

Box resonator

Helmholtz resonators

Traditional resonator


Making them work together

Orchestral instruments have been built to be played together.  Their volumes are compatible with each other, and they can be tuned to the same pitches.  This is not always the case with folk instruments, which are often quieter, since they are designed for the player's satisfaction, not for an audience.

To make gourd instruments that work together, I have tuned to standard pitches, usually in the keys of C and F.  Volume is more difficult, since gourds only grow so big.  But I have had success with the pairs below.

Mandolin and clarinet

Xylophone and flute

Fiddle and marimba

Flute and dulcimer



Growing musical instruments


While gourds are growing can be manipulated in ways that tailor them to specific musical needs.  Several examples are discussed here:


Growing Bugles            Growing Helmholtz resonators   Growing Fiddles



There are two kinds of people who make stuff: those who follow directions, and experimenters.  This page is for experimenters.  If you're going to experiment with one of the following, it might be worth your time to learn what I've tried that doesn't work:

Reed instruments

Cedar marimba bars

Grounding bar kalimba

Gourd tongue drum

Friction pegs in gourds


Questions? Comments?


Please share if you make one!