It takes incredible skill and commitment to play a musical instrument, especially an instrument that requires a double reed like the oboe! Instruments rely on the vibrations of sound waves in order to produce sweet, soothing tunes. Sound waves are formed when molecules vibrate. The surrounding medium, whether that is a solid, liquid, or gas, begins to vibrate too, moving the sound forward. When you are playing an instrument, sound is produced by air molecules vibrating back and forth, sending waves throughout the air. The air molecules do not move with the waves, they are merely bumping into each other and returning to their original position. When we hear something, whether it’s our parents telling us to clean our rooms or listening to a symphony orchestra, we are sensing these vibrations in the air. When these vibrations move fast, we hear higher pitched sounds. When they move slower, we hear lower pitched sounds. You create sound waves every time you speak, but what about music? Do you think that you would make a good oboe player? Give this experiment below a try to make some sound musical waves of your own!
Materials: Straw, Scissors
Directions: Flatten one edge of the straw. Take your scissors and cut at an angle on both sides of the flatten edge to form a small triangular point, half an inch or so. Blow through the straw along this cut edge. It’s difficult to do, so don’t go too fast or blow too hard at first. When you get the hang of making noise, try cutting the straw shorter and see what happens!
How It Works: You’re making music – well, more of a squawk! This is how double reed instruments can work. When you blow into the straw you are creating vibrations with the flattened edge. These vibrations are then passed through the straw, which acts as an air column. The shorter you cut the straw, the smaller the air column becomes and the faster the air moves. This creates a higher pitch!
Want more? Research it! This experiment helps explain how double reed instruments work, but how does something like a piano use sound waves to produce music?