Making Gourd Musical Instruments and Gourd Musical Instruments

    -- 1999/2002, New York: Sterling Publishing, 144 pages  and  2000, Berkeley: The Caning Shop, CD + booklet
        both by Jim Widess & Ginger Summit

This marvelous set of materials has two goals: First, it introduces you to the incredibly diverse ways that gourds are incorporated into musical instruments around the world. Second, it enables you to make more than 60 of them yourself.

For Making Gourd Musical Instruments (MGMI), the authors researched instruments from many cultures that make use of gourds, then created plans so that people can reproduce these types of instruments at home or in a class. They range in difficulty from simple (a rattle) to complex (a xylophone).

The instruments are from all four “-phone” categories. They include rattles, rainstick, shekere, guiro, mbira, various drums, berimbau (Brazil), xylophone, harps, lyre, lute, banjo, mvet (central Africa), spike fiddle, gopiyantra (India), various flutes, pungi (India) and many more.

This book has step-by-step photographs and/or detailed instructions for the construction of almost 30 instruments, and less detailed instructions for dozens more. Even more gourd instruments are represented in situ through descriptions and beautiful photographs that highlight the detailed decorations.

This is one of the two best “how-to-make” musical instrument books ever created,1 and is very well-designed with good integration of descriptions, instructions, histories, and so many color photographs that I lost count.

Gourd Musical Instruments consists of a CD plus an 88-page booklet. There are 60 color photographs in the booklet including many not published in MGMI. The CD has 45 tracks, sonically illustrating 30 of the instruments in MGMI. Another 10 or so instruments not described in MGMI are
included in this set. Some are played solo and others played in ensembles; some are traditional instruments from different countries while others are “experimental.” The essays and brief documentation on each instrument are excellent.2

The authors are to be commended for the accurate research they have done and presented in such an interesting and user-friendly manner. You will definitely want to scrape out a gourd and make your own flutes, fiddles, and farood.

MGMI and Gourd Musical Instruments can be purchased separately, though if you intend to create some of the instruments I recommend that you buy them both so you can see and hear the instrument. The materials are available from, as well as gourds, books and more.

1 The other “best” book is by Bart Hopkin, reviewed on p. 29 of this issue.
2 The focus is more on the instruments themselves and less on their use in society. Since MGMI is a large book, it contains more ethnographic information.

    --reviewed by Paul Neeley

Published in Vol.1, No.4 of

Published by
Artists in Christian Testimony