Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Cups & Bands Sound Experiment

Subject Area

Arts Education




Students will explore sounds using plastic cups and rubber bands to simulate a stringed instrument. Students will experiment with the vibration of sounds by plucking the bands and listening to the sounds. They will change the string’s tension and gauge to create different pitches. Finally, students will work with a partner to create a melody on their stringed instrument.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 1


    Conduct experiments to provide evidence that vibrations of matter can create sound (e.g., striking a tuning fork, plucking a guitar string) and sound can make matter vibrate (e.g., holding a piece of paper near a sound system speaker, touching your throat while speaking).

    Unpacked Content



    • vibrations/vibrate
    • matter
    • sound
    • evidence
    • experiments
    • conduct
    • create


    Students know:
    • Sound can cause matter to vibrate.
    • Vibrating matter can cause sound.


    Students are able to:
    • Conduct investigations to provide evidence that sound makes matter vibrate and vibrating matter makes sound.
    • Make observations that can be used as evidence about sound.


    Students understand that:
    • Sound can cause matter to vibrate.
    • Vibrating matter can cause sound.
    • There is a cause/effect relationship between vibrating materials and sound.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Planning and Carrying out Investigations

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect
    Arts Education (2017) Grade(s): 1 - Music


    Create musical ideas for a specific purpose.

    Unpacked Content



    • Quarter note, quarter rest, paired eighth notes
    • Strong/ weak beat
    • Steady beat/ rhythm
    • Allegro/ adagio
    • Pitch set: Mi, So, La
    • Steps/ skips/ repeated notes
    • Melodic direction
    • Modified staff
    • Line notes and space notes
    • Rhythmic ostinati
    • Simple bordun
    • AB, ABA
    • Legato, staccato
    • Piano (p), forte (f)
    • Classroom instrument classifications
    • Clarinet, trombone, cello, drum
    • Orchestral music: ballet
    • Non-Western music celebrations
    • Proper singing posture
    • Age-appropriate pitch matching (C4 -C5)1
    • Mallet/ drumming technique — hands together

    Essential Questions

    EU: The creative ideas, concepts, and feelings that influence musicians' work emerge from a variety of sources.
    EQ: How do musicians generate creative ideas?

    Skills Examples

    • Perform original rhythmic compositions containing quarter note, quarter rest, paired eighth notes.
    • Perform original melodic compositions containing quarter note, quarter rest, paired eighth notes and using the pitches mi/so/la.
    • Improvise 4-beat melodic phrases containing mi/so/la, both vocally and on pitched percussion instruments.
    • Construct 4-beat rhythmic patterns using manipulatives, such as note cards, popsicle sticks, or blocks.
    Reading/ Writing
    • Read 4-beat melodic phrases on a modified staff on which mi is indicated.
    • Notate from dictation 4-beat rhythm phrases using manipulatives such as note cards, popsicle sticks, or blocks.
    • Identify melodic patterns on a modified staff when played on a pitched instrument.
    Responding/ Evaluating
    • Create rubric for evaluation of peer compositions.
    • With guidance, apply peer suggestions to personal compositions. Select an original composition for performance.

    Anchor Standards

    Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    Students will experiment with sound by making stringed instruments that transmit vibrations whenever a string is plucked.  Students will create different pitches on their instrument by manipulating the string’s tension and gauge. The students will work with a partner to create a melody on their stringed instrument.


    Activity Details

    1. Begin by playing the Vibration of Sound video as a review or introduction to sound waves.
    2. Pass out cups containing rubber bands of three different widths (or gauges). Instruct students to place the bands around the cups stretching from the top to the bottom. Some students will not have enough dexterity to do this on their own and will need help. Take the time to discuss safety while using rubber bands.
    3. Allow students time to experiment with the bands and try out the different sounds by plucking each band individually. I have students hold the cups close to their ears so they can hear the sounds clearly and remind them to hold the sides of the rubber bands around the cup as they pluck so they do not come off.
    4. Ask students which band is the lowest and why. Highest? Why? Discuss how the width (or gauge) of the band affects the sound.
    5. Ask students what they think they could do to make a single band sound higher or lower. 
    6. Discuss how tension affects the sound and how to add tension to the bands on their cups by pulling it tighter or looser across the top of the cup.
    7. Allow students time to experiment with the tension of the bands.
    8. Have students work with a partner, to create a simple melody on their stringed instrument and perform for the class.
    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    Ask students to play their lowest band. Ask them how they know this band is the lowest. Continue with highest. Ask students what needs to be done in order to make their lowest band sound higher. Ask them to show you how to make it higher. Continue with how to make it lower.

    Variation Tips

    If you have a stringed instrument, show the instrument to the students and talk to them about the different widths (gauges) of the strings and how using the tuning pegs changes the tension of the strings.

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    Gather enough sturdy plastic cups and rubber bands in three different widths for your class. Place one of each size band in each cup prior to class to save time. I use stacking cups that I borrow from the PE department.

    Digital Tools / Resources