How can you see sound and other music science ideas

Did you know sounds are made when an object vibrates? These vibrations make the air around an object vibrate. When the air vibrations reach the ear they shake tiny hairs, which are connected to nerves. It is these nerves that send a message to the brain telling it that a noise has been heard.

This activity lets children see the effect of  sound vibrations.


  • Bowl
  • Thin metal baking sheet
  • Cling film
  • Tape or elastic bands
  • Speaker
  • Drum
  • Drum stick
  • Rice

How to see sound


Stretch the cling film over the top of your bowl and secure with tape or an elastic band.

Sprinkle a handful of rice over the cling film.

Hold the drum close to the bowl and beat it hard, the rice should jump.

Investigate how the jumping of the rice changes depending on how hard you hit the drum.

Repeat the investigation using a speaker instead of the drum, is it different?

Panasonic Speaker

This speaker is the rather fantastic Panasonic SC-ALL05, it’s waterproof so perfect for all our crazy science experiments. Read our full Panasonic SC-ALL05 review here.

Things to think about

What do you think would happen if you moved the drum further away from the rice bowl?

What do you think would happen if you made a very quiet noise with the drum?

Does changing the pitch of the music affect how the rice jumps?

Why does this happen?

The clingfilm stretched over the bowl is similar to your ear drum. Sound vibrations from the drum travel through the air to the cling film making it vibrate, which makes the rice jump!

More Music Investigation Ideas

Tin Can Drum

Try making some tin can drums. This is just a tin can with a balloon stretched tightly over the top wrapped in gaffer tape.

You could try putting different things inside to see how that changes the sound, or try beaters made from different materials.

Straw flute

Simply cut different sized straws and sellotape them together. Gently blow over the top of each to make a sound? Investigate how the length of the straw changes the sound.

Full straw flute instructions.

Straw flute

More music science ideas

Frugal Fun for Boys puts a small speaker inside the bowl, stretches a balloon over the top and adds salt so children can see the sound.

We love this homemade rainstick from The Imagination Tree too.

Try our sound absorption and reflection activities.

The Educators Spin on It has some great music ideas for summer.

Find out how to muffle sound on Collaboroo.

We love these paper plate tambourines from Creative Family Fun. Do you think a plastic plate would make a different noise?

For musical ideas for younger children, try these musical activities for tots over on Rainy Day Mum.

Red Ted Art has some wonderful musical crafts to make too!

Easy music science ideas