Plosive Aerophones are such a simple idea but make pretty awesome outdoor musical instruments. These music-making instruments, look and sound so intriguing visitors cannot resist having a try when they encounter them. They are so easy and rewarding to play and yet most people have never heard of them before.
Plosive Aerophones vary in style and have been called by a number of different names including; batonkas and boom tubes but ultimately they are from the same group of plosive aerophones identified as ‘slap tubes’.
So what are they and where do they originate? Plosive Aerophones are musical instruments in which a body of air is set into vibration by a sudden blow. This family of percussion instruments include; clay pot drums, tube drums (boobams or boombams), water drums, stamping tubes and slap tubes. These instruments have been made and played in many different countries across the globe, but the history and roots of plosives are found in several non-western cultures, especially in regions where fine bamboo is plentiful – the perfect natural tube material. The very first slap tubes were created using bundles of open-ended tuned bamboo tubes arranged in formation in open-air locations and played by a number of players, moving and dancing to the music as it echoed off the surrounding mountains. The bamboo ends would be struck or ‘slapped’ with bats, rubber thongs or sandals.
Slap Tubes will consist of a number of lengths of tubing, open at both ends or closed off at one. When you strike the open end of the tube you give the air inside the tube a little jolt. The jolt creates a vibration in the tube that can be heard. The tone produced depends on the length of the tube and by having a group of tubes of different lengths together you can create a musical scale. The longer the tube, the lower the note it produces. The size of the tubes can be small or huge, however the larger the tube the louder the sound! You can also vary the sound through the effort put into the ‘slap’.
Striking the open end of the tube can be done with your open hand or some form of flat bat (or a sandal!). The ‘Bat’ typically bounces off the tube-end immediately after striking and produces a satisfactory tone, playing with the hand is hard on the hands and the tone is not usually as loud. The ‘Bats’ should be flat and wide, suitably padded and flexible so they cover the diameter of the tube and effectively ‘jolt’ the air.
Because all of the notes sound good together, these instruments are great for kids, as they require no musical direction and have real educational value. In fact they’re great for anyone from the very young to the elderly including those people who think they can’t play music! They provide something a little unusual, and produce some whacky and interesting sounds.
Aerophones are growing in popularity, mainly thanks to them being fundamental to the high-energy performances of musical groups such as Blue Man Group from New York and ‘The PVCs’ from Perth plus numerous others. The mix of their paint-splattering percussion instruments, musical improvisation and their many forms of theatrics, makes the perfect recipe for a night of family entertainment.