Build a DIY Rubberband Guitar and Celebrate New York’s Styrofoam Ban

In one of its final acts of 2013, the New York City Council got with the times, passing a ban on polystyrene foam food containers and non-biodegradable packing peanuts.

The widely hailed reform isn’t slated to go into effect for another year, ostensibly to give the container industry  a chance to squeeze into its environmentalist suit. (Good luck with that.)

The delay also affords those of us who live here ample time to stockpile the offending substance for future homemade musical instruments.

If you’re fretting over a relative lack of instrument building experience, relax.Three minutes is more than enough time for John Bertles, composer, arts educator and founder of Bash the Trash, to show you how you can make beautiful music from (mostly) scavenged materials. (Entirely scavenged, should you luck into a supply of giant rubber bands. I presume you have access to the more advanced version’s paper clips and leftover chopsticks. That alone justifies your soon-to-be Styro-free Panda Express delivery habit.)

If you’ve been building rubber band guitars since nursery school, Bertles’ video lesson still merits a listen, to hear how the sort of sounds practiced fingers are able to coax from these humble materials.

PS: Lest we get hung up on technicalities: Styrofoam is a trademarked polystyrene product of Dow Chemical. To quote Bertles, who has genuine claims on giving it a meaningful second life, “great material for building musical instruments…terrible for the earth.”

Note: If the video above intrigues you, we’d heartily recommend that you visit our previous posts – The Recycled Orchestra: Paraguayan Youth Play Mozart with Instruments Cleverly Made Out of Trash and A Young Frank Zappa Turns the Bicycle into a Musical Instrument on The Steve Allen Show (1963)

Above you can watch John making a cardboard tube guitar.

Ayun Halliday pledges to rock one of these in the 2014 Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Follow her @AyunHalliday



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  1. no says . . . | January 26, 2014 / 11:15 am

    I don’t think you know what the word “celebrate” means.

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