Echt School Outdoor Musical Instruments

13 January 2011 · 5 comments

in Art & Music Outdoors, Developing School Grounds & Outdoor Spaces

Around the world, music can be heard. Indoors or out, we have a natural affinity for sound and rhythm. Yet, the amount of outdoor music that happens in our schools is small, if not non-existent beyond the pre-school age.

However, these past couple of years I’m seeing a growing interest and a number of different big instruments appear in school grounds. I was particularly interested and delighted about what has happened at Echt School in Aberdeenshire. Head Teacher, Ruth MacDonald explains…

The glockenspiel – made from materials found in a DIY shop!

“My brother, Stephen, is a self taught wood carver, living in Ross-shire. He has been working recently with a garden designer who was approached by a Nursery school in Highland to design the Nursery garden. They wanted a music corner and Will asked Stephen if he could come up with something.

I said he had to make some instruments for Echt next!

Who would have thought guttering would look so good!

The chimes are made from copper piping and the glock is made from aluminium pipe. The drums – quite loud!! – are drainage pipes. They appear to have withstood the recent snow and frost. Stephen will take orders from people on the understanding that they might have to wait a week or two as he works alone! He seemed to make our instruments very quickly after I asked him.

I wonder if the chimes sound different in cold and hot weather!

The most recent glock he has made comprises of 2 pentatonic scales. He can tune the aluminium pipes however people want them. I have 2 octaves going from low to high. He also provided us with 12 rubber ended beaters. Each instrument has little wooden hooks to hang the beaters from but we take our inside at the end of lunchtime each day.

The children absolutely love them and so do the staff!”

I think this shows the potential of everyday items to become objects of beauty, versatility and desire. If you want to find out more about Stephen’s work, contact me for his details.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Miss Elizabeth January 13, 2011 at 20:27

This is a very inspiring article. I only just started to think of music as being an outdoor thing last spring and I can’t wait until we are not covered in snow so that I can add some more music to the outside! One thing that I love about doing music outside is that the sound never becomes too much since there are not walls containing the sound in a small space.
I also love the idea of having the pentatonic scales! That is so great for their little ears to start hearing! As a musician it often bothers me that most children are exposed to music almost entirely in major keys with three chords to them. Different scale systems, brilliant!! Thanks so much for the inspiration.


child central station January 14, 2011 at 04:03

I love it! We have an ever growing outdoor music area in our yard. Most of the instruments have been made with the children’s help. I’m not very musical myself- although I try! Nothing has been tuned, but it still sounds fantastic! Do you think that Stephen would be willing to sell his plans? I know shipping a finished product to the states might be costly, but if we purchased the plans we might be able to make them ourselves…. You can check out our every growing music area here….

Of course, most of our area is covered in snow right now. The children do claim that the chimes do sound different in the cold and snow than they do in the warm sun!


Abbie January 15, 2011 at 12:19

Those are beautiful! Would not have guessed the materials that they were made from. Such great inspiration.
Thanks for sharing.


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