classroom teacher assistance of music teacher could be helpful Key Skills
Developing Arts Literacies:
Analyzing and Evaluating - Critique, Applying Vocabulary
This lesson introduces students to the instruments of the percussion family. Students learn the types and parts of percussion instruments and then create a percussion instrument. They will make predictions and explore how pitch changes based on the size of the air column.
Design investigations that determine what factors affect the pitch of percussion instruments
Explore the factors that determine pitch fluctuation of percussion instruments
Create and record a meaningful hypothesis as well as accurate data sets reflecting knowledge gained through their investigation
Large or Small Group Instruction
What You'll Need
1 Computer per Classroom
General understanding of acoustics
General understanding of percussion instruments
instruments Percussion instruments interactive
chart with many brief listening examples Prior Student Knowledge
A basic understanding of sound as waves and as energy.
Some familiarity with orchestral instruments.
Prior experience with science experiments.
Cue up listening passage(s). If no sink is available, bring in containers of water.
Resources in Reach
Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.
1. Review the members of the percussion instrument family. Distribute the Instrument Families of the Orchestra handout that can be found within the Resource Carousel and review the information in the “Percussion” column.
2. Play instrument listening clips for the percussion family from ' Perfect Pitch'.
1. Have students explore the following sites to learn more about percussion instruments:
2. Refer back to the As a class, share any information discovered in the course of the research, and review the relevant information in the "Percussion" column of the handout. Instrument Families of the Orchestra handout that can be found within the Resource Carousel.
1. Review the The two handouts may be found within the Resource Carousel. Add the following terms to the discussion: Scientific Process Guidelines for Percussion and the Vocabulary handouts.
Air column: space within the percussion instrument that determines the pitch.
Percussion: sounds produced by striking the instrument with a mallet or stick, or striking one instrument against another.
2. Review the process of forming a hypothesis and making a prediction. Explain that you’ll be making glass xylophones and will need to figure out how to create different pitches.
3. Have students individually create a hypothesis relating the length of the air column to the pitch the instrument will create when played. Have students create a prediction based on this hypothesis, using the following format: “If our hypothesis is true, then the pitch created should be higher /lower when the air column is larger/smaller.”
4. Divide students into cooperative groups of four. Assign one student to each of the following duties:
Recorder: note taker
Group leader: decision maker, dispute settler, teacher liaison
Equipment adjuster: makes adjustments to test equipment
Tester: performs the tests (mouthpieces should be sanitized before and after use)
5. Test the hypotheses within the groups. Groups should discuss the hypotheses and predictions students have developed individually and choose one of each to use as they proceed with the experiment. Students will work in small groups completing the experiment, following the Procedural Guidelines for Creating Percussion Instruments handout. Have students fill in the data section of the Scientific Process Guidelines for Percussion handout based on their experiments.
6. Monitor student participation and accuracy in achieving results. When necessary, remind students of their roles within the cooperative group. Have students record their experimental data onto their own Scientific Process Guidelines for Percussion handouts. Each student must complete the analysis section and the conclusion section independently.
1. Discuss the following questions:
What is the relationship between pitch and the size of the air column? A larger air column creates a lower pitch, since the sound has more room to travel through and is therefore slower.
What affects pitch for percussion instruments without air columns? Size is still important for pitch, since a larger surface still gives the sound a longer distance to travel. Point out the increasing size of lower notes on a xylophone.
What is the name of the branch of science that we have studied? Acoustics.
Assess your student's work using the
Assessment Rubric located within the Resource Carousel.
Extending the Learning
Guidelines for Creating Percussion Instruments includes instructions for making more percussion instruments. Allow students to make their choice of instruments, and play them together.
Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.
The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the
National Core Arts Standards ( http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.
Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.
Common Core/State Standards
Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.