There are three types of woodwind instruments in the orchestra: flutes; single reeds (like clarinets); and double reeds (like oboes and bassoons). Here is how to make a bassoon from old used-up Metrocards (the cards that you use to get onto the bus or subway). Very thin plastic phone cards would probably work just as well.

A reed is a very thin piece of wood from a plant that grows in swamps. When a clarinet player blows into his instrument, the single reed vibrates back and forth and makes the sound.

A double reed is two thin, slightly curved, pieces of wood placed back to back. The oboe or bassoon player then puts the double reed into his/her mouth and blows. The two parts of the reed then vibrate against each other, making a more nasal sound.

You will need:

An old Metrocard or phone card, or other very thin plastic card (make sure that there is no money left on them!). Credit cards and bank cards are NOT a good idea.


scotch tape

various narrow tubes

Cut out the paper shape (left) actual size! on the dotted lines. Lay that paper shape on your Metrocard (you will need to cut a second one, so leave enough of the card to cut another).

Using the paper shape as a guide, cut the Metrocard.

Cut another shape out of the Metrocard, exactly the same as the first.

You now have two “reeds.”Bend each reed slightly into the shape of a curve (perhaps over a pencil, as shown), but not enough to put a fold into it.

Put the reeds together with the U-shaped sides facing each other. Put the double reed in your mouth and, holding the skinny bottom part, blow through it. You probably want a lot of the double reed in your mouth. Keep trying, putting the reed further in or further out, until you get a sound. If you don’t get a sound, keep trying to curve it a bit more. Once you have a good sound, then tape the skinny part together with Scotch tape.


Now you can start to put the reeds inside various tubes. I like using a garden water hose. Put the end of the reed into the hose and put the entire reed into your mouth. That way you can close off the end of the hose with your lips and get the best sound. You might want to cut or drill some holes into the hose to get different sounds using your fingers (get an adult to help you with this). Try it in lots of different tubes to get some cool and weird sounds!