I just finished up a Science of Sound instrument creation unit with my 3rd and 4th grade and it turned out so cool! We learned all about the science of sound, invented and made instruments from recycled materials and then made posters/ videos advertising our instruments so the school could check them out! Students were SO creative.
First, we did some science sound experiments and watched a few awesome science of sound videos (including the Sound Museum Magic School bus)! These videos showed us that, first, SOMETHING on the instrument needs to vibrate, and second, that the faster the vibrations, the higher the sound. After watching the short videos, we did our own experiments with salt on Tubano Drums, noticing that if you tapped with a mallet consistently the salt traveled to the edge of the drum but did not fall off. Other experiments you could do are the cans/ string telephones, building a water xylophone, and more! Through our experiments, realized that the bigger something is, the slower the vibrations are and therefore, the lower the sound. Small things are able to vibrate quickly so they make a higher sound. I like to say either "Big is low, small is high and that'll be true to the day we all die and even after that cause it's science." Or "Small is high, Big is low, that is science we should all know." I do remind them that it is the size of the part of the instrument that vibrates that determines the pitch, not the size of the instrument itself.
We learned all about the different classifications of instruments, too. Not only the orchestra families (Strings, Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion, and Keyboards), but also the main categories in the Hornbostel–Sachs classification system.
Idiophone- primarily produce their sounds by means of the actual body of the instrument vibrating.
Aerophone- primarily produce their sounds by means of vibrating air. The instrument itself does not vibrate, and there are no vibrating strings or membranes.
Chordophone- primarily produce their sounds by means of the vibration of a string or strings that are stretched between fixed points.
Membranophone- primarily produce their sounds by means of the vibration of a tightly stretched membrane.
Electrophone- instruments involving electricity.
Finally, it was time for students to design their instrument. They had some guiding questions to think about while brainstorming.
What materials do I need?
What will vibrate on my instrument?
How will my instrument be played?
What makes my instrument new and special?
What HB-S category will my instrument be part of?
After building, students were tasked with making an advertising poster and video using the following guidelines:
Describe your instrument with 3 facts, using complete sentences.
Draw a picture of your instrument (or take a picture and print it!)
Take a video of you playing your instrument. It can just be the instrument sound OR it can be a full commercial.
Once the posters and videos (in FLIPGRID) were complete, I was able to easily print out a QR code for each video. We attached the videos to our posters and then hung them in the hallway.
This whole process took about 6 weeks (not doing it all the time, but at least once a week)
To check out each others instruments, we had one day where we just used our school chrome books and this QR reader website to walk around our "Virtual Instrument Museum" and read about/ watch the instruments in action. We had at least one instrument from each HB-S. Most were idiophones, but we did have a lot of chordophones, a few membranophones, some aerophones, and even an electrophone with the help of a Makey Makey kit. It was so fun! Some younger grades got in on the action as well.
In addition to the student created instruments, we also had a few posters and QR codes that featured instruments students see and hear all around them. Orchestral instruments, guitars, ukuleles, classroom percussion, and more.
After travelling the hallways of our own museum, We also took some time to virtually visit some other awesome Instrument Museums, like the Musical Instrument Museum in Arizona and the National Instrument Museum in South Dakota. Check them out for yourself using the links below!
Walk through the Musical Instrument Museum Google Street Style! -
National Instrument Museum Interactive Map- First Floor-
National Instrument Museum Interactive Map - 2nd Floor-
Have you done an instrument creation project?