Water Whistle – Sick Science!
A wet and musical exploration into the science of sound
People have told us that we do things to our own tune around Steve Spangler Science. At first we didn't know what they meant, but then we decided that they had to be talking about our Water Whistle experiment. We've created an instrument out of nothing more than a drinking straw and a glass of water. It's musical and fun as well as a great lesson in vibration, sound, and pitch.
- Drinking straw
- Pair of scissors
- Cup or glass
- Using your scissors, cut partially through the straw 1/3 of the way down the straw. The cut should be ALMOST all the way through the straw but leave a small piece uncut to keep the two straw sections attached.
- Bend the straw into a right angle at the cut being carful not to break the straw segments clean of each other.
- Fill a cup or glass 3/4 full with water.
- Slide the longer section of straw into the water.
- Keeping the straw at a 90 degree angle, place your lips on the shorter end of the straw and blow with a light, constant breath. What do you hear?
- If you are having trouble producing a whistling sound, try pinching the top of the long end of the straw.
- Once you've got your Water Whistle making a constant, steady sound, trying raising or lowering the straw within the water. What happens to the pitch of your Water Whistle when you do this?
How Does It Work?
Pretty cool, right? Here's how you can take the Water Whistle a step further. Try different types of straws out. What happens if you use a thicker straw? A thinner straw? Try different liquids. Does the pitch change in soda or milk?