Sound Science Experiments – Sound Absorption and Reflection

Today, I am very excited and honoured to have the lovely Maggy Woodley guest posting for us. Maggy, of course blogs at Red Ted Art and Life at the Zoo. She has also been doing some great Science Hangouts lately over on G+. Today Maggy has a great sound science experiments to show us.

Hello! Lovely to be visiting Science Sparks again. I think Science Sparks is doing AMAZING things in getting families and bloggers into Science. EVERYONE is doing it now, be it in Science Hangouts or just having fun with the kids at home. HOORAY for Science Sparks. Which makes it even more special and humbling and special to be here today with our simple science experiment!

I normally blog at Red Ted Art and Life At The Zoo. Over on Red Ted Art, we have been making guitars. Which of course have a fabulous Science element to them: Acoustics! What is sound and how does it work? I talk a little about vibrations and different lengths of vibrations over on Life At The Zoo.

What is sound?

Let’s recap: Sound is Energy. An energy that is caused by something moving backwards and forward – like the vibration on a guitar’s string. It is these vibrations and the pitch of them that we discussed on Life At The Zoo.

Sound reflection

For Science Sparks, we explored what happened to sound in different environments – have you ever been in a room with nothing in it? Does it sound echo-y? What is going on?

A smooth flat surface – such a brick, metal or wood, reflects sound – it makes it bounce and come back straight at us. Making it often sound louder (as we have lots of sound waves heading our way) and sometimes echo-y (depending on how large the room is and how long it takes for the sound to “come back to us”). This doesn’t happen in a room that has a sofa, carpet and curtains – the soft furnishings are absorbing the sound.

The Experiment

We can test this with our toy guitar!

We did three things and guessed what the sound would be like:

1) our fingers only

2) the container and elastic bands

3) the container, bands, stuffed with a tea towel.



sounds science experiments

We have an elastic band on it’s own – we can hear it, but we have to listen really closely. It also sounds “deeper”. The sound is sent in all directions and “lost” in the large room we are in.


sounds science experiments


We have our empty container with the strings.

The sound is much louder and clear. As expected you can really hear the different notes clearly.

 The container stuffed



He stuffed a tea towel into the container – assuming it would absorb most of the sound. It DID sound a tiny bit quieter, but not as much as expected. I suspect that this is because our strings are wrapped all around the container and that it is still reflecting a sufficient amount of noise energy. Yes, some is absorbed, but we would have to stuff it with more to make more of a difference.

This is the fun of science – thinking about what you expect, observing what is happening and discussing results and finding explanations. I am now on a mission to find some objects that fully muffle our guitar (I suspect placing our duvet all around our container AND stuff it with something REALLY soft, will achieve the desired result!).

Thanks for havings us and letting us explore Acoustics!


There are 4 comments

  1. Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum

    This is fantastic – and what a great idea to explore science of music and how reflection and absorption of the sound can be changed.

    Thank you for linking up to Tuesday Tots just to let you know that I will be featuring this over on Rainy Day Mum this week.

  2. 5 DIY Music Ideas for Tots

    […] It’s fun to do some exploring of the science behind music – even with tots it’s possible – they don’t have to understand the complex science behind it however they can experiment to see if conditions will change what happens to the sound and make suggestions based on their own experience and knowledge. Over on Science Sparks Life at the Zoo guest posts about Acoustic Science – Reflection and Absorption of Sound. […]

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