Monday, May 28, 2018


Here’s another in our Verandah Music  posts on home-made music. The family band described in this article from 1943 is similar to one we featured a few years ago under the title 'The Music of Strange Bands'.


A SOUTH COAST (NSW) family has a strange collection of home-made musical instruments. There are several whistles made from bush timber; a violin made from a cigar-box, bits of bush timber and kangaroo sinews; some unnamed instruments made from bullocks' horns; an instrument which they call a bottlephone because it consists of beer bottles mounted on a frame and struck with a little mallet to produce the music; a drum made from two goat skins; and a banjo made from a sheep-skin and wallaby tail sinews. Several of the girls learnt to play tunes on gumleaves and one of the boys can play tunes on a set of old bullock bells which he has altered and timed. Altogether quite a novel jazz band.

"Wongarbon." Sydney.(Smith’s Weekly, 3 July 1943, p. 8).

Wondering what a bottlephone is? 

‘a "bottle-phone," Is, as Its name Indicates, made from bottles, which are made
to supply the various notes of the musical scale. You will find It easy to build, and
It will give you and your friends lots of entertainment.’

You can make and play your own!

‘… You will need 22 bottles of varying size to get a range of notes from B flat, below middle C to G, above high C, with the intervening half tones. Each bottle is suspended on a string, and the pitch is checked with a piano, adding water as necessary to obtain the right pitch….’

Go to follow the illustrated instructions for making and playing a bottlephone (1940). Easier than Ikea!

The bottlephone seems to have been around for a while. Rob found mention of one in a concert at Kadina in 1900 and even advertisements from the early 1890s.

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