Musical Bottles

A red and orange exhibit table, with a white and blue information panel at the back. On top of the table are 5 milk bottles filled with different levels of water.
A red and orange exhibit table, with a white and blue information panel at the back. On top of the table are 5 milk bottles filled with different levels of water.

Different volumes of air and water create different vibrations and sounds.

How it works

Hit bottles filled with varying levels of water to play a tune.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Hit the bottles with a stick to make a sound. Which bottle makes the highest note?
  • Which bottle produces the lowest note?
  • Blow across the top of the bottles. Which bottle makes the highest note now?

Background

Hitting the bottle makes the glass and water vibrate. These vibrations make a sound. The bottle with the highest water level vibrates slowly to produce a low note. The bottle with the lowest water level vibrates quickly to produce a high note. Blowing across the top of a bottle makes air inside vibrate to produce a sound. The air in the bottle with most water vibrates quickly to produce a high note.

Finding the science in your world

Wind instruments such as a trumpet or clarinet, use keys and valves to lengthen or shorten the amount of space in which vibrations can occur. Pressing valves to minimise air space inside the tube creates a high pitched note, while releasing valves to maximise air space inside the tube creates a low pitched note.