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  • Katy

Activity of the Day: Celtic battle trumpet!

Time for something a little different- make something that makes lots of noise!

This is a great sound-making construction, and we’ve used them in the past with groups who are studying the Celtic culture- they make a fantastic spectacle! Romans who battled with the Gauls noted that this amazing instrument, the carnyx, was used to confuse the enemy. You can even see them in Asterix stories! Originally made from metal, and about 3 metres long, they had a mouthpiece at one end, and a boar’s head opening at the top – complete with tongue, that waggled when it was blown!

They’re a great way of seeing how sound is made and amplified, and you can experiment to change the sounds made.

You will need:

1.two cardboard tubes of different sizes, one needs to fit inside the other but be slightly longer, eg a toilet roll inner and a greaseproof paper inner, or two parcel-tubes and a carpet tube.

2.You also need a ‘drum skin’ – this can be any type of air-tight ‘skin’ – plastic wrapping, an old swimming hat, washing up glove, balloon.

3. A mouthpiece – this could be the casing of an old biro or felt tip pen, or any tube about that size.

4. Tape! Ideally, something wider like parcel tape, but ordinary Sellotape/masking tape will work.

5. Stuff to decorate it- when you’ve made the structure, you may want to decorate the whole thing, complete with boar’s head!

How to make it:

1.Make a ‘drum skin’ over one end of the tube with the largest diameter. We found an old packet of balloons, and cut the end off one of them, stretched it over and taped it.

2.Make a hole the same size as your mouthpiece at the end nearest the covered end.

3.Insert the smaller diameter tube, which needs to be longer than the other one. Make sure the bottom of the inner tube is touching the drum skin, or it won’t work! Then tape the gap between inner and outer tubes – fiddly, but if you have any gaps, again it won’t work!

4.Insert the mouthpiece – it allows you to blow air into the gap between the two tubes. Again, the join needs to be air-tight, so you have to tape it (and this is fiddly too!).

5.Before you start creating your boar’s head masterpiece (although ours is going to be a serpent head - see photo above!), you might want to see if it works! Blow hard down the mouthpiece, and you should get a sound somewhere between and oboe and a saxophone.


  • If you only get a hissing sound, you’ve probably got an air leak, so check all the bits that you’ve taped.

  • Also check that the inner tube is touching the drum skin – you can actually change the pitch of the sound by gently pushing or pulling the inner tube in and out.

We once made these for an event using whole carpet tubes (about 3m long!), and they sounded awesome, but were incredibly hard to blow!

If you want to know a bit more, try here

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