By manipulating sound we can arrange a series of notes referred to as
a musical scale.
The sounds we hear coming from our instruments are referred to as notes,
as in musical “notation.” Each note represents a specific sound.
In some ways, notes are like the ABCs of music. Just as we put letters
of the alphabet together to form words, we put musical notes together to
form a song. A series of notes that increases in pitch at regular intervals
is referred to as a musical scale. By understanding how musical
instruments work, we can tailor pitch in order to produce the sounds that
- Understand the relationship between pitches and notes.
- Experiment with variables that affect pitch.
1 to 1 & 1/2 hours
Introducing the Concept
Discuss the various sounds the students have produced in the other
Sounds Like Science activities. Talk about the
different sounds that are made by a variety of instruments, as well
as the different sounds individual instruments make. Reintroduce the
concept of pitch and talk about its relationship to notes, and how
sequential notes form musical scales.
- different-sized bottles with small mouths
- water and other types of liquid
- sugar, sand, pebbles, or coins
- Line up a number of bottles along the edge of a table.
- Place your top lip on the edge of the bottle and blow so that the air
skims the top of the bottle. You may need to adjust your lips and
tongue—your embouchure—in order to produce sound.
- Compare the sounds of the different-sized bottles. See if you
can detect the different pitches and arrange your bottles from the
lowest to highest pitch.
- Add some liquid to the bottles to see if the pitch of your notes changes.
Add some of the other things such as sand, coins, or pebbles to the bottle,
as well, to see how the sound is affected.
- What happened when you blew on the empty bottle? Did it produce a sound?
- Identify the force that caused the sound. Identify what was vibrating.
- Can you produce different sounds by moving your mouth as you blow?
- What happened to the sound when you added water to the bottles? Did
the pitch or volume change?
- Were you able to tune your instrument by experimenting with different
levels of water?
- Fine-tuning instruments takes a great deal of patience. Don’t
be surprised if the students become frustrated. Try to see as much
humor as possible during the activity!
- Xylophones are wonderful instruments for demonstrating musical scales.
If possible, try to have a few available for the students to help them
tune their instruments. Local daycares and community centers may have
a few that you could borrow.
Science All Around Us
Sometimes music appears in places where least expected. An otologist
uses musical notes (a variety of pitches) to test hearing. Discuss with
your students how such a doctor might go about testing their hearing. Talk
about some of the instruments that might be used for a hearing test.
Sounds Like Science - Drums
Sounds Like Science - Guitars
Sounds Like Science - Kazoo
Sounds Like Science - Jamboree
The Hidden Jewels of Geometry
This activity copied from APASE of Vancouver, Canada, which
has regrettably disappeared from the Web.