Music / Science KS2: How string instruments make sound

Inspired by Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Fran Scott and Greg Foot set about finding out all about string instruments and how they work and make such different sounds.

They look inside a piano and see long, thick strings that make low notes, and short, thin strings that make high notes.

Using a slow motion camera, they film the strings of a cello vibrating and point out that thick strings vibrate more slowly than thin ones and that this explains the difference in their pitch.

Thick strings give a low pitch, thin strings give a high pitch. The tightness or tension of a string is also important.

The tighter the string, the higher the pitch. The less tight a string, the lower the pitch.

Using 3D animation, Greg explains how the sound a string makes is amplified by an instrument like the violin.

Fran shows us how it is easy to make a guitar out of an old cardboard box and some elastic bands.

This clips is from the series House of Sound.

Teacher Notes

Elastic bands are a great way for children to see how length, thickness and tension of strings are responsible for the notes that are made.

These can then be used to make the guitar described in the clip.

By bringing a violin into the classroom, teachers can talk through how the string vibrates, the bridge vibrates, the sound box vibrates and the air in and around the sound box vibrates, forming sound waves.

Pupils can also learn how the violinist’s fingers are used to ‘stop’ the strings and make them longer or shorter.

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 woodwind instruments make sound
How brass instruments make sound