Classical MPR in the Classroom: The science behind volume and pitch

July 31, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Classical MPR in the Classroom is a standards-based video series to assist elementary music teachers in the classroom. The videos and curriculum are available for free on the Classical MPR YouTube channel as well as here on

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) integrated curricula has become increasingly popular in education standards across the nation. The hope is that these new standards will encourage students to develop an interest in the sciences, resulting in the United States keep pace with global innovations in science and technology.

Recently, artists and scientists have begun to assert that it is essential to add an A for "Arts" to STEM — transforming it to STEAM — to include artistic creativity in children's education. (See articles at right for further information on this.)

The next two videos in the Classical MPR in the Classroom series explain the science behind volume and pitch, combining scientific enquiry with musical concepts.

In Sound as Energy, students explore the scientific concept of sound-wave energy and its application in music. The children learn about the relationship of the size and shape of sound waves to dynamics such as forte, piano, crescendo, and decrescendo. They also gain an understanding of the decibel unit through examples from everyday life. This humor-filled video is sure to appeal to younger audiences.

In Pitch, the host uses a variety of instruments to demonstrate and explain how musical pitches change from high to low. From marimba to talking drum to guitar, the students explore how to change the pitch on each instrument and then discuss the physical patterns that they discover. To incorporate technology, the iPad app Tone Generator Ultra is used to visually demonstrate how a pitch and its correlating wave change based on the pitch's frequency.

Classical MPR thanks The Sunup Foundation for generous support of this music education initiative.

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