Popsicle Stick Harmonica – Musical STEM

Musical STEM is a wonderful way to incorporate the arts into STEM in an innovative way. In the past we have made a homemade drum which was a huge hit. So today we thought we would tackle another instrument, the harmonica. Students will learn about the science of sound while also making music! This quick and easy musical STEM lesson will teach students how to make a simple harmonica. Perfect for the classroom, after school club or summer camp.

How to Make a Popsicle Stick Harmonica

How to make a popsicle stick harmonica

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What is a Harmonica?

The harmonica is one of the most popular instruments in the world.

The harmonica, sometimes called a mouth organ, is a small wind instrument that’s especially popular in blues, folk, and country music. This compact instrument is made up of a metal casing that holds several metal or brass reeds. These reeds are thin strips attached at one end, and they vibrate to produce sound when you blow into the harmonica or draw air in through it.

Yes, you read that right. With the harmonica you can make music both by blowing out and breathing in, allowing for a continuous flow of notes. Players can also use their hands to shape the sound, and they can create special musical effects like bending notes or adding a wavy sound called vibrato.

Because they’re easy to carry around and not too expensive, harmonicas are a favorite among musicians all over the world and hold a special place in many musical traditions.

Let’s make a harmonica in a few easy steps!

Making a Popsicle Stick Harmonica

Materials & Tools

Colored cardstock
2 Colored jumbo craft sticks
2 small rubber bands – I used loom band elastics, but any small elastic will work.
1 Large, thick rubber band

Clear tape

Video Tutorial

Listen to our harmonica and see how quick and easy it is to make! If you can’t see the video tutorial, it is being blocked by adblockers or a firewall. You can also find it on the STEAM Powered Family YouTube channel where it also has closed captioning. Enjoy!


Using a ruler, pencil, and cardstock, measure and cut out two 2cm X 5 cm pieces.

This is a good time to decorate your harmonica’s two craft sticks if you wish. You only need to decorate one side of each stick. If you want to decorate your harmonica, do not use felt-tip pend to color your sticks, as they are not waterproof. You will put the harmonica into your mouth and don’t want colored lips!

Place the two craft sticks on top of each other.

Wrap the two pieces of cardstock you just cut around both sticks, on either end of the sticks, and stick the ends down with tape.

Remove one of the sticks. If you made the cardstock too tight, you can pull it hard, but be careful not to tear it. If it comes apart, replace the two pieces of cardstock, and remember to leave a medium-sized space from the edge.

Stretch the large rubber band onto the stick, over the cardstock, from the top of the stick to the bottom. Ensure that this rubber band is flat on both sides.

Place the second craft stick on top and use a small rubber band or loom band on either end of the sticks to keep the parts of your harmonica together.

You can wrap the rubber band around the two sticks as many times as you can, or you can ask an adult for help.

Do not let the rubber bands touch the cardstock.

Your harmonica is ready to make music!

Here is a picture showing both sides of the finished harmonica.

Craft stick harmonica finished showing both sides

How to Play a Popsicle Stick Harmonica

Place the harmonica between your lips and blow air between the two sticks. You can create music by breathing in and out, and changing how forceful your breath is.

Playing a popsicle stick harmonica

How does a Craft Stick Harmonica Work?

All the sounds we hear daily result from sound waves traveling through the air and reaching our ears. These sound waves we hear come from an object that is vibrating, so when someone is talking to you, the sound comes from their vocal cords, travels through the air, bumping into many air particles on the way until the sound reaches your ears.

When you move air through the harmonica, the air from your mouth flows on top and below the rubber band between the sticks, causing it to vibrate quickly. This vibration creates a sound that travels through the air, bumping into many particles on its way to your ears. It travels into your ear to your eardrum, which vibrates. Your brain converts that vibration into a sound, and you hear the musical notes!

Types of Instruments

There are 4 main families of musical instruments, all with their sounds and uses. Let’s take a quick look at each type.

Woodwind Instruments

Wind instrument sounds rely on the person’s breath. So, you would need to blow air into the instrument through a reed. As the air touches the reed, it vibrates, and sound comes out of the instrument. Different woodwind instruments have other types of reeds. Examples of such instruments are trumpets, flutes, and saxophones.

Percussion Instruments

These instruments rely on the person playing them to shake, tap, or beat them with a stick. They are made of many different types of materials, such as wood, metal, plastic, and even rubber. Some examples of percussion instruments are drums, rattles, keyboards, and maracas.

String Instruments

These instruments have many strings and must be played with a bow, a plectrum, or a person’s fingers. A bow is pushed backward and forward over a violin or cello, which causes the strings to vibrate and produce a sound. A plectrum is used on a guitar to pluck the strings. The strings vibrate and produce sound. The same happens when you use your fingers on a guitar or cello.

Brass Instruments

All these instruments are made of either brass or silver. They all produce sound when air is blown into its mouthpiece, which causes the air to vibrate, and a sound comes out the other end. Here are some examples of this type of instrument: trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba.

Which family does the harmonica belong to?

You guessed it, it’s a woodwind instrument!

Questions for Students to Reinforce Learning

Listen to the sound your harmonica is making. How can you change the sound it makes?

What happens to the sound when you hum into the harmonica?

What happens to the sound when you bite down gently onto the sticks and blow?

Is there a difference in the sound when you squeeze the sticks more tightly together?

Try moving the two pieces of cardstock closer or further apart. What happened?

Try a fatter (large) rubber band. Did that change anything?

Try using plastic or paper straws or toothpicks instead of cardstock. How did that affect the sound of your harmonica?

Can you make a harmonica in a different way using other materials?

A fun activity would be to listen to everyone’s harmonica sounds, pay attention to the different notes, and see if you can all play a short song you all know together.

Have fun experimenting with STEM and Music!

Popsicle Stick Harmonica Musical STEM Project