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Musical Instruments



This project will require both an understanding of the physics of music and the physics of musical instruments. You may work alone or in pairs using these ideas to design and build a musical instrument. I must be able to easily play at least the following full musical scale: C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C and it must not require special musical skill to play the instrument. 




 Instrument Construction

·       The instrument is built as ruggedly as can be expected for the type of instrument.

·       Attention has been given to the aesthetic details of this instrument.

·       The pitches are in tune and accurate.  This means you’ve tested and confirmed they are at the correct frequencies.

·       The instrument produces tones that are as clear and strong as expected with this type of instrument.

 Lab Report

·       The report has a professional appearance and is error-free.

·       The report is rich in detail about the entire process of engineering and building the instrument.

·       Includes a log of time spent on various activities involved in producing the instrument, a scale drawing of the instrument, photos of the building process, necessary calculations, a recount of design problems and solutions, and a self-evaluation of the work done.

·       There is an appropriate use of images that document the entire process.

·       Everything is electronically embedded in the report and appropriate technology has been used.


·       The presentation is between three and five minutes long.

·       The presentation is obviously well rehearsed with no use of notes throughout any part of the presentation. It recounts the engineering challenges and solutions to problems encountered. There is constant eye contact throughout the presentation as well as an engaging speaking style.

·      The presentation includes the performance of a song that is played at the perfect pace and which includes all or most (minimum of six of the notes) of the notes in the major scale.


·       Final Instrument Due: October 28th – Your report is due this day as well.

·       Your Plan is due: Thursday, October 1st. Description of your project idea in LON-CAPA and a labeled sketch in your lab notebook.

·       Progress Checks: Monday, October 12th and October 19th. What have you done? Have you made any calculations yet? Have you bought stuff? Have you started to build? I need to know where you are. This is a description of your progress that will be typed into a form on LON-CAPA. Even if you’re working with a partner you both need to do these. If you’ve determined things like frequencies, tube or string lengths you should include them.

·       Final Progress Check: Score your instrument using the Rubric. This will be a LON-CAPA form. The number of points you get on this assignment will depend on how accurately you do this!

·       If you’re not making any progress I will be calling your parents. I’m giving you lots of time, I expect you to use it.

Safety Notes

·       I expect you to follow proper safety precautions. Safety glasses or goggles are required.

·       If you plan on using power tools you MUST have the full knowledge and permission of your parents. I highly recommend parent supervision while using any power tools!!!

Rubric -



Totally Inadequate (0)

Poor (1)

Acceptable (2)

Outstanding (3)


Kleenex box and rubber bands

Instrument looks like it’s in danger of falling apart. It won’t stay in tune for more than a minute or two.

You built one of the instruments as detailed exactly in the book. Instrument is well made and sturdy and stays in tune.

You went beyond the instruments in the book or Make TV.

Pitches are in tune (correct frequencies)

Does not have 8 notes or all notes are out of tune

Some notes out of tune or doesn’t include a C-C octave

All 8 notes in tune

More than one octave, all in tune

Tone Quality

Can’t even be heard by the musician

Tones are hard to hear more than two feet away or are not “pure” (i.e. the instrument rattles or produces unintended frequencies)

Tones are as clear and strong as expected with this type of instrument

Tones can easily be heard by everyone in the class and are not dissonant.


No thought at all given to appearance

Very little though was given to the presentation of the instrument.

Design shows some originality or “spit and polish”

Very attractive or original design.




Totally Inadequate (0)

Poor (1)

Acceptable (2)

Outstanding (3)

Error Free and Professional

Not typed or lots of errors throughout.

Several errors

Only one or two errors in grammar

No grammatical errors and I had to check Google to see if you actually wrote this, it’s so good.

Pictures throughout

No pictures or only pictures of the finished product

Only a few pictures of the process

Process well covered, pictures placed appropriately

Pictures tell the complete story. I could rebuild your instrument simply by referencing your pictures.

Calculations and Data

No data or no calculations

Data and calculations hard to understand or incomplete

Data and calculations complete and readily understandable

More data than needed was collected and/or more calculations

Discussion of the Science

No discussion of the science included OR many inaccuracies throughout.

More than two factual errors and/or an incomplete discussion of the science.

One or two errors in the science and/or missing one element in the discussion of the science.

A completely correct and thorough discussion of the science including: resonance, mode of vibration, harmonics.


More than one missing element or several incomplete elements

Missing an element or some elements incomplete

Has all required elements

Goes above and beyond the requirements