Create an Instrument: Part 2 – The Science of Sound

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Create an Instrument: Part 2 – The Science of Sound

As a music teacher, I have NO experience teaching labs.  This is where you can really benefit from turning to your colleagues for help.  If you don’t have a formal STEM teacher in your school, try teaming up with a science teacher for an interdisciplinary unit.  If not, do not fear – you can do it!  The internet is full of resources to help!  Do a quick search for “science of sound lesson plan” and you’ll find a wealth of information.


Students comparing tuning forks

Students comparing tuning forks

Part 2 – The Science of Sound

After the challenge of creating an “instrument” with limited supplies, students spent a day learning about the science of sound.  This day (or the entire unit) wouldn’t have been possible without the expertise of our STEM teacher – who very conveniently used to teach sixth grade science.  She provided two great labs for our students to see, hear, and create sounds while making connections to the science behind them.


Tuning Fork Discovery

This lab, from Explore Sound allowed students to discover how frequency effects pitch. (Note: We only did the activity portion of the lesson plan)  Each student had his/her own tuning fork to record the frequency and listen to.  Students LOVE playing with tuning forks – something about SEEING and FEELING the vibration against various objects fascinates them!  After recording the data about their own tuning fork they compared it to the forks of five other students, noting if the length was longer/shorter and if the pitch was higher/lower.  The students then drew conclusions about how length and frequency effects pitch.  Finally, they dipped the tip of a ringing tuning fork into water for a surprise!


Measuring water in the test tubes

Measuring water in the test tubes

Ringing Test Tubes

Students were given 8 test tubes and poured varying amounts of water into each one, measuring for accuracy.  They then blew across the top of each tube and arranged them in order from the lowest to highest pitch.  Students concluded the less water a tube held, the lower the sound, due to the longer column of air for vibration.

The basis for this lab came from the school’s old science text book series.


Students completed lab sheets for each lab where they made predictions, collected data, and drew conclusions. These labs provided a basis for student understanding the science of sound when they start building their instruments.

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2 responses »

  1. This unit looks great – last year, I was in the position of doing something similar, but from the “opposite” perspective. I’m a science teacher and I am very accustomed to labs and experiments, but my own understanding of music is limited. I think you’re right – this topic is a perfect opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration.

  2. Pingback: Build An Instrument: Part 4 – Compose & Perform | Room 102

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