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Sound Concepts

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

Misconceptions (Explanations, Naive understanding, Misconceptions, or Perceptual responses)

  1. Comes from people's mouths.
  2. Comes from wires sparking in electronic devices. Sound actually travels in wires of telephone…
  3. Is waves of different noises coming from different objects.
  4. When waves go through some objects and come out as music or conversation.
  5. Is vibrations in the air that the ear picks up and the brain interprets as sound.
  6. Sound waves cause sound to come out of an object.
  7. Sound moves between particles (empty space).
  8. Matter moves with waves
  9. In a flute… the flute vibrates (column of air)
  10. Sound travels faster in air because there is open space. Sound would be slower in water because the bubbles would get in the way. It’s hard to hear in solid and water because the stuff gets in the way. Sound can't travel in liquids or solids.
  11. Hitting and object harder or softer changes pitch.
  12. Pitch changes as the vibration increases or decreases, rubber band, tuning fork…
  13. The Doppler effect is caused by the horn changing pitch or engineer in train changing it.
  14. Sound travels in one direction like a flash light beam.

Beginning (preschool - 7 years)


  1. Sound is made by motion.

Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)


  1. Sound is produced by vibrating objects.
  2. Vibrating matter can make sound and sound can make matter vibrate.
  3. Sound travels through a medium which transfers energy from particle to particle.
  4. Pitch can be varied by changing the rate of vibrations.
  5. Intensity (volume) of a sound is related to the amount of energy used to create the sound.
  6. Sound can be modeled as waves. Waves in regular patterns of motion, such as the surface of water when it is touched.
  7. Waves can make objects move.
  8. Sound waves of the same type can differ in amplitude and wavelength.

Literate (11+)


  1. The rate of vibration is related to the mass of the vibrating object.
  2. Sound can be modeled with a wave model to represent its properties such as: repeating pattern, having a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude.
  3. Waves can transmit energy and information.
  4. Wavelength and frequency are related. They are inversely proportional. Wavelength * frequency = wave speed. Frequence is also pitch. Wave speed depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes