How to Make Music With Empty Soda Pop Bottles
Want to encourage your kids to create music with stuff you have at home?
Have some extra soda pop bottles?
Discover how you can make music using soda pop bottles.
It’s amazing what beautiful music you can make just by adding water to bottles you find around the house.
In this article I will show you how to use kitchen science to create your own musical band.
Why Make Pop Bottle Music?
It’s a fun family activity! Make pop bottle music together as a band. Or take turns “composing” songs. Then teach them to each other.
There are many ways to make music at home. Singing straws are good. So is a cardboard guitar. The old standby pots and pans are a great starter instrument for little ones, although maybe not so much for the ears of the rest of the family.
Call it junk rock or recycled music—many performers incorporate non-traditional instruments into their bands. And in certain cases, recycled instruments are the only instruments.
The Junk Rock Band uses oil drums, plastic tubes, milk cans and other unusual objects to make music.
A popular Vegas act uses tubes, bottles, trashcans and other common items to make some very cool sounds.
Recycled Percussion, which headlines in Las Vegas, has been performing junk rock since 1995.
You never know. Give your kids a few kitchen science music lessons, and it may lead to big things.
Are you ready to make pop bottle music? Let’s get started!
If you decide to use pop bottle music as a science fair project, write down the steps, your hypotheses and results along the way.
Note: Since we are working with glass, adults should keep an eye on the glass bottles to prevent or (if necessary) clean up from broken glass.
#1: Test Two Bottles
Compare the sounds the bottles make with different levels of water.
Take two bottles. Fill one bottle to the top with water. Leave a second bottle empty.
Use the back of the spoon to gently clink both bottles.
How are the sounds different between the full and empty bottles? For all these tests, let everyone take a turn and share their opinion.
#2: Test Three Bottles
Fill a third bottle halfway with water. Clink all three bottles. The sound of the half-full bottle is about in the middle of the other two sounds.
Now, blow air across the tops of all three bottles.
What do you notice when you blow air across the tops of the bottles? In what ways are the sounds different?
One person can try at a time, but it’s also fun to create harmony with a different person blowing across the top of each bottle.
#3: Make a Musical Scale
Next, use all eight bottles to create a musical scale.
That’s why this activity calls for eight bottles—one for each note: do re mi fa so la ti do. Vary the amounts of water in each bottle to create a musical scale.
Test out your musical scale by playing along with the “Do Re Mi Fa” song from The Sound of Music.
Mix it up: Clink the bottles and blow over the tops of the bottles. What differences do you notice between the sounds and actions?
Use food coloring to color the water in each bottle differently. Of course, the food coloring does nothing to affect the sound, but it does make it look like you really know what you are doing.
#4: Play a Song
The ultimate goal of this experiment is to play a song.
Have a family music challenge. In 60 seconds, arrange the bottles in such a way that when they are clinked with the spoon, they play a familiar song. Work alone or in teams to make music.
Try “Jingle Bells,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Beethoven’s Fifth.” The song is up to you. The first person or team to play the song correctly wins.
Once you get the hang of it, play Name That Tune. Take turns. One person plays a song and the others have to guess. The winner takes the next turn making music.
How Does it Work?
The science of sound is all about vibrations.
When you hit the bottle with the spoon, the glass vibrates. It’s these vibrations that ultimately make the sound.
This video will give you insight into the science behind the sounds.
Tapping an empty bottle produces a higher-pitched sound than tapping a bottle full of water.
Adding water to the bottle dampens the vibrations created by striking the glass with a spoon.
The less water in the bottle, the faster the glass vibrates, the higher the pitch.
The more water added to the bottle, the slower the glass vibrates, the lower the pitch.
The same bottle that makes a low-pitched sound when you tap it with a spoon makes a high-pitched sound when you blow across the top.
When you blow into the bottle, you are making the air vibrate, not the glass. An empty bottle produces a lower pitch because there is a lot of air in the bottle to vibrate.
Adding water to the bottle decreases the amount of air space, which means there is less air to vibrate.
With less air, the vibrations happen more quickly. They produce a higher pitch.
Pop bottle music inspires so many opportunities to be creative, while adding pizzazz and maybe some jazz to a science experiment. You never know where an early love of music will lead, especially for those who do it in such a creative fashion.
Some Final Thoughts…
Pop bottle music is just the beginning. Think of ways to take this experiment even further. What other materials will vibrate and make different sounds?
Examine the instruments in an orchestra. Which ones use vibrations to create music? How can you use your pop bottles to replicate the sounds? What additional instruments can you make?
Enjoy your symphony. And have fun making music as a family.
What do you think? Did you make pop bottle music? What other instruments did you make? What’s the name of your orchestra or band? We want to hear your Pop Bottle Symphony! Post it to YouTube and share the link below.
Images from iStockPhoto.
Steve Spangler is an author, teacher, toy designer, Emmy award-winning television personality and creator of a huge soda mess. His appearances on television demonstrate his passion for making learning fun. Other posts by Steve Spangler »