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Cup Shamisen, Funny Instruments Made of Recycled Objects: Makes Awesome Music

Do you have an opportunity to showcase your hidden talent at places like parties during the holiday season? Some of you might be thinking that playing a musical instrument would be cool but you don’t have one. But if you would consider playing instruments made of discarded objects to surprise your audience, you can make them quite easily yourself!

Maestro Adachi became interested in Andean flute Qena when he was a college student, and he traveled around Central and South America. While he learned about instruments from local people in the region, he started making instruments himself. He said as he was looking for available materials to make instruments, he gradually expanded the sphere of making instruments by reusing objects.

I will introduce some of his instruments together with actual sounds and then explain how to make a “Cup Shamisen”.


A Recorder Made of a Broom

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The first one up is a recorder that uses a broom. This recorder was made by piercing holes into a broom which was used more than 10 years. Because it was dried over the years, the sound has a nice resonance and it can play notes spanning over 2 octaves.

The mouthpiece is the same shape as the Qena, the instrument from South America, thus it requires some skill to play it. But the sound quality is much better than we would expect from the instrument’s appearance, and I heard this recorder is most popular among the recorders made of recycled objects.

A performance video is uploaded on You Tube. Video


A Flute Made of a Ski Pole

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Next one up after the recorder is a flute made of a ski pole. Holes were drilled on a ski pole, which had been left in storage as it would be a waste to throw it away, and voila, a flute was made.


A Panpipe Made of Brushes

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This panpipe is called “Fude-e”, because it is a “fue (pipe instrument)” made of “fude (brush)”. Brushes that were no longer usable were bundled in a design similar as Zampona, another instrument from South America.

Zampona is a kind of panpipe and this musical instrument is made by bundling tubes with different lengths. This Fude-e panpipe has equal-length tubes but oil-based clay is inserted in each tube to create difference in vibration length.

You can hear its sound at this URL. Sound


A Recorder Made of a Manual Oil Pump

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This one is a recorder made of a manual oil pump. You will be amazed at hearing the saxophone-like sound that you would never imagine from its appearance. Video


Production Scene

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Maestro Adachi appeared as a guest speaker at a senior association event. He started making a new instrument before the performance in his waiting room, and people around him were paying avid attention to the unexpected development.

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He quickly completed one instrument while talking with people, and immediately proceeded to tuning the new instrument.

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This is the completed Cup Shamisen (a string instrument made with a paper cup).

You can hear its sound from this URL. Sound


How to Make a Cup Shamisen (Cup Guitar), a String Instrument Made of a Paper Cup

Let’s actually make a string instrument then.

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These are the steps to make a Cup Shamisen (Cup Guitar), a string instrument made with a paper cup. Please use the above figures as a reference.

  1. Obtain a wooden square stick (1 cm x 1.5 cm x 47 cm), and cut off the length by 1.5 cm. Create a triangular piece of wood from it.
  2. Obtain a paper cup or an empty container of cup noodles. Make two triangular slits and two square holes on the cup.
  3. Securely attach the triangular piece from step (1) on the cup using double-sided tape or glue. Put the stick from step (1) through the square holes on the cup. Put a plastic pushpin on the end of the stick which is sticking out of the paper cup and screw in lightly an eye bolt of about 0.8 cm diameter on the opposite end. Please be careful not to screw in the bolt all the way. At this point, mark the notes on the side of the stick as shown on the left side of the figure.
  4. Obtain 60 cm of fishing line (35lb). Make a French knot with one end of the line and tie it to the pushpin.
  5. Thread the other side of the fishing line through the eye bolt and tie. Adjust the sound pitch by turning the eye bolt. Once tune-up is done, it’s complete.

The sound changes depending on the material, and using a steel can creates more authentic sound of string instruments. It is like hearing a Sanshin performance in Okinawa, a traditional three-string instrument in the region.

Please give it a try and listen to this. Sound


“Floating Ukulele” and “Joranpet”

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Floating Ukulele is a string instrument that utilizes an old tambourine frame decorated with a perfect-sized swimming float, a pun between “uku” of “ukulele” and a Japanese verb “uku” to float.
Joranpet looks like a watering can (“joro” in Japanese), but when you blow from the tip of the tube, it creates a powerful trumpet-like sound.

Adding the sound effect of waves would create a mood of being in Hawaii.
Video of the performance was made public on You Tube. Video

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Maestro Adachi is also skillful in giving captivating narratives in addition to playing the instruments. He has a long experience of Rakugo performance (Japanese storytelling entertainment) since his college days and the audience kept laughing at his words. And I heard Maestro Adachi’s dream is someday to test his skills as a street performer in France.

How about giving a performance, making musical instruments with materials in everyday life and bringing smiles to people around you?

Related Articles:
The World Praised Shamisen Performance of Yoshida Brothers

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About the author

I have worked in a museum as a curator and I specialize is in craft products. I have grown up in the city, but now enjoy the country life. From an environment rich in nature, I will report to you on seasonal events and customs of Japan, foods and how to make them. I look forward to introducing special moments in Japan that you will not see in ordinary guidebooks.

View all articles by Kunie