Monday, March 13, 2017

Sound and Percussion Homeschool Unit and Lesson Plan

We did a unit on Light last year, so it seemed like we ought to do a unit on Sound too! I love our physics-related units, though every time they make me wish my dad were still alive so he could be our guest lecturer (and help explain everything to me!). Dad helped me do a science fair project when I was in elementary school where I got to use an oscilloscope from his office, and I loved it. I felt so important. :)

I considered, briefly, making this into a Music Unit as well, but I quickly realized that would be too much. Sound and Music are so entertwined, though, that it made sense to at least cover the percussion instruments, especially since those are so fundamentally about sound and vibration. I consider myself a percussionist too, even though my main instrument has always been the piano and that's what I majored in—because I played in the drumline and percussion section in high school, and I also played percussion with one of the university orchestras during my first year of college. I've always loved percussion ensembles! In all their forms. 

One book I read on my own to prepare for this unit was called The Sound Book, and I LOVED it. It's by an acoustic engineer—or maybe he's a physicist?—who went around the world seeking "sonic wonders of the world."  Here is an interesting article about it, and here is the author's website with links to recordings of some of these sites (and other sounds, like birds). It is an awesome site and I recommend it. The recording of the lyrebird is one of my favorites! But the comparisons of a balloon popping in different sites (like in an anechoic chamber vs. a mausoleum) are pretty cool too.

A documentary we watched and  really liked was called Note by Note, and showed the making of a Steinway 9-foot grand piano over the course of a year. Everything is done by hand, and there are so many interesting details! You can see how each piano has its own distinct sonic character.

We also really enjoyed Organworks, a documentary showing different pipe organs around the world and talking about how they were made, changes to the pipe organ over the years, etc. The host of the show was quite entertaining and it was just generally a lot more absorbing than you might think, reading the description. Although I admit we tend to like stuff like this anyway. :)

Some previous activities we've done in our homeschool that are music and sound-related are:

Making a glass armonica

Making rubber-band "lutes"

Making homemade drums and mallets

Listening to examples of birdsong in music

And here's my Pinterest Board for this Unit, with other links and ideas for activities.

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