Pitch is the relative highness or lowness of a sound. Pitch is a pretty complex subject, but the core concept—that big things make low sounds and small things make high sounds—is one that young children can understand. This simple activity from Exploring the Science of Sounds:100 Musical Activities for Young Children uses glasses of different sizes and thickness to demonstrate this concept to children. Get the book for more musical science explorations that will fascinate and excite young children, covering the science of acoustics, timbre, loudness, speed and tempo, pitch, environmental sounds, and much more!
- 5-6 glasses of various shapes, sizes, and thicknesses
- Metal spoons, wooden mallet, or unsharpened pencils for tapping
What to Do
- This should be done at a table, with a few children at a time, to ensure each child has time investigate the sounds. Have the glasses set out in a row, each with a spoon or pencil. (Avoid extremely thin glassware that may be easily broken.) Remind the children not to touch the glasses until you ask them to.
- Let one child at a time tap each glass, and ask them to think about the sounds, especially the higher and lower pitches. Caution them to be careful when tapping. (Actually, it’s so rare that they’re allowed to do something like this that they tend to take it very seriously, and tap with concentration and gentleness.)
Questions to Ask
- Did each of the glasses make the same sound?
- Can you think of reasons why they might have sounded different?
- Which glass had the lowest pitch? Which had the highest pitch?
- Why do you think some glasses had high pitches and some had low pitches?