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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

sound lab: play a record with a needle!

I had to share this sound lab I have been working on with my kids for the last few weeks. It blows my mind and seems to have captured their imagination. And you can gather up the supplies easily and very likely will already have them in your house now. 

So, I do not want to over explain this project because the real value is in discovering for yourself how sound (and records) work. But basically, the goal is to try to play a record with a needle and a paper cup or cone to amplify the sound. This is a DIY phonograph. You get better sound if you use an old turntable because the speed is consistent, but we had fun spinning the record on a chopstick too. Try both ways.

There are many methods to this project, but I highly encourage you to explore the possibilities with your kids. Otherwise, you will just copy a pattern and be done - keep it OPEN ENDED.

This can be set up on a table for awhile as an ongoing project which is what we did. We played around with it, then left it for a few days. As kids wandered through their days, they would stop in and try something new until one day, my son spent over an hour making a arm with blocks and pencils and came up with a new way to attach the needle to the cone. He was INVENTING! Problem solving at its best and the spark and smile on his face coupled with the breathless awe as his project worked was why we work so hard to live a creative, curiosity based life. 

Do you want to try this? Here are the materials you should gather:

turntable if you have one
lazy susan
old records - this is not good for your records, so do not use your pristine copy of The White Album
sewing needles - try different sizes to see what works best
paper cups of different sizes
paper (both printer paper and card stock)
maybe: straws or dowels, small wooden bits, legos...

If you do this, please let me know how it worked and your experience. 

Here are a few videos of our projects. Feel free to shoot a video and link up. I would love to see what other kids and families made!


  1. Oh this is amazing! I never would have thought of it! Thank you for sharing with "Look What We Did!"

  2. Such a good idea--and a good way to introduce the old fashioned record to my kids!

  3. Oh, wow! So, you mean I shouldn't have tossed out our records when I couldn't get the new needle I ordered installed onto our old record player!? Good thing records are easy to procure from the thrift stores...because, this "sounds" like a super fun experiment! ~heather


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