Harmonizing With Homemade Harmonicas

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Students understand that vibrations make sound and use this to create their own musical instruments.

Big Idea

Vibrations make sounds in musical instruments.

RAP - Review and Preview

5 minutes

I call students to the gathering area. We review what we know about waves, wave movement, and sound. I tell students that we will be putting our theory into practice by making our own musical instruments. Today we will be making harmonicas.

Guided Investigation

20 minutes

Each student gathers:

  • 2 large popsicle sticks
  • 1 thick rubber band
  • 2 thin rubber bands
  • 2 one inch cut straws

I guide students through the process of making an harmonica. I use my document camera and perform the steps as I tell them what to do so they have a visual and auditory example. This is useful for my English Language Learners.

  1. Students place the thick rubber band long0ways around one popsicle stick.
  2. Students place one straw, parallel to the popsicle stick, under the rubber band, and one on top.
  3. Students place the other popsicle stick on top of the straws.
  4. Students secure the popsicle sticks top and bottom.
  5. Students blow to produce sound.

The closer the straws are to each other, the vibrations of the rubber band are quicker and the pitch is higher. As they are moved further apart the pitch lowers as the vibrations slow.


Independent Investigation

10 minutes

I give students about 10 minutes to freely explore with their harmonicas. Invariably they figure out how to change the pitch to create simple songs. Sometimes, groups of students will pitch their harmonicas into a group of notes and each child plays one note in the tune to play a tune as a group.