Music / Science KS2: How woodwind instruments make sound

In their House of Sound, Greg Foot and Fran Scott explain how woodwind instruments work and how they make all sorts of different sounds.

They find out that lots of woodwind instruments are not even made of wood, and to prove the point Fran makes a woodwind instrument out of a carrot simply by making a few holes in it.

Greg and Fran demonstrate that the pitch of a woodwind note depends on the amount of air that is vibrating inside the instrument.

To prove this, they conduct a fun experiment in which they make simple flutes out of drinking straws and make them play higher notes just by cutting bits off to make them shorter.

Greg uses 3D animation to explain that on a clarinet and a recorder, musicians use their fingers to cover up holes in the instruments to change how much air is inside.

Cover up just one hole and less air can vibrate which makes a high note.

Cover them all up and more air vibrates making a lower note.

Fran demonstrates how anyone can make a balloon clarinet out of a piece of cardboard tube, a balloon and an elastic band.

This clip is from the series House of Sound.

Teacher Notes

The drinking straw demonstration in this clip is a great way of explaining the link between the amount of air in an instrument and its pitch.

By following the instructions in the clip, either as individuals or in groups, pupils could make the ‘balloon clarinet’ which is a surprisingly effective musical instrument.

If children have access to recorders, this is also an ideal opportunity for them to understand how they make a sound and why that sound changes when their fingers cover up the holes.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Science or Music in primary schools at Key Stage Two or Second Level (Scotland).

More from the series House of Sound

What is sound?
How drums make sound
How string instruments make sound
How brass instruments make sound