Experiment 19: The Mechanical Water Xylophone

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Shane and Collin give "Shave and a Haircut" a big finish.

Like the music in this video? Visit AudioBody.com.
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Experiment 19: The Mechanical Water Xylophone
With some water glasses, zip ties a handful of screws, and a few tape measures, you can build a giant mechanical xylophone that plays any tune you like in your very own hallway! Two little mallets are pulled along the ground by a retracting tape measure, and as they slide by two rows of glasses filled with varying amounts of water, they tap out a melody on the glasses.

We start out with a simple tune, “Shave and a Haircut”. This musical phrase has just a few notes. Then you’ll play an entire song: “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. We’ve picked these melodies because they’re simple and involve a small range of notes. Once you see how it works, you’ll be able to build your own version that plays any song you choose.

For the shorter version, you only need 7 glasses and a single tape measure; for a bigger version, you need 21 glasses and 4 tape measures. The glasses don’t all need to be the same, so try to rustle up enough glasses for the full song if you can-dig around the basement and scrounge at yard sales. It’s really impressive!

Get all the details on how to do this yourself in our book, How to Build a Hovercraft.

More Cool Stuff
A virtual xylophone that is very helpful when trying to tune your glasses of water
- http://www.virtualinstruments.ezweb123.com/#/xylophone/4561253478

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  1. Paul Reid says:

    I made a form of water xylophone for my son’s school homework. The bottles actually were hung from strings.

    Something very strange happened however. Overnight, two of the bottles stopped producing a clear sound. They just gave a dull clang. I replaced the water however, to the same level as before… and guess what, they started ringing clearly again when I struck them!

    What on earth is the science behind that?