Make Your Own Sistrum, an Egyptian Rattle

A Sistrum

A sistrum is a special kind of rattle that dates back to ancient Egypt.

It’s a hand-held percussion instrument that was generally played by priestesses or the court musicians who entertained pharaohs and nobility.

In fact, if you look closely at hieroglyphics or books about Egyptian culture, you can see examples of this instrument in some of it’s various shapes and sizes.

How can you make your own version? It’s easy. First you need a few basic supplies:


  • One wire coat hanger
  • Electrical tape
  • Two (unsharpened) pencils or small dowels
  • Assorted buttons, jingle bells or metal washers
  • A small amount of floral wire, jewelry wire, fishing twine or embroidery thread
  • A wire-cutter

Putting it All Together

First, straighten out the curved end of the coat hanger. This will form the handle to your sistrum. To make a strong handle that is easier to hold, place two unsharpened pencils or wooden dowels next to the wire and slowly wrap it with electrical tape. Start at the bottom and wrap to the top. At the end, wind the electrical tape around the base of the sistrum to secure the handle in place.

Then, use your wire cutters to cut the long side of your coat hanger in half: exactly in the middle; directly above the handle. Slowly and carefully bend each side down into the shape of your final instrument – somewhat like the letter “Y”.

Use your electrical tape to fasten the two sides together on each side, leaving a space for two or three rows of bangles. Different colors of this type of tape can make the project even more decorative!

Finally, thread different kinds of buttons, jingle bells or metal washers onto a small piece of floral wire or jewelry wire. You can also use fishing twine or embroidery thread, but wire is better at keeping the bangles in place. Tie or secure the wire in place on each side and try out your instrument. It should make a pleasing sound when “swooshed” from one side to another.


Award-winning children’s performer, Daria (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has five CD’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her website, located at, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.

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