Boomwhackers Tuned Percussion Tubes are lightweight, hollow, color-coded, plastic tubes, tuned to musical pitches by length. They are used as musical instruments in the percussion family. They were first produced by Craig Ramsell in 1995. His company Whacky Music has now sold more than 4 million units.
Boomwhackers produce musical tones when struck together, on the floor, or against nearly any surface. They can also be grouped together and struck with mallets in different configurations, in specialized holders (homemade or available from the manufacturer), similar to a horizontally-aligned xylophone. When one end of a Boomwhackers tube is covered with what the manufacturer calls an Octavator Cap, the pitch it produces is lowered by an octave.
Boomwhackers are most commonly used in elementary music classrooms as an inexpensive alternative or supplement to traditional pitched instruments such as xylophones and metallophones. Boomwhackers are often used by performance artists and other musical performance groups to add an element of spectacle. They can also be used people with intellectual and developmental impairment to develop sensorimotor skills, social skills, and creativity.
Use in group rhythm events
Boomwhackers have become a popular tool for corporate events and festivals. They are ideally suited to audience participation and may be used in large numbers. Participants can all play together, following a leader's directions from the stage. One boomwhacker ensemble, entitled Beats for a Cause, is a non-profit musical group that performs at charitable events for no cost. They are high school students. They perform at a wide array of events including picnics, races, and upscale benefit dinners.
Boomwhackers evolved at a time when Junk Bands and performers using instruments made from recycled materials were very popular. Gas pipes or various cast-offs from plumbers were being cut to length to produce different pitches when hit on an open end by a flip flop or table tennis bat. Schools were creating their own junk bands as a cheap way to get groups performing together with an ecological message. Creating your own kit is labour intensive so onto the market came something off the shelf that was cheap and cheerful.
The most notable use of a Boomwhacker in a recording was by obscure multi-instrumentalist and woodwind player Andrew Lazar on the single "All You Had To Do (Was Ask Me)" by The Blame, a Lima, OH band with a cult following.
American Craig Ramsell reportedly came up for the idea for his boomwhackers in 1994 while at home recovering from radiation therapy for cancer. While cutting cardboard tubes into shorter lengths for recycling he happened to notice the different pitches resulting from the different lengths and decided to investigate their creative potential. He experimented with various plastics before settling on plastic mailing tubes. He and his partner, wife Monnie Ramsell, formed DrumSpirit as a sole proprietorship to market the tubes. The original plastic boomwhackers were first produced in 1995. The current version, which is far more durable than the earlier prototype, was released in 1997.
Ramsell started Whacky Music, Inc. in 1998, marketing a wider variety of boomwhacker sets and materials. Boomwhackers are now available to span 3½ chromatic octaves. (The addition of the Octavator Tube Caps in 1999 allowed for the third lower octave.)
In July, 2009 the Sedona, Arizona based Whacky Music, Inc., sold its interests to Rhythm Band Instruments LLC of Fort Worth, Texas, through an asset purchase agreement. Boomwhackers are made in the USA and distributed internationally by Rhythm Band Instruments.
- Greenberg, Steve (2008). Gadget Nation: A Journey Through the Eccentric World of Invention. Sterling. pp. 56–59.
- Anderson, William M; Joy E. Lawrence (2007). Integrating Music Into the Elementary Classroom. Cengage. p. 137.
- "Boomwhackers in Music Class". Teachers.net Gazette. January 2013. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- Ramey, Maria (2011). Group Music Activities for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. p. 98.
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