3D20.10 - Sonometer

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Resonance in Pipes, Length vs. Frequency for a Vibrating String
Area of Study:
Sonometer, Picks & bridges, Violin bow and Acc.

No preparation necessary except routine cleaning and maintenance.  Piano wire for replacements may be obtained from the Physics Machine Shop.  Tighten the wires carefully as too much tension will warp and crack the wooden sound box.  This unit should be stored with no tension on the strings so that warping does not occur.

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  • Paul Gluck, "Plucked String on a Shoestring Budget", TPT, Vol. 47, #1, Jan. 2009, p.13.
  • Arnold F. McKinley, "Musical Strings with Physics", TPT, Vol. 45, #1, Jan. 2007, p. 4.
  • Edward S. Ginsberg, "Figuring Violin Strings", TPT, Vol. 39, #6, Sept. 2001, p. 325.
  • "Figuring Physics", TPT, Vol. 39, #3, Mar. 2001, p. 148.
  • G.R. Davies, "A 'Relevant' Demonstration", TPT, Vol. 33, #1, Jan. 1995, p. 58.
  • Jack E. Denson, "The Vibrating Wire Revisited", TPT, Vol. 30, #6, Sept. 1992, p. 326.
  • Ben Saferstein, "Resurrecting the Pythagorean Monochord", TPT, Vol. 29, #7, July 1991, p. 438.
  • Thomas B. Greenslade, Jr., "A Vertical Sonometer", TPT, Vol. 24, #2, Feb. 1986, p. 90.
  • R. D. Edge, "The Plucked String", TPT, Vol. 17, #2, Feb. 1979, p. 124.
  • Robert Johns, "Musical String Vibrations", TPT, Vol. 15, #3, Mar. 1977, p. 145.
  • Yudai Wei, Hao Zhu, Haotian Jiang, Quanxin Luo, Shan Lin, Junqing Li, Yu Zhang, Bibo Zhao, "Playing Melodies on a Single String by Exciting Harmonics Using the Lorentz Force", AJP, Vol. 92, #3, March 2024, p. 176.
  • Thomas B. Greenslade, Jr., "Monochord", AJP, Vol. 90, #12, Dec. 2022, p. 947.
  • Gabriele U. Varieschi and Christina M. Gower, "Intonation and Compensation of Fretted String Instruments", AJP, Vol. 78, #1, Jan. 2010, p. 47.
  • P. M. Vilela, R. A. Moscoso, and D. Thompsom, "What Every Musician Knows about Viscoelastic Behavior", AJP, Vol. 65, #10, Oct. 1997, p. 1000.
  • J. Hunt, "A Vertical Sonometer", AJP, Vol. 58, #1, Jan. 1990, p. 93.
  • Judith C. Brown, "Rotating Discontinuity of the Bowed String Using Computer Graphics", AJP, Vol. 55, #10, Oct. 1987, p. 898.
  • Gerald F. Wheeler and William P. Crummett, "The Vibrating String Controversy", AJP, Vol. 55, #1, Jan. 1987, p. 33.
  • E. Brock Dale, "Classroom Demonstration of the Vibration of a Bowed String", AJP, Vol. 44, #11, Nov. 1976, p. 1077.
  • Robert E. Kelly, "Temperature Effects on The Musical Pitch of a Stretched String", AJP, Vol. 43, #11, Nov. 1975, p. 996.
  • Stephan G. Benka, "Longitudinal Waves in Piano Strings", Physics Today, Vol. 68, #7, July 2015, p. 16.
  • John C. Bryner, "Stiff-String Theory: Richard Feynman on Piano Tuning", Physics Today, Vol. 62, #12, Dec. 2009, p. 46.
  • Sj- 3, 4, 5: Freier and Anderson, A Demonstration Handbook for Physics.
  • W-120: "Melde's String - Sonometer", DICK and RAE Physics Demo Notebook.
  • W-410: "Coffee Can Oop-Goopi", DICK and RAE Physics Demo Notebook.
  • W-415: "Monochord - Pan Pipes", DICK and RAE Physics Demo Notebook.
  • George M. Hopkins, "Conduction of Sound", Experimental Science, p. 124.
  • David Kutliroff, "72, Resonance Demonstration with Musical Strings", 101 Classroom Demonstrations and Experiment For Teaching Physics, p. 158.
  • Jearl Walker, "3.34, Bowing a Violin", The Flying Circus of Physics Ed. 2, p. 160.
  • Gerard L'E Turner, Nineteenth-Century Scientific Instruments, p. 132-133.
  • Janice VanCleave, "Bzzzzz", 202 Oozing, Bubbling, Dripping, and Bouncing Experiments, p. 32.
  • Janice VanCleave, "String Music", 202 Oozing, Bubbling, Dripping, and Bouncing Experiments, p. 109.
  • Janice VanCleave, "Shorter", 202 Oozing, Bubbling, Dripping, and Bouncing Experiments, p. 109.
  • Sharon E. Finberg, "Abstract: Student Sonometer", 2005 Apparatus Competition, Salt Lake City, UT.
  • Herb Strongin, “Investigating the Sounds of Student-Built Musical Instruments“, Science on a Shoestring, p. 138. 
  • Joseph Frick, "#146 - The Monochord", Physical Technics: Or, Practical Instructions for Making Experiments in Physics and the Construction of Physical Apparatus with the Most Limited Means", p. 172.
  • D. Colson, C. J. Lapp, J. A. Eldridge, "Experiment XXX", 1936 Univ. of Iowa Physics Laboratory Manual, p. 36.
  • The Queen Catalogues Vol. II, Catalogue of Physicsal Instruments, No. 4675, p. 48

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.