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Here’s How To Make Your Own Musical Instrument!

Team StoryWeavers|June 6, 2020|

DIY - Water Xylophone

What is common to the sound of a blowing whistle, a baby’s cry or a woman’s scream? They are all high pitched sounds. Similarly, the sound of a bass drum or a car engine or frogs croaking are examples of low pitched sounds. While we know about these independent sounds, did you know that when put together, they can produce music?

Confused? Well, today’s experiment has the solution to this confusion.

Xylophone Instrument

Today, we are going to make Water Xylophone. This experiment will help us learn how sound waves travel, how different pitches are produced and how to have loads of fun while doing it!

Water Xylophone Supplies:

  • Water
  • 5 Glass containers of the same size
  • Food colours (optional) 
  • Wooden sticks (could be wooden spatula from the kitchen) or spoons

Water Xylophone

Procedure:

  1. First, arrange all the 5 glasses in a line. 
  2. Now fill the glasses as shown in the picture above, with varying levels of water. For example, you can start by filling the first glass up to the brim (say 1 cup of water). Fill the next glass with ¾ cup of water, the next with  ½ cup of water, and next with ¼ cup of water and then keep the last glass empty. The rule is to keep reducing the quantity of water in every glass and let the last glass be empty.
  3. If you have included the food colours in your experiment, now is the time to add them to each glass, as per your liking. And you’re ready with the set-up for this DIY!
  4. Now lightly tap the wooden stick/spoon against these containers, you can try tapping them at different places on the glass (top or middle) and notice the sound that each glass makes. 

What will happen is that the glass with the least amount of water will make a high pitched sound, whereas the glass with most water will make a low pitched sound and the glasses in between will make sounds in pitches somewhere between the high and low.

You can experiment by creating tunes of your own with these glasses. You can also play the ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ jingle on your water xylophone. For this, you will have to add another glass to the set-up. So now you have a total of 6 glasses. Now you have to fill a little bit of water in the 5th glass (which was empty so far) and add even less water to the 6th glass. So now in the set-up you have the 6 glasses, 1 being the glass with the most water, 2 being the next, 3 after that, accordingly followed by 4, 5 and 6 being the glass with the least water. Now tap the glasses the following order –

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on Water Xylophone

Repeat the first 2 paras to finish the rhyme

And there you have it, a musical instrument created on your own with just glass and water!

The Science  Behind the Sounds:

Sound is nothing more than vibrations that travel through a medium. You see, when these glasses are tapped with the wooden stick/spoon, it creates vibrations that travel from the glass to the water, then through the air to our ears. The sound waves travel fastest through solid, then liquid and slowest in gas. The speed of the vibrations determines the pitch of the sound. Faster the rate of the vibrations (also called frequency), higher the pitch. In this case,  when the wooden stick/spoon taps the glass container, the glass vibrates and with it, the water inside vibrates too. The empty glass produces the highest pitched sound, as in this case the sound waves travel through only one medium – air and they move quickly through the air into our ears. Meanwhile, in the case of the glass filled with water to the brim, when tapped the glass vibrates, the water inside slows down the vibrations of the glass, which ultimately slows down the speed of the vibrations, hence producing the lowest-pitched sound.

If you wanna know more about the properties of sound, watch this video –

Did you know facts

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like:

Weird But True: 5 Musical Instruments You’ve Never Heard Of

Music and the Brain: How We Understand and Feel Music

Music and its Many Genres

About the Author


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Charu Verma

Charu, a feminist and an accidental writer, is yet to master the art of writing about herself. Always curious to learn new stuff, she ends up spending a lot of time unlearning the incorrect lessons. She enjoys all sorts of stories – real, fictional, new, old, hers and would love hearing yours too. Feel free to ping her at storyweavers@byjus.com to share anything that you think is worth sharing.

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