HERE'S THE PITCH
This activity combines math, science, and music as the children explore the concept of pitch using computer-generated sounds, jars of water, voices, and musical instruments. The students will produce sounds of different pitches to compose and play a pattern. They will notice that pitch is an aspect of sound caused by changes in vibrations.
(Pitch is the degree of height or depth of a tone or sound, depending upon the relative rapidity of the vibrations by which it is produced.)
Reading Rainbow #115: Ty's One-Man Band
Magic School Bus #108: In the Haunted House
Reading Rainbow #510: Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters
The students will:
- be able to define pitch as the highness or lowness of a sound.
- measure varying amounts of water into containers.
- explore with and make predictions about the sounds made when striking the containers.
- be able to put the containers in order from highest pitch to lowest pitch.
- create their own sound patterns with the containers.
- explain that changing the speed of vibrations changes the pitch of sounds.
For the class:
For each child:
- glass jars of the same size (4-8, depending on ability level of class)
- food coloring
- colored dot stickers (corresponding to the colors of water)
(Note: depending on the age and ability of your class, you can use either the simpler format with large dot stickers or the more complex format with smaller-sized dot stickers)
- 1 unsharpened pencil with which to strike the jars
- "High/Low Sounds" activity sheet
Sing notes for the class, and have them repeat the notes. Have them hold their hands high for a high note, and low for a low note. Choose two notes and sing a pattern for the class and have them repeat it, with voices and hand motions, such as: high, high, low/ high, high, low. Or chose 3 notes for a more complex pattern.
Tell the class that they are going to watch a video about a man who makes music with his piano and his computer. Tell them to listen for high notes and low notes made by the musician.
CUE "Ty's One Man Band" to the segment about the computer musician, Steve Horelick, about 17 minutes into the program.
Watch the segment pausing frequently to ask student about the sounds and the ways that the musician is making music. STOP the video when Steve says, "I can make a whole chorus of me" (About 3 minutes viewing time). Ask if anyone has ever seen a one-man band? What instruments could be part of a one-man band?
Discuss the video with the students. Let them share their observations of the high and low notes that Steve plays. Tell the students that they are going to explore with high, medium, and low notes that they can make out of jars and water.
The water measurement in this activity will depend on he skill level and grade of your students. Younger students can use non-standard measurements to put water in the jars. Using a cup, pour water into the jars. The first jar can have one cup of water. The second jar can have two cups of water, etc. More advanced students can use actual Cup measurements, or milliliters, to measure the water they put in each of the jars.
After each jar has water in it, put a different color food coloring in each one. Make sure you have dot stickers in the same colors as the food coloring.
Ask the students to predict which jar will make the highest note when struck with a pencil. Which one will make the lowest? Discuss their predictions. Have them stick a dot to indicate which one they think will be highest, next highest, etc., until they have produced a series of dots to match their predictions of highest note to lowest note.
Play the jars. Let the students take turns playing the jars with their pencils. Have the students put the jars in order of which has the highest sound, and which has the lowest sound. Then have the students revisit their predictions, and redo their dots if necessary. Have the students discuss why they think the one with the least water has the highest pitch.
Each student will then create a pattern of sounds by striking the jars. They will record their pattern on paper, and then perform their "song" for the class. The students can exchange their patterns with a partner, and play each others' patterns as well.
Have the students hold the jars while they strike them. How does this affect the sound produced? Students should discover that the sound is muffled. Discuss that sound is produced by vibrations. Holding the glass reduces the vibrations. The students can feel sound vibrations by touching their throats while they talk or sing.
Cue "Magic School Bus In the Haunted House" to the segment in which the children can see sound vibrations with their special glasses (after the children walk onto a stage, about 16 minutes into the program).
Show the segment for about 50 seconds. Freeze frame after the girl says' "Hey, they're different!" Ask the students what differences they observe between the two sounds. (In the high notes, the vibrations are faster and closer together, in the low notes they are slower and farther apart). If the students did not mention the vibrations, rewind the segment and show it again. This time, tell the students to watch for any differences in the vibrations of high and low tones. Stop the video 30 seconds later, after Ms. Frizzle says, "An observation worth commendation, Ralphie!"
Have the children compare the vibrations of different pitches by feeling their throats as they sing high and low notes.
This lesson relates well to learning about musical instruments. You can explore any musical instruments in your class or school, listening for the high and low pitch, and putting the instruments in order from highest sound to lowest.
Your class can learn about African instruments from watching Reading Rainbow, "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters." About 10 minutes into the program, a drum maker carves and makes a drum from natural materials. In the next segment, another musician introduces us to several other African instruments, and demonstrates the sounds each one makes. The 2 segments together last 9 minutes.
At the end of Magic School Bus, "Lost in the Haunted House," a student makes his own musical instrument, using what he has learned about sound. Show the segment where students are playing instruments.
For a homework assignment, the students can listen to the voices of their families, and put the members of their family in order from highest voice to lowest voice.
1. This video segment connects music with computers. Depending on the technology available to your class, your students could make similar musical explorations and compositions on the computer to play for their classmates.
2. In the classroom, the children can create an improvised musical composition, using just 1 sound per child. Each child creates a sound, by using an instrument or something in the classroom (hitting a desk, clapping hands, etc.). The "song" consists of each child in the group making his/her sound only one time. Each student decides when to make the sound, and how the sound will be, in terms of duration and loudness. Also, the students decide whether to perform their sound solo, or at the same time as other sounds. After each person in the group has made 1 sound, the song is over.
For classes that have access to the World Wide Web, students can access the voice of Socks the Cat in the White House at: http://www.whitehouse.gov
Your students can use the sound editor to view the sound wave of his meow, and alter the pitch by adjusting the frequency of the wave.
Master Teachers: Meg Hudson, Sarah L. Hudson, and Linda Barnett