Sound and Vibration Lesson 4

This lesson dealt with Aerophones, which are perhaps the most complex of the four instrument families. To learn about aerophones, we listened to examples from each of the main sub-categories of the family, and learned about timbre as a way to describe their sound. This lesson involved higher-level thinking skills: describe, compare, contrast, analyze. I was very impressed at how well the first graders tackled these challenges!

Click here to view my lesson plan for Sound and Vibration, Lesson 4: Aerophones. Click here for the accompanying PowerPoint.

A few weeks passed in between my last lesson, on idiophones, and this one, so I wasn’t surprised to find in my opening review that the students had forgotten a few things. It was an important reminder to me of the importance of consistency in teaching schedule as well as content, especially for younger students. We took a bit of time at the beginning of the lesson to review the names for the instrument families we had learned so far- membranophones and idiophones- before getting into aerophones.

“Don’t say it yet, but think to yourself- what is vibrating to make sound in an aerophone? Everybody together on three, one, two three…”


Glad we got that one.


“There are lots of different kinds of aerophones that can make lots of different sounds. In most aerophones, the air is contained INSIDE the instrument, in some kind of tube. Different materials, shapes, and resonators can make different kind of sounds,” I explained.

“There is a word for the different KIND of sound that different instruments make: timbre. A flute sounds like a flute and not a violin or a clarinet because it has a different timbre. Here are some words you can use to describe timbre. As we listen to these different instruments, see if you notice any words that describe how they sound.”

I read off for the students a long list of words: Bright, Dark, Harsh, Noisy, Buzzy, Pure, Raspy, Shrill, Mellow, Strained Piercing, etc. The goal wasn’t for the students to remember each and every word on the list, or even necessarily know each word, but to just give them an example of the wide variety of words they could choose to describe how an instrument sounds. I told the students there were many more words they knew that they could choose from as well.

Flutes, Reeds, Brass, and Others

To explore each category of aerophone, I showed students pictures of many different aerophones within that category, and we watched and listened to a YouTube video so they could hear what it sounded like. Then the students had turn-and-talk time with their neighbor to discuss what it sounded like to them, and, at the end, which sound they liked the best and why.

One of the Utah first grade level Music standards is for students to be able to identify and express their preference for a certain sound or type of music over another. This lesson definitely helped further that objective. I really enjoyed listening to these students, young as they were, talk about timbre and quality of sound. One girl liked the flutes best because of their smooth sound. Another preferred the light sound of the reeds, and another the warm sound of the brass. Different children expressed different preferences and used different timbre words to describe their sounds.

This was a great lesson for developing higher level thinking skills, but after teaching this lesson I wished there had been more physical involvement for these little first graders. In the future, I might prefer using this lesson for a slightly higher grade level.

I taught this lesson right around Halloween, so for a fun finish to the lesson that tied in well with the “Others” category of aerophones, we closed with this video of Bach’s Toccata in D Minor:

Sarah Earl

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