November 3, 2020
What is Sound?
Find out how sound works in a series of activities from the Bakken Museum, created for our Meet the Instruments Young People’s Concert Experience.
First of all, what is sound? To make a sound, you need something to vibrate, which means to move back and forth. And for a vibration to create a sound or sound wave, this vibration has to occur in something. We call this something a medium. We’ll be using air as our medium for sound to move through!
- Some rubber bands
- A small box (cereal, shoe, cracker)
- A pencil
- Tape (scotch, painter, or duct tape)
- A grown-up person
- An exacto knife (see Activity 3 for substitution)
Stretch a rubber band in between your hands. Can you make the rubber band move back and forth? Can you see it move? Can you hear something? The rubber band’s vibration is pushing against air molecules, causing them to bump into each other, all the way to your eardrum, making your eardrum to vibrate! That’s what we perceive as sound!
Place your hand on your throat. Try humming. Try humming a high sound, try humming a low sound. Do these vibrations feel different? Does one feel faster or slower? We use musical instruments to change vibrations! They can help us make vibrations or sounds bigger, or make them sound differently, or help us to sustain a sound.
- Take a small box.
- Have a grown up cut a small hole out of the front of the box. If you don't have an Exacto knife, use a Kleenex or facial tissue box. (The sound hole is already cut out!)
- Stretch a rubber band around the box the “long way” (from top to bottom, or hot-dog style).
- Try plucking or strumming the rubber band. What do you hear?
- Slide a pencil under the rubber band. Try plucking or strumming the rubber band.
- Tape the pencil to the box where you get the sound you like best.
- Now, how can you change the sound you’re making? Can you make a higher-sounding sound? Can you play three different notes on your instrument?
About the Bakken Museum
The Bakken Museum inspires a passion for innovation by exploring the potential for science, technology and the humanities to make the world a better place. Located on the West Shore of Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis, the museum features a world-renowned collection of artifacts, exceptional education programs, exhibits exploring the wonders of invention, plant medicine, technology and science, and the Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden.