The Mechanics of Sound: How Freenotes Instruments Work

How do Freenotes Instruments work?

Freenotes Unique Designs Deliver Perfect Tone Forever

Appealing to All Ages and Abilities


Everyone can play Freenotes, regardless of musical training, and can step right into improvisational play with other players. No other system of musical instruments can offer this – especially to a novice. Freenotes are an ensemble of real musical instruments with distinct pure tones that blend into soothing sounds.  These percussion instruments are xylophones, chimes and marimbas that are perfectly tuned and  make musical expression accessible to everyone.

Of the wide variety of Freenotes instruments, each is designed around a fundamental system that is effective regardless of the final shape or size. Drawing upon years of experience with music theory, practical experience and an analytical mind, Richard Cooke (inventor of Freenotes) creates unique instruments that ensure a successful experience playing music from the very first note.

All Freenotes instruments are in the category of percussion instruments because they create a sound when hit with a mallet.  Most designs contain an air cavity (resonator) that amplifies and sustains the sound when struck.

Freenotes designs incorporate four, simplified musical principles that ensure not only a player’s success, but their enjoyment and satisfaction, as well as those listening nearby.

The Simplified Tonal System

Each instrument has a different combination of a few notes that work together – creating harmonious and complementary notes.  The simplified tonal system ensures that a satisfying combination of tonal qualities is achieved, regardless of shape, size or material with which the instrument was made. It is what allows for untrained musicians to improvise beautiful music, played totally by ear.

The Ergonomic Design

Very simply stated: Freenotes are designed to be easy to play. With the large scale of the Ted X
instruments, hand-eye coordination will either come naturally, or is easily developed, for people of all ages. Players see a note, aim with the mallet and strike. Each instrument has a unique mallet that is designed to produce the fullest sound from each note. The instruments are placed at an optimum 30-degree angle, for maximum ease of play by children, adults, elders and people with physical and cognitive challenges.

Various Types of Sound Quality Achieved Through Form and Materials

Freenotes musical instruments come in assorted shapes and sizes and are made from different materials in order to achieve the variety of tones . For sound quality and durability, most Freenotes are made from aluminum and fiberglass.

The sculptural instruments include: tuned bars, resonators, chimes, drums and bells. Tuned bars are flat pieces mounted over a resonator that vibrates when the note is struck. Chimes are long cylindrical tubes that hang in the air. Drums are long hollow cylinders, tuned to a specific pitch, with heads that are struck either with a mallet or an open hand. The bells are convex shaped, reminiscent of big mushrooms. Different tonal qualities are created by varying the dimensions of the tubes, bars and bells. The note will be pure and full when the bar is struck in the middle or on the end.

Some of the larger instruments, specifically the Pegasus, Glass Imbarimba and Swirl, have a Major pentatonic scale on one side and a corresponding Minor pentatonic scale on the other side,  This exclusive Freenotes feature allows for easy change from one scale to the other). In addition to fun musical exploration, it is useful for music educators to teach their students about Major and Minor scales.

Another very important feature of the design is that the tones are sustained for five seconds or longer. Players can hear the harmonies that are created as they strike the different notes; they don’t have to play fast. Playing is more gratifying because the sound lasts longer.

Building a Sound Sculpture

Freenotes are designed for durability.  They require minimal to no maintenance. With regular
use, they retain “like new” condition and the sounding elements never go out of tune. Additionally, the materials and construction methods are designed so the instruments sound good over a wide range of temperatures. Proof of the durability and longevity is in the numerous outdoor Freenotes installations that date back  16 years. Even exposed to constant severe weather, in places like Moab, Utah, the Freenotes still sound like new.

These four musical principles come together in Freenotes, resulting in individual and group sound sensations. A solo instrument is perfectly satisfying. Or, complex and exquisite combinations of tones can be created by having individuals play various instruments at the same time – similar to the way all the instruments in an orchestra come together to form one cohesive beautiful piece of music.

These principles combine to form the real reason Freenotes instruments “work”: they are just fun to play. They demystify and make musical expression entirely non-threatening. The instant gratification and total success that is achieved (by literally everyone who plays) builds self-confidence that spills over to many other areas of life. It encourages freedom of expression in whatever endeavors a person chooses to pursue. Freenotes encourage active participation in life as opposed to being a spectator. Creating beautiful music is not reserved for highly trained musicians – it is available to everyone.

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Making beautiful music together – Durango Herald

Durango musical instruments firm exports its products to the world

By Jordyn Dahl Herald staff writer

TKO Residential Hong Kong Swirl

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Zay Hernandez, 4, son of Randy Wallace, pounds on one of Freenotes Harmony Park’s musical instruments at Durango Discovery Museum. Freenotes Harmony Park is finding new markets overseas, and that effort is aided with the help of several government programs.

Freenotes Harmony Park’s business for outdoor musical instruments serendipitously expanded through the years into international markets.

Now, with the financial assistance of government programs, Freenotes is better able to exploit its international opportunities.

“When Richard first started designing outdoor instruments, it was a fanciful idea he had as an experiment. The first time we sold one, he was perplexed if it would ever happen again,” said Richard’s wife, Christy Cooke – co-founder of Durango-based Freenotes Harmony Park.

Not only did the instruments continue to sell, they can now be found in London, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Scandinavia. The company is looking at expanding to Chile.

Freenotes originally sold indoor and outdoor musical instruments. But the operation grew so big the company split into two separate businesses in 2011: Freenotes, which sells the indoor instruments, and Freenotes Harmony Park.

The expansion could be attributed to the firm’s success in exporting, which U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, recognized at an “Export 101” event he hosted Aug. 10 along with Colorado’s U.S. Export Assistance Center.

Tipton presented Freenotes Harmony Park And Chinook Medical Gear with an Export Achievement Certificates.

“We have innovative people with great exports,” he said upon recognizing the two Durango-based businesses.

Freenotes never sought overseas partners. Instead, the firm has always been approached by international companies who discovered the instruments online.

The first overseas company to seek Freenotes was Hand Made Places – recently renamed Freenotes Limited – in 2008. Hand Made Places specializes in outdoor education and asked the Cookes if they would supply the company with the instruments.

Freenotes Harmony Park didn’t have the resources to manufacture that many instruments at the time, so Hand Made Places manufactures the instruments to sell them, and Freenotes receives a minimum royalty of $50,000 annually.

But the company will soon enter uncharted waters with its expansion to Chile. It will manufacture the instruments in the U.S., and Urbanplay – a Chilean company – will buy them wholesale to sell to their customers in Chile. This means Freenotes will have to learn the ins and outs of exporting and tariffs.

“We’ve been a little bit intimidated by the complexities of shipping, mainly, and customers and all the paperwork,” Cooke said. “But we’re realizing with resources through international trade offices that we have more support to pursue those things, and we benefit more by exporting.”

The “Export 101” forum brought in two experts in the exporting field to discuss the resources out there for business looking to jump into international markets, including financial assistance.

Businesses that apply for the Colorado Export Development Grant could get up to $4,500. The grant, available through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, OEDIT, provides financial help to qualifying companies in developing new export markets.

“We want to see that (businesses) know the industry in that market, and they understand a way to enter their chosen market,” said Sandi Moilanen, international division director for OEDIT. “We want to see that they did their homework.”

Moilanen estimates the office will provide about 15 grants; though they probably will not be for the full $4,500. If a business has a great application and requires the full $4,500, the office will fund that amount, Moilanen said. But if the business needs only $2,500, that is the amount it will be awarded.

Companies have until Sept. 14 to apply for the grant.

OEDIT also has the Next Step Program, which is for businesses requiring extra funding to break into an overseas market. For every $1 a business puts in, OEDIT will also put in $1 up to $3,500.

Cooke applied for the Next Step Program, and she says Moilanen recently indicated she would receive about $1,500. Cooke plans to put this money toward reprinting Freenote Harmony’s product catalog in Spanish. The grant will cover about half the cost.

The U.S. Export Assistance Center of the U.S. Commercial Service does not offer grants, but it does have other resources for businesses either exporting for the first time or those looking for extra guidance.

Sandra Necessary, director of the center in Santa Fe, spoke at the forum and touted a program for those interested in traveling abroad to find an international partner.

The office sets up meetings with potential partners, obtains a translator who goes to all of the meetings and takes care of transportation.

“I think this is where we shine,” Necessary said.

Roger Zalneraitis, executive director of the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, frequently directs businesses looking into exporting to these programs and resources.

“Trade is important in La Plata County,” he said. “Businesses can only grow so much if they sell in La Plata County. If they want to keep growing, they have to look outside the county.”

The 3rd Congressional District earned about $569 million in total merchandise exports in 2010. La Plata County earned almost $98 million.

Freenotes Harmony Park is certainly growing, and the instruments could go mainstream if a contract with Angry Birds works out. The Finland-based video game took the country by storm last year.

One of Cooke’s employees is moving to Helsinki with her husband, who was recently hired by Angry Birds. While on a recent visit, the employee discussed the musical instruments with some Angry Birds employees, and an executive contacted Cooke earlier this month to see if she would be interested in developing products for the company’s educational division.

It’s this type of sheer happenstance that has become a bit of a trademark for Freenotes.

“Opportunities find their way to us. It’s amazing,” Cooke said. “We just have to be ready to field the opportunities, and we’re more ready for international opportunities like this than ever before.”

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Listen To The Instruments

Listen To The Instruments




Contrabass Chimes


Flower Collection




Lilly Pad Cymbals

Manta Ray



Pagoda Bells







Tenor Tree

Tuned Drums

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GriffinGriffin – Producing rich full tones, this resonated metallophone has anodized aluminum chimes.  It is patterned after the Swirl, the warm tones linger for 3-5 seconds making it similar to finger painting with sound.  The Color is Tan.  

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Please note that photos of our instruments may show slight variations in the style of some instrument components.

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Deluxe Collection

Deluxe Collection

Deluxe EnsembleThis mixed quartet of Freenotes Harmony Park instruments offers a musical experience for all through this specially designed ensemble that delivers a variety of sound qualities and pitch range. The Deluxe Collection includes the Swirl in Orange, Imbarimba in Yellow, Yantzee in Blue and the Tuned Drums available in either Rainbow or Green bases with one of four color molded drum caps: Mosse, Yellow or Taupe. NO Substitutions for this price saving package.  Ask your distributor about pricing.

NO Substitutions for this price saving package. Ask your distributor about pricing.

Download Deluxe Collection Sales Sheet

Note:  Not all  photos show current Color choices

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Premium Collection

Premium Collection

Premium EnsembleEveryone can play Freenotes regardless of musical training and anyone can step right into improvisational play, solo or in a group. This collection of five real musical instruments delivers maximum pitch range with texture and pure distinct tones that blend into soothing sounds.  This collection includes Contrabass Chimes, Swirl in Orange, Imbarimba in Yellow, Pegasus in Green and the Tuned Drums. Drums are available in either Rainbow or Green bases with one of 2 color molded drum caps: Moss or Taupe.

NO Substitutions for this price saving package. Ask your distributor about pricing.

Download Premium Collection Sales Sheet

Premium Ensemble 4 Premium Ensemble 3 Premium Pkg. Photo Divine Premium2015_Render_1SMALL

Note:  Not all  photos show current Color choices


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Notable Public Installations

Notable Public Installations:

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

Jazz de Montréal copy

One of our newest installations is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Home of The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (English: Montreal International Jazz Festival).  Ranked as the world’s largest jazz festival by Guinness World Records, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal has been synonymous with a passion for music for over three decades. Every year, North America’s French-speaking metropolis welcomes global music fans to 10 days of jazz-centric celebration, where fans of all types of jazz-related music rub shoulders with aficionados of the genre in its purest form.

Riverwalk in New Orleans

The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk in New Orleans, LA wanted to enhance their visitor’s experience and give them something unique to enjoy and talk about so they added Freenotes Harmony Park Instruments to their property!

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Imagine U Interactive Children’s Museum

A dream, 10 years of planning, a creative imagination by the community comes to reality. Here is a short video. To learn more about Imagine U Children’s Museum.  

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New Orleans City Park

New Sir Cumference Playground New Orleans City Park

City Park has a special place in the hearts of generations of New Orleanians and is a must visit for visitors to the city.

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North Pole Music Park

North Pole Music Park

A unique new play area, combining music-making and outdoor play, has been installed at the Terry Miller Park this summer.  Several other communities in Alaska have musical parks, including Seward, Wasilla, Palmer and Juneau.

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Jeff Healey Park

Jeff Healy Park -Toronto

Jeff Healey Park in Toronto, Ontario Canada is named to commemorate jazz and blues great Jeff Healey, the legendary blind Guitarist.

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Chloe’s Sunshine Playground

Chloe’s Sunshine Playground, Utah

For the last six years, a local mother has been raising funds and working with the city of Syracuse, Utah to get an accessible park so children with disabilities, like her daughter, will have somewhere to play, and Saturday marked that playground’s grand opening. Read More

Lohas Park Hong Kong

TKO Residential Hong Kong Swirl

“HEMERA” Lohas Park Phase III is a new developing residential area, in Hong Kong.  The project is a joint effort with the largest developer in Hong Kong, along with the owner of the Mass Transit Railway(MTR).

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Crossing Abilities All Inclusive Playground

Crossing Abilities all inclusive playground, Is located at Mountain View Park, on Sullivan Trail

A safe and accessible outdoor playground that fosters imaginative play and developmental learning. This will enhance the quality of life of children with disabilities through fitness and socialization. At this playground, differences disappear and children share experiences with their peers while exploring equipment and learning at their own level.

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Buffalo, Minn. Music Trail

Buffalo, Minn. Music Trail

It winds along the lake in Buffalo, taking people from one musical instrument to another. It’s a place to stop and take in the sights and sounds along a brand new music trail.

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Heinzerling Foundation’s Outdoor Sensory Garden

Music and fountains help Heinzerling Foundation’s residents, enjoy the new sensory garden.

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Roanoke Virginia Accessible Park at Countryside

Roanoke Virginia Accessible Park at Countryside

Roanoke’s Newest Park at Countryside, is a fully accessible playground, running trail and musical trail adds a multi-sensory experience with Freenotes outdoor musical instruments.

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Crested Butte Resort and ski area

Trail Head Children’s Museum: Crested Butte, Colorado.  The hills are alive with the sound of music, thanks to a brand new public installation by the Trailhead Children’s Museum.

On Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 The Trailhead Children’s Museum, unveiled their newest exhibit, the outdoor Musical Instrument Garden. Located outside the current Trailhead facility in the base area of Mt. Crested Butte, the Garden includes five permanent outdoor musical instruments made by the company Free Notes Harmony Parks, with a weather station, weaving station and outdoor garden underway. The Board of Directors has graciously made the exhibit open to the public with a suggested donation for those not entering the Museum.

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City of Sedona

“Music Lives Here” is an inscription chiseled into the sandstone rock next to a brand new grouping of Harmony Park instruments. A bold installation by the city of Sedona, Ariz., these outdoor instruments is permanently placed on Main Street at the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center to boost its public art initiative.

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Maple Grove Rotary Club Builds a Community Music Park at Town Green

Sounds of spontaneous creativity can be heard in the new Maple Grove Rotary Music Park. Nestled in at Town Green near the library and outdoor amphitheater, this new music park provides a place to meander, relax and create music. The music park includes six specially made, weather resistant instruments laid out to create complimentary tones. These permanent instruments are accessible to would-be musicians of any age and require no special skill to play. There are no sour notes, only the sweet sounds of families and friends, young and old, a community making music together. The idea to build a musical park came out of the Maple Grove Rotary Club’s 2009 five-year visioning plan.


Millstone Creek

Millstone Creek: Columbus, Ohio. “The first time I heard Freenotes instruments being played, I was blown away by their sound quality.  They are beautiful instruments that make beautiful sounds.  And the best part is they have been designed to withstand the heavy use and weather conditions of being outdoors.  They have even figured out how to ensure that no one walks away with the mallets,” says Mara Kaplan of Accessible Playgrounds. “I am very impressed with Freenotes’ commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities have an opportunity to experience the thrill of making music, but also the respectful and well-researched way they discuss different disabilities.”

Read a local article on the park

Florida Botanical Gardens

Instruments were placed on loan at the Botanical Gardens in Key West, Florida for a sculpture exhibition. The Garden’s Education Department learned the instruments were about to be removed so they had an emergency fundraising effort to make the installations permanent. After a week of public donations and funds from the Education Department, the instruments now call Key West home.

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Discovery Playground: Auburn's Les Gove Park in Auburn, Washington.
Discovery Playground

Discovery Playground: Auburn’s Les Gove Park in Auburn, Washington.

Often, children with disabilities are left to sit and watch their able-bodied friends and siblings play. Instead, imagine all children playing side-by-side in a fully accessible and sensory-rich playground environment. That is the vision for Auburn’s barrier-free playground. Barrier-free playgrounds delight children of all abilities while providing a place where compassion and acceptance flourish. The sensory garden is an integrated system of spaces devoted to the five senses: see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.

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Jackson Park

Jackson Park: Minneapolis City of Lakes Rotary Club of Minnesota
Jackson Park: Minneapolis City of Lakes Rotary Club of Minnesota earned a Rotary International Significant Achievement Award for their installation of Freenotes.

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Village at  Winter Park Resort

interactive outdoor musical instruments in the Village at Winter Park Resort

The Manta Ray is just one of 5 new interactive outdoor musical instruments in the Village at Winter Park Resort

Holton-Arms School Bethesda, Maryland


A total of 12 instruments is in an elliptical arrangement ranging five octaves from contrabass
to soprano in both pentatonic and diatonic scales.

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Adventure Island, Eagle, Idaho Tuned Drums

Imagine a playground where children search for hidden artifacts in an archaeological dig, conduct a symphony, or launch to the moon in a spaceship.  Now imagine that all children can experience that kind of fun no matter what their ability level. Also imagine that children in wheelchairs or those with sensory, visual or cognitive disabilities can play side-by-side with their able-bodied peers.That’s Adventure Island, a universally accessible playground in Settler’s Park, Meridian Idaho.

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Morgan’s Wonderland
, TX

Morgans Wonderland

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center of Boston, MA. Will change the lives of Boston’s inner-city families for generations to come. At the Kroc Center children will play. Learners will discover. Families will come together. The Kroc Center will bring hope and new life to a community in need and a vision for the next generations.

Liberty Park, Salt Lake City, Utah

Young man enjoys playing on a Freenote Instrument at Liberty Park.
Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, this seven instrument installation is part of a wheelchair accessible Rotary Playpark that was dedicated at an opening ceremony during the 2002 Winter Olympics and used as a torch stop for the Para-Olympic procession.


Musical Playground, Rotary Park, Moab, Utah

Rotary_Playground_NewThe original Harmony Park™ musical playground was developed and installed in Moab, Utah’s Rotary Park, in 1995. New instruments have been added to this playground in several phases and have consistently delivered musical fun and recreation to the Moab community and its visitors from around the world for many years.

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Harbin China Sculpture Park

 Harbin China Sculpture Park     Harbin Sun Island China

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Installation Guides / Product Sheets

“If you’re interested in getting 2D/3D CAD files for all our instruments, please click on the link below and you will be able to choose from a variety of formats. You will also be able to “drag and drop” these files into any CAD design you’re working with.


2D/3D CAD Files on CADdetails Website

Installation Guides & Product Sheets

Flower Installation and Product Sheet

Harp Installation and Product Sheet

Serenade Installation and Product Sheet

Aria Installation and Product Sheet

Cadence Installation and Product Sheet

Contrabass Chimes Installation and Product Sheet

Duet Installation and Product Sheet

Imbarimba Installation and Product Sheet

Griffin Installation and Product Sheet

Lilly Pad Cymbals Installation and Product Sheet

Manta Ray Installation and Product Sheet

Melody Installation and Product Sheet

Merry Installation and Product Sheet

Pagoda Bells Installation and Product Sheet

Pegasus Installation and Product Sheet

Piper Installation and Product Sheet

Rhythm Installation and Product Sheet

Swirl Installation and Product Sheet

Tenor Tree Installation Guide

Tuned Drums Installation and Product Sheet 

Yantzee Install & Product Sheet


Collection Recommended Layouts

Starter Collection Recommended Layout

Deluxe Collection Recommended Layout

Premium Collection Recommended Layout

Sculptural Collection Recommended Layout

Weenotes Collection Recommended Layout

























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