JM: The tools you need to create you own musical instruments may be hiding in plain sight in your kitchen or garage. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
BH: I’m happiest when I come up with some idea that is very different from what anybody else has done and also very different from whatever the last thing I did was.
JM: Bart Hopkin is one of the scientists and engineers for this year’s Kid Science Challenge, our free, nationwide competition. He’s built hundreds of musical instruments out of everything from pieces of scrap wood to a Styrofoam cup.
BH: Sometimes the ideas come from just noticing some interesting sound and asking myself the question, “Does that have musical potential?” And other times the ideas are more abstract, like I’m thinking, “Theoretically, I ought to be able to produce an interesting sound this way. I wonder how I could manufacture that.” I do it both ways.
JM: This instrument [BH PLAYING TUBING] was inspired by something Bart picked up at a construction site.
BH: You have a big building project. It takes a lot of caulk. You use up many caulk tubes the plastic tubes, ya know? It just so happens that the little bit of caulk that is left in the end of the tube clogs up the nose of the tube, but the rest of the tube, the bottom is off it and everything like that try whacking that tube on your knee or on the edge of a table or something. It’ll make a nice, clear pitch
And if you cut the tube a little shorter, it’ll make a higher pitch. [high pitch] So, you could make a set of tuned caulk tubes, and, actually, there are a lot of instruments that work on that principle. Once you get into the tuned caulk tubes, you will discover that plastic tubing that is soft enough that when you hit it, it will yield a little bit and jolt the air inside, it’ll make a nice sound. So, there’s a lot of instruments that you can gofrom having noticed the caulk tubes, you can get into making some pretty cool instruments.
JM: Do you know a third to sixth grader with a great idea for a new musical instrument? Have them check out kidsciencechallenge.com Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.