Do you hear what I hear?

What’s That I Hear? Learning about Sound

Today in class students learned what sound is and how it is produced. They experimented with different homemade instruments to figure out how to change the pitch  and volume of the sound from each one. One thing the instruments had in common was that the vibrations of larger objects (including “objects” like columns of air – also known as empty pipes!) produced lower-pitched sounds, and smaller ones produced higher-pitched sounds. In the case of string instruments, the tension on the string had a large effect too, as any guitarists, violinists, or cellists in the class knew from experience!

The strangest instruments we heard were “kitchen gongs” – these were just ordinary metal kitchen tools dangling from a string with a loop at the other end. When we put a finger through the loop, put the fingertip in one ear, and then played the “gong”, we got a big surprise. More sound traveled through the string than traveled through the air! Every shape of kitchen utensil makes a different sound – ask your student how to try this at home!

Extend this lesson by creating a head harp that only you can hear. Instructions are available at

¿Qué es eso que escucho? Aprendiendo sobre el Sonido

En la clase del día de hoy, los estudiantes aprendieron sobre qué es el sonido, cómo se produce y cómo viaja a través de ondas. Los estudiantes tuvieron la oportunidad de experimentar con instrumentos “hechos en casa” y así determinar cómo se puede cambiar el tono (frecuencia) y el volumen (amplitud) del sonido de cada uno de los instrumentos. Una característica común que tenían los instrumentos, era que las vibraciones generadas por los objetos más grandes (incluyendo “objetos” como columnas de aires, también conocidas como tuberías vacías) producían sonidos con tonos más bajos. Por el contrario, los objetos más pequeños producían sonidos con tonos más altos. En cuanto a los instrumentos de cuerdas, la tensión de las cuerdas produce grandes efectos, algo sabido por guitarristas, violinistas o los chelistas de la clase a través de la experiencia.

Los instrumentos más extraños que escuchamos fueron los “Gongs de cocina”. Estos no eran más que simples utensilios metálicos de cocina colgando de una cuerda con un lazo en un extremo. Cuando se pone un dedo a través del lazo y otro dedo en una oreja y luego se toca el “Gong”, te llevas una gran sorpresa. El sonido viaja más a través de la cuerda que a través del aire. Cada utensilio de distinta forma produce un sonido diferente. Pregúntele a su hijo o hija cómo hacer esto en casa.


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Dr. Maureen Griffin

Maureen earned a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. While at Penn, she developed a novel micro-mechanical technique called micropipette peeling to investigate the role of muscle cell adhesion in normal and diseased skeletal muscle cells. After graduating, Maureen worked full time as a post-doctoral researcher and then a staff scientist a SelectX Pharmaceuticals. She joined the teaching staff in 2008 and was excited to be made an executive staff member in 2009. Maureen also continued to consult part time for SelectX until her daughter's birth in 2009; now she is focused on Science from Scientists and, of course, her children. Maureen uses her spare time to read, blog, cook, and renovate her house.

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