Music is a science topic? Why yes it is! Understanding music is part of sound, right?
Of course, this one should start with the videos. And the very best video for music would be Disney’s classic film about music, Fantasia.
I’m a bit surprised that was on Youtube, to be honest. We own the movie and especially liked the beginning where they introduce the instruments. Of course, for a more scientific look at music, Bill Nye also has an episode about music. And it contains the very best (and that’s really saying something!) Bill Nye music video of the entire 100 episode run of the show. Watch as Bill takes on Rocky Horror:
Of course, there are books too! We found a lot of them about instruments, the history of music, specific genres of music and more. There were several older treasures at our library, including a lovely remnant of the 1950’s with old cut outs… But I digress. My top picks were probably the widely available Meet the Orchestra by Ann Hayes and the lesser known The Magic of Music by Lisl Weil. Many of the sound experiment books geared toward younger kids are heavy on the music experiments. We especially liked Neil Ardley’s The Science Book of Sound for ideas.
On to the activities! The kids, aided by friend the science teacher extraordinaire, did a bunch of things with just playing around with sounds by using all the various sound makers on hand. They had fun just making a racket, but also discovering ways to change the sound by using an instrument in a different way and by exploring all the various options. They played with a bunch of different instruments, such as a basic xylophone as well as these cool contraptions called “percussion tubes,” that showed how the size of the percussion instrument has a big effect on the pitch.
As the kids talked about different kinds of musical instruments, they got to see the real thing. Obviously, children’s musical toys tend toward the percussion end, but my friend produced a guitar for them to try as well as a real trumpet. Getting everyone to make a proper sound on the trumpet was a challenge and BalletBoy needed several goes before he got anything other than spit everywhere. This was all very much like the symphony’s petting orchestra which often makes appearances at various local arts events. I think it seems very obvious that you strum or pluck a guitar, but actually getting to try and see that if you hold the string down it changes the pitch is something else. And there’s nothing like trying to play a brass or woodwind instrument. The term “blow” just doesn’t really tell you anything until you try it.
Finally, the kids had a chance to make their own musical instruments by putting rubber bands on tissue boxes (the best part was discovering that to make it twang, it needed a bridge). They also made cool like percussion shakers by stringing together lots of bottlecaps. Ah, bottlecaps.
Apologies again for the lack of art in these science posts. We’ll get back on track with a few more pictures in a couple of weeks.