This 3-day workshop took place in early August at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach and was attended by 15 students ages 6-8.
We began the day by listening to clips from different types of music ranging from classical to pop. The students were asked to name emotions that they felt when they listened to different types of music. The students made connections between the tempo, volume, melody and the overall mood of each piece.
Building Maracas and Shakers
Students listened to recordings of two different types of maracas with different pitches and were asked to compare the sounds. Students were then given cups in many differing sizes as well as different types of beans and rice. After building their maracas the students played them for each other and discussed the differences in sound and their relationship to the materials used.
Students were asked to build a drum that could play 3 different pitches. In the earlier maraca activity students had learned that larger and thicker cups and containers created a deeper pitch. Students were allowed to choose from a greater variety of materials to create their drums and students applied their knowledge from earlier in the day to choose materials that would produce a variety of pitches.
This was the students’ first exposure to the idea of coordinating the playing of their instruments to an intentional pattern. The students were given colored stickers to place on the different components of their drums that would correspond to pieces of paper of the same colors. An instructor held up one color of paper at a time and students played the corresponding part of their instrument. Many students adopted the color coding system in future compositions and performances.
Students spent time exploring the sounds made by blowing across and tapping on a glass bottle filled with water. Students were surprised to find that when the bottle had more water in it, blowing across it created a high pitched sound but tapping it created a lower sound.
Using bubble tea straws, students applied their findings about the effect of air column length on pitch to straw oboes and pan flutes. The students had difficulty creating sound with the straws because they were very stiff and difficult to vibrate, but thinner drinking straws also failed to produce much sound.
After having explored pitch in wind instruments, students experimented with changing the pitch of rubber bands. Each student was given a cup with several rubber bands of different lengths and thicknesses. Students were asked to identify the reasons for each pitch they were able to create and made the connection between tension and pitch, which they were able to use in their string instruments.
String Instruments and Composition
Students put their findings from the rubber band activity to use to build their own string instruments and were instructed to compose a song for their instrument using whatever notation method they would like. Many students used the color coding method from the first day, labeling parts of their instruments with colored stickers and placing colored stickers on a piece of paper.
On the last day of the workshop, the students worked on their final instruments. Many students compiled their previous mini building projects into a one man band, while some created entirely new instruments. Each student composed a song for their instrument to be played during a presentation for the parents at the end of the day.