Do you play a musical instrument? Does someone you know play an instrument? It doesn't matter if it's a flute or a piano or a guitar, all musical instruments work because of one simple scientific principle; they vibrate. Vibrations happen anytime something moves back and forth really fast. You can feel vibrations when you speak. Gently rest two fingers on that little lump on your throat and hum. That buzzing sound you feel in your fingers are the vibrations in your vocal cords. The faster the vibrations, the higher the pitch of the sound. So if all musical instruments work on vibrations, why do they sound different from each other?
I've got a challenge for you that lets you explore the relationship between vibrations and pitch.
Begin by filling each bottle with a different amount of cold water. Fill the first bottle about 1/3 full, the second bottle 1/2 full and the third bottle 2/3 full.
Which bottle will make the highest sound when you blow in it, and which will make the highest sound when you tap it with the spoon? Maybe all the bottles will sound the same? Predict before you give it a try!
Now, before you tap the bottles or blow across the top of them, guess which bottle will make the highest sound and which one will make the lowest sound.
Here are the rules to follow after you've made your predictions:
See if you can figure out why you got the results you did. Also, see if you get the same results using warm water instead of cold. Good luck, have fun and watch out for the DIRT!
Curriculum Focus: Science/Simple Physics/Sound
For more information about vibrations and musical instruments, try these Web sites:
What Makes Music?
Activities Which Teach: The Key Science Concept - Perception
General Science Sites
Science and Technology for Children Curriculum
The Natural History Museum (London) Edison National Historic Site Endangered Species Program
Edison National Historic Site
Endangered Species Program