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Boomwhacker Orchestra

Music can be defined as:

  1. The art of producing significant arrangements of sounds, usually with reference to rhythm, pitch and tone.
  2. A succession or combination of notes, especially if pleasing to the ear.

This may or may not happen with a Boomwhacker orchestra, but students will certainly unveil the relationship between pitch and instrument length.

Boomwhackers Tuned Percussion Tubes are lightweight, hollow, color-coded, plastic tubes, tuned to musical pitches by length. Boomwhackers produce musical tones when struck together, on the floor, or against nearly any surface. They have a "sweet spot" that is a few inches from the end of the tube that gives the best tone.

When you whack a Boomwhacker, you set it (and the air inside it) vibrating at its resonant frequency. A larger Boomwhacker vibrates at a lower frequency and produces a lower pitch.

Boomwhackers have a very simple structure for a musical instrument. Other percussion instruments can easily be made at home e.g. coffee can drums, bottle cap clinkers, etc.

Objectives

  • Describe the properties of sound

  • Describe what pitch is and how it varies

Materials

Key Questions

  • How does the length of the Boomwhackers affect the pitch?
  • Can you guess the song that the volunteers are playing?
  • What other instruments that have different notes based on their size and shape?

What To Do

  1. Hand out the Boomwhackers to a set of volunteers.
  2. Using the song sheet, conduct the Boomwhacker orchestra by tapping the corresponding player on the shoulder when they need to play their note

Want to make this more inquiy-based?:

Get students to explore volume and pitch first by having different types of boomwackers to pick and explore. Get students to predict which ones will have high pitch and low pitch. Get students to explore and create thier own song.

Extensions

  • Make other simple percussion instruments in class or at home using familiar objects such as coffee cans, bottle caps, etc.
  • Check out recordings or videos of “Blue Man Group”. They use whacked tubes to make extraordinary music.
  • Another kind of whacky music can be made by cutting lengths of PVC plumbing pipe and smacking one end with a hand or a rubber flip-flop sandal.

Other Resources

Science World Resources | Full Unit | Sound