Musical Bottles Science Experiment

Learn how to make music with recycled glass bottles in three easy steps.

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You’ve probably seen someone make music by rubbing the rim of a wine glass, but there’s another easier way to create tunes using simple household glassware. When you fill a glass bottle with water and tap it with a metal object (such as a spoon), the sound you hear is composed of three attributes – loudness, timbre, and pitch. When you change the amount of water in the bottle, you alter its “vibrating mass” and, thus, the sound’s pitch. By filling multiple bottles with different amounts of water to create a range of pitches, you can make your own homemade musical instrument. Try it out for yourself by following the simple instructions below!

5-8 identical glass bottles (make sure they’re all the same size!)
1 metal eating utensil (fork, spoon, or butter knife)

Line the bottles up in a straight row, with two to four inches of space between each.

Fill the bottles with water in a “staggered” pattern. The first bottle should have the least amount of water (let’s say two tablespoons), the next bottle a little more (four tablespoons), and the last bottle the most. When you’ve filled all the bottles, they should resemble the escalating bars of a cellphone signal icon.

Now tap the side of each bottle with the metal utensil. Notice how each bottle, owing to the varying amounts of water inside, sounds different. Make “music” by tapping the bottles in ascending or descending scales or in simple melodies. For a challenge, try “Mary Had a Little Lamb!”