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Singing Tube

Hitting a new note with tubes that sing

Australian Curriculum links

  • Science > Physical Sciences > Year 1 > ACSSU020
  • Science > Science as a Human Endeavour > Year 1 > ACSHE022

You’ll need

  • Length of corrugated plastic tubing (note: some tubes work better than others, depending on their diameter and the depth and spacing of the corrugations. The tube must be corrugated on the inside too. Try a swinging few around until you find one that sings well)
  • Garbage bag
  • Masking tape
  • Leaf-blower or hair dryer (optional)

Try this

  1. Check that no other people, or delicate objects, are nearby before starting the activity.
  2. Hold one end of the tube, and spin it around over your head. Start spinning slowly, and then spin faster and faster. You should hear the note produced by the tube change pitch.
  3. See how many notes you can make the tube sing.
  4. Try changing the length of the tube – does this change the pitch it sings at?
  5. Try taping a garbage bag to one end of the pipe, then filling the bag with air from a leaf-blower or a hairdryer on its coolest setting. Once the bag is full of air, hold it under your arm and squeeze the air out. You have just created a singing-tube bagpipe!

What’s happening?

Air moves through the tube (in the end near your head and out the far end) as you spin it around. You can check this by holding the tube in a bucket of bean-bag beans while you spin it. They will travel up through the tube and be spat out the end, resulting in a large mess.

As the air moves through the tube, it spins in tiny vortices as it moves past the corrugations. These vortices move back-and-forth, creating vibrations. We hear these vibrations as sound. Spinning the tube faster increases the frequency of the vibrations, and therefore changes the pitch of the sound you hear to a higher sound.