Thursday, August 19, 2010

Making a Squash-stalk Clarinet

It's harvest time, finally. We are just starting to get tomatoes, about a month late with the odd cool weather we had in late Spring, but now the garden is delivering. We have only one summer squash plant but it is huge! Do you have more squash than you know what to do with? Well, this won't help, really, but it will give you something else to do with it. Here I am using a stalk from a yellow "crookneck" squash, but it works with zucchini and maybe others, too. You can actually make a functional musical instrument from stuff you usually throw in the compost bin!

The first thing is to cut off the leaf, right at the point where the hollow stalk expands into the leaf--you want that end to be plugged. Then, holding the knife perpendicular to the stalk, scrape off the spines. The next part is really important: cut an inch-long slit about a half-inch away from the plugged end.

Now you have to get your clarinet to sound. The entire slit has to go in your mouth. It will take several minutes to warm up and loosen up the reeds (technically, I suppose this is an oboe more than a clarinet since the two sides of the slit are the two "reeds," but it sounds like a clarinet). Keep trying to blow through it. If the air blows through too easily, then press gently on the top of the reeds to push them together, and if it is too hard to blow air through the reeds, put the knife in the slit and wiggle it gently to loosen them up. Keep trying to get a sound by blowing--the moisture and warmth of your breath will loosen things up. You might get a squeak--that's a good sign...keep going. Then, once you get a sound, you can try cutting finger holes.

Have fun!!


  1. OK, Paul. This is adorable. I think I will be smiling all day thinking of you in the garden making fairy music.

  2. Great project Paul! Thanks again for the blackberries, we are really going to be enjoying those this winter.
    - Anna