Updated date:

How to Make Rhythm Sticks


KA Hanna led a Girl Scout troop for 10 years, served as Activity Consultant for her Service Unit and believes in the power of the Thin Mint.


Make Your Own Rhythm Sticks

Some cultures, including the Maori, once used stick games to train young boys to handle spears. Now, stick games are used for entertainment. You can make your own inexpensive rhythm sticks and practice with a friend. Rhythm sticks are also a fun and noisy Scout activity! Learning to make them and to make music with them can be a part of earning the Junior Girl Scout Musician Badge.


  • ¾" PVC pipe - cut two twelve-inch lengths per pair of rhythm sticks, one pair per person
  • Indelible markers (Sharpie brand markers work well)
  • Paper towels
  • Newspapers to cover work surface
  • PVC pipe cutter or handsaw
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Goof-off, to remove indelible ink from floors or surfaces. (optional)

Sharpie Markers


Cutting PVC pipe is easiest with a PVC pipe cutter, which you can find at your local home improvement store. If you don't have one or don't wish to buy one, you can use a handsaw to cut the PVC instead. For each pair of rhythm sticks, cut 2 lengths of PVC, each 12" long.

Make sure PVC sticks are clean and dry, and that the ends are not jagged. If the ends are rough, sand lightly with medium grit sandpaper.

Decorate rhythm sticks with indelible markers. Sharpies work well because they dry quickly. Use paper towels to blot or wipe any excess ink away. Let dry for a couple of minutes and blot or wipe again. When the ink is dry, you are ready to play!

Note: Be really careful when working with Sharpie indelible markers. If the ink does get onto floors or surfaces, you can try a product like Goof Off to remove most of it.

Rhythm Sticks the Maori Way

How to Play Rhythm Sticks

Hold one rhythm stick in each hand. Sit on the ground, facing a partner. When you gain proficiency, you can try it with two rows of seated partners facing each other.

Basic Taps:

  • Tap: hit the tips of the sticks on the ground in front of you.
  • R Tap: hit the tips of the sticks on the ground to your right
  • L Tap: hit the tips of the sticks on the ground to your left
  • End: hit the bottoms of the sticks on the ground in front of you. (The bottoms are the ends closest to your body.)
  • Clap: hit the whole lengths of the sticks together in front of you.
  • Click: hit the tips of the sticks together in front of you.
  • Flip: toss the sticks end-over in front of you and catch them by the tips.
  • Throw: toss the sticks upright to your partner. You catch your partner's sticks, your partner catches your sticks.
  • Cross tap: cross your arms in front of you and tap the tips of the sticks on the ground in front of you.

Practice Patterns:

  1. Tap, tap, clap (repeat three times)
  2. R Tap, L Tap, click, click, clap (repeat three times)
  3. Tap, flip, tap, tap, flip, tap, end. (repeat three times)
  4. R Tap, L Tap, tap, tap, throw (repeat three times)
  5. Cross tap, tap, end, throw, throw (repeat three times)

It's fun to make up your own patterns, or play along with music!

Other Ways to Use Rhythm Sticks

Very young children may have an easier time playing with rhythm sticks by simply using them to keep rhythm with a song. Check out the video below for an example, and explain to young children some basic safety rules before handing out the rhythm sticks!

Safety Rules for Rhythm Sticks

1. Rhythm sticks are a tool, and are not meant for hitting people or for throwing.

2. Hold onto sticks with hands, and don't put them in your mouth.

3. Take care to tap only the stick parts together and not fingers or hands.

© 2008 KA Hanna