Sound Play

Sound Play

In 1982, Bond Anderson developed the musical playscape: a permanent outdoor installation of tuned musical instruments built to stand up to the weather and designed for the durability a playground setting requires.1 Bond’s master’s degree in flute performance laid the foundation to create and design these musical instruments to be played at parks, school grounds, museums, and backyards.2  

Sound Play uses wood/polymer lumber, galvanized steel, aluminum, stainless steel, PVC pipe, and fittings. And they also use Ipé, a Brazilian hardwood that is sustainably harvested and used as child safe pressure-treated lumber in their instruments. The instruments with PVC resonators are enclosed with “Aquamesh,” which is PVC coated welded wire screen. Mallets are attached to the instruments by vinyl coated cable and are made from UV rated polyurethane rod.3

Fluctuating moisture content, air temperature, humidity, and altitude in the outdoors can cause a change in the intonation. When it is cold, the sound of the instruments is softer, because the pitch of the bar and resonator are not an exact match, and when it is warm, the volume increases. Because of this, Sound Play uses air-dried lumber stored indoors and makes their tone bars for an instrument from a single bar.4 His first outdoor musical playground was sponsored by the Georgia Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sound Play has designed outdoor instruments, such as the Metallophones, which are toned as Soprano or Tenor Pentatonic; Diatonic Tenor, and Pentatonic Soprano Marimbas with four attached mallets; and Diatonic and Pentatonic Amadinda, which is akin to a xylophone with African roots. Sound Play also manufactures a Pentatonic and Diatonic Palm Pipe Drum, which is played with the palm of the hand, and Tongue Drums with two pitches per drum. Another of the innovative designs are the Animal Drums, which are box drum sculptures that are painted and sculpted to look like an Alligator, a Dragon, a Sea Turtle, or a Box Turtle. Some of these drum sculptures are painted by Bond’s wife, Meg Tilley Anderson.5

The latest innovation of Sound Play is the Preschool Music Station, which has four instruments in one unit: a rain wheel, two tongue drums, and a pentatonic soprano metallophone with a pentatonic soprano marimba. The Preschool Music Station allows several children to play together. Soundplay also designs with Braille notation in order to allow vision-impaired children access to the instruments.6

Bond works with teachers across the country and holds hands-on design workshops for the Smithsonian Institute and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.

  • 1. Bond Anderson Musician, Designer, Master Craftsman. Sound Play. < > 23 Aug. 2010.
  • 2. Sound Play. < > 7 Sept. 2010.
  • 3. “What’s New.” Sound Play. < > 31 Aug. 2010.
  • 4. Baylor, Chris. “Sound Play Outdoor Musical Instruments – A Woodworking Q&A with Bond Anderson.” < > 31 Aug. 2010.
  • 5. “Meet Meg Tilley Anderson.” Sound Play. < > 31 Aug. 2010.
  • 6. Op. cit., “What’s New.”