How to Make Musical Instruments from Seashells

by Kasandra Rose
Conch shells are decorative and musical.

Conch shells are decorative and musical.

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If you find a large conch shell while visiting the beach, you can hold it to your ear and hear the ocean. That's not the only sound that seashells can make, though. Ancient seafaring peoples learned to make conch shell horns, and African and Caribbean musicians incorporate shells in their rhythm instruments. Musicians use shells in several types of rattles, both as the container and as the filler. Making your own instruments is fun and, besides, it's a great excuse to go to the beach.

Items you will need

  • Conch shell
  • Epoxy
  • Bleach
  • Hacksaw
  • Metal file
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • Clam shells
  • Tiny shell
  • Hot glue gun

Conch Horn

Step 1

Look for a small hole near the top of the conch shell where the fishermen have removed the meat from the conch. Fill the hole with epoxy and allow it to set overnight.

Step 2

Wash the conch shell in diluted chlorine bleach, rinse it and allow it to dry. Dilute the bleach with three parts water to one part bleach.

Step 3

Cut the top 1 inch off the pointed tip of the conch shell with a hacksaw. This step can take up to half an hour to complete. Steady the shell with your free hand or have a partner steady it. You will break the points off the shell if you try to clamp it.

Step 4

File the cut edges of the conch shell flat with the metal file. Finish smoothing the edges with sandpaper.

Step 5

Drill a small hole through the location where you cut off the tip of the conch. (Cutting off the tip does not in itself create a hole.) Test the conch for tone by blowing through the cut end. Enlarge the hole until you have achieved the tone you desire.

Shell Maraca

Step 1

Find a clam or oyster shell with both shells intact. It is important that the shells be a matched set or the edges of the shells will grind away and break.

Step 2

Fill one oyster shell with tiny shells and position the other shell on top, as it would have been when the oyster was alive.

Step 3

Seal the two shell halves together with hot glue.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use caution when using a hot glue gun.
  • Ensure you don't have any loose clothing or free long hair when using power equipment.

About the Author

Writing fanzine-based articles since 1985, Kasandra Rose writes and edits articles for political and health blogs and and has an extensive technical writing background. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Arts in biology from Wayne State University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images