The Science of Sound

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Think like an acoustic engineer. Try building a harmonica with household materials to discover how weight and size affect sound.

Acoustic engineers are experts in the science of sound and vibration. Their job is to analyse machines and design solutions to produce a quieter and more pleasant sound. Acoustic engineers often work in teams with design and mechanical engineers to share, design and test ideas to ensure all aspects of a product work together to form a complete solution.

To demonstrate the science and engineering behind sounds we are familiar with, Sir James Dyson and conductor, Toby Purser, wanted to create an original orchestral piece.  They decided to produce a Dyson Symphony; a combination of Dyson machines played with a full orchestra. To complement the Symphony, Dyson engineers were challenged to create an instrument inspired by Dyson technology which was both playable and expressive. The engineers produced a geodesic organ that used vacuum cleaner sticks as pipes and a violin that was constructed using an Airbladeᵀᴹ hand dryer. The acoustic engineers experimented with pitch, tone and volume to guarantee an orchestral sound.

Build a harmonica with the Challenge Card below and try changing the length of the sound waves to create a higher or lower pitch.

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Share your harmonica designs and sounds with the James Dyson Foundation.