Cuica (Laughing Cup): Make a Musical Instrument

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In this activity, you'll use a paper cup, a piece of cloth, and some string to make a musical instrument called a cuica (pronounced KWEE-kah). Cuicas are 'friction drums' of African origin now popular in Brazil, where they are used in that country's famous carnival parade. Also available for download: a concept map and a "Going Further" document that suggests variations on this activity. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • paper cup
  • pushpin or nail (alternately, the tip of a ballpoint pen)
  • cotton twine (or thick string)
  • scissors
  • paper clip
  • flannel or other small piece of cloth (optional)
  • cup with water (to moisten the cloth)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Sound

Informal Categories

  • Music


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • The Exploratorium

Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, The Exploratorium, 2007

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation

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