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What's The Buzz


Make an instrument that anyone can play – a kazoo – and get the buzz on sound vibrations!

  • Target Age: 6-10
  • Skills/Subjects: Science
  • Related Episode: Episode 415: Ruff Needs His Herring Checked

WHAT TO DO

1. Get what you need:

  • toilet paper tubes
  • waxed paper
  • aluminum foil
  • plastic wrap
  • rubber bands
  • scissors
  • sharpened pencil
  • plastic comb (optional – for Dig Deeper activity at bottom of page)

2.Make a kazoo.

  • Use a pencil to make a small hole about two inches from one end of the cardboard tube.
  • Cut a square of waxed paper that's an inch or two wider than the end of the tube.
  • Wrap the waxed paper tightly over the end of the tube where you made the hole. Hold it in place with a rubber band, making sure you don't cover the hole you made. Trim off any excess waxed paper with scissors.

Two toilet paper tube kazoos covered in tin foil and waxed paper.

 

 

3. Play it! Place the open end of the kazoo lightly over your mouth and say, "AAHHH!" What happens? Now sing or hum a tune into it. Try making different kinds of sounds to see what causes the loudest buzzing.

4. Experiment.

  • Touch the waxed paper with your finger while you play the kazoo. What do you notice?
  • Cover the hole with your finger while you play the kazoo. What happens? Does the hole make it easier or harder to play it? Why?
  • Make more kazoos, changing one thing (called a variable). Instead of waxed paper, try tin foil or plastic wrap. Predict which material you think will make the best sound. Test it out. Were your predictions right?

CHEW ON THIS!

All sound is made up of vibrations (rapid back-and-forth movement), which produce sound waves that travel through the air to our ears. When you play a kazoo, air carries the sound waves from your mouth down the tube, making the waxed paper vibrate. You can feel those vibrations if you touch the waxed paper.

DIG DEEPER!

  • Get tickled. Fold a piece of waxed paper in half and wrap it around the teeth of a comb. Put your lips lightly against the comb and hum. How do your lips feel? Who knew sound vibrations could feel so funny!
  • Kazoo crazy. There are even more kinds of kazoos! Try making a straw kazoo from the ZOOM Web site.

DID YOU KNOW?

The humble kazoo might seem like the most ordinary of instruments, but it's been played in some pretty fancy places, including New York's Carnegie Hall. Classical musicians as well as rock legends like Jimi Hendrix have performed with it. Most kazoos are plastic or metal, but some special ones are made from 24-karat gold!

Download a printable version of this activity:

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