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20 October 2014
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Changing sounds - lesson plan

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A guitar

  1. To understand how the pitch of an instrument can be altered.
  2. To understand how the loudness of an instrument can be altered.

National Curriculum

Sc1, 2f; Sc4, 3f.


  • Online activities:
    • Bitesize changing sounds section: play, quiz
  • Learning Zone Broadband Class Clips:
  • Worksheets:
  • Other resources:
    • A range of musical instruments (guitar, drum, keyboard, bottle filled with water)
    • Interactive whiteboard
    • Computers (one for each group)
    • Four cards with High pitch, Low pitch, High volume, Low volume written on them

You will need Adobe Acrobat reader to access the PDF files. BBC Webwise has a complete guide to downloading and installing Adobe Acrobat reader.

Teaching activities


  1. Watch Learning Zone Class Clips - Understanding sound.
  2. Ask the children to list three key learning points from the clip.
  3. Ask the children to play 'verbal tennis' in partners on words that describe sounds (eg loud, quiet, vibration, pitch). One child says one word related to sound, then their partner says another and so on.
  4. Ask the children what things make sounds. Lead them to point out that sound is made when there is a vibration.
  5. Explain that the frequency of a sound is a measure of the number of vibrations or waves per second.
  6. Explain that a sound with a high frequency will make a high-pitched sound, and one with a low frequency will make a low-pitched sound.
  7. Explain that pitch is a measure of how high or low a sound is.
  8. Give the children a range of musical instruments and ask them to play them loudly and quietly. How do they change the volume?


  1. Open the Bitesize changing sounds game on the interactive whiteboard. Explain to the children that they are going to look at the sounds made by three instruments.
  2. Select the one-string guitar. Show children how to shorten or lengthen the string and how to give it a gentle or strong pluck. Select the drum. Show children how to tighten or loosen the skin and how to give it a gentle or strong bang.
  3. Select the bottle filled with water. Show the children how to alter the amount of water and how to give it a gentle or a strong blow.
  4. Divide the children into groups with a computer for each group. Allow each group time to work through the tasks that are written (and read aloud) at the top of the screen.
  5. Ask the children to record their observations.
  6. Give the lower ability group the following model - The... the string the... the pitch, therefore the... the string the... the pitch. (Shorter, longer, higher, lower).
  7. Ask the middle and higher ability groups to write this as a two-part conclusion.
  8. Walk around the groups, ensuring the children understand that, for example, for stringed instruments, the longer the string, the lower the pitch and the shorter the string, the higher the pitch. Ensure that for each instrument they record both parts of the relationship.
  9. Give the children a range of musical instrument to reinforce their learning.


  1. Put the four pitch and volume cards face down at the front of the class (the two volume cards in one pile and the two pitch cards in another pile).
  2. Ask a child to come out and select one card from each pile. The child must then play an instrument on the online activity (on the interactive whiteboard) to match the two cards taken.
  3. Ask the rest of the class to guess which cards the child selected.


  1. Ask the children to click on the Sorter button on the Bitesize changing sounds game and arrange the sounds in order of pitch and loudness.
  2. They could then attempt the Bitesize changing sounds quiz or complete the changing sounds worksheet (PDF 297KB).


Challenge the children to design and make a musical instrument that can be played at high or low volume and at high or low pitch.

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