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Make a straw flute science experiment : Fizzics Education

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Make a straw flute

Make a straw flute

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You will need:

  • Two plastic straws of different diameters
  • Scissors
  • Adult help.

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Create a straw flute science experiment - materials needed
1 Create a straw flute science experiment - cut straw shape

Cut the end of the smaller straw into a point.

2 Create a straw flute science experiment - small straw pushed into large bendy straw

Slide the smaller straw into the larger straw. This way your straw flute has the option to become a trombone!

3 Create a straw flute science experiment - playing the straw flute

Insert the pointed end of the straw into your mouth and blow. If the pointed end of the straw is in the correct spot in your mouth you will get the end to vibrate, creating a kazoo-like sound. If you cannot hear the sound slowly move the point back and forth, in and out of your mouth, until you hear it.

4 Create a straw flute science experiment - using the straw flute like a trombone

You should find that if you slide the large straw back and forth that the pitch changes too! You can also carefully cut the straw as you blow through it, creating a higher and higher sound.

5

Why Does This Happen?

This is a simple experiment on vibrations! To keep it simple, the shorter the instrument the higher the sound. Why? Inside your straw you have a sound wave in a particular arrangement called a ‘standing wave.’ As you shorten the straw you shorten the standing wave within it, increasing the number of times the wave vibrates per second; changing its pitch.

The sound wave itself is made up of two regions, one region with a higher density of air molecules and another with lower density. These two regions are called the ‘nodes’ and ‘anti-nodes’ respectively.

What do you think will happen if you increased the length of the straw? The pitch will be lowered, as you lengthen the standing wave and reduce the number of times the wave vibrates per second.

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a practice thing!

  • Put the points of the straws just behind your lips and gently pull forward whilst you blow. You’ll eventually find the ‘sweet spot’ where you’ll get the straw to vibrate. Usually, most people blow too hard on their first go.
  • The thickness of the straw does have an impact – buy the cheaper, thinner straws wherever possible. You can also buy the larger bendy straws and create a slide trombone by joining the two straw types together – kids love it!

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Comments

5 thoughts on “Make a straw flute

    1. Oh no! Try the really thin, cheap straws as they are easier to work with. Also, try different angles of cuts on your straw as well as different positions in your mouth (points behind the lips work well). Blow softly and increase the pressure until the straw makes a sound.

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