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Song Science: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Player
edited by Caroline Hall
content provider: David Straw
In this investigation adaptable for Grades 6-12, students build and test their own inexpensive vinyl record players to explore three concepts: 1) The relationship of sound loudness and the material used for amplification; 2) How sound is produced from within the grooves of a vinyl record; and 3) How timbre is affected by the material used in the amplifier. The lesson integrates engineering design and introductory acoustics concepts. Commercial turntables are not required -- materials include power drills (to serve as a uniformly rotating "turntable"), nuts, bolts, large-gauge sewing needles (to serve as the stylus), disposable cups of differing materials, and vinyl records. The lesson includes background information, vocabulary, data sheets for recording test results, and closing activity to identify energy transformations and information processing in the system.
Editor's Note: Key Takeaways from this lesson: a) Amplitude is a basic property of a sound wave; b) Some materials will amplify sound better than others (sound intensity), while some will vibrate more freely to produce a more pleasing sound to the human ear (timbre); c) Certain shapes will amplify sound better in the record player system than other shapes; d) Analog signals can be used to transmit sound; and e) Vinyl records preserve the precise analog waveform within the grooves of the record.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Oscillations & Waves
- Acoustics
= Intensity and Attenuation
- Sound Reproduction
- Wave Motion
= Longitudinal Pulses and Waves
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- High School
- Middle School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2018 American Association of Physics Teachers
Use limited to members of American Association of Physics Teachers.
analog, analog signal, engineering design, turntable
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created February 12, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
March 8, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
February 7, 2018

Next Generation Science Standards

Engineering Design (MS-ETS1)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success. (MS-ETS1-3)

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (HS-PS4)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy. (HS-PS4-5)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Wave Properties (PS4.A)
  • A simple wave has a repeating pattern with a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. (6-8)
  • A sound wave needs a medium through which it is transmitted. (6-8)
Information Technologies and Instrumentation (PS4.C)
  • Multiple technologies based on the understanding of waves and their interactions with matter are part of everyday experiences in the modern world (e.g., medical imaging, communications, scanners) and in scientific research. They are essential tools for producing, transmitting, and capturing signals and for storing and interpreting the information contained in them. (9-12)
Developing Possible Solutions (ETS1.B)
  • A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results in order to improve it. There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet criteria and constraints of a problem. (6-8)
Optimizing the Design Solution (ETS1.C)
  • Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)
  • Graphs and charts can be used to identify patterns in data. (6-8)
Structure and Function (K-12)
  • Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem. (9-12)
Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World (K-12)
  • Technologies extend the measurement, exploration, modeling, and computational capacity of scientific investigations. (6-8)
  • Engineers continuously modify these technological systems by applying scientific knowledge and engineering design practices to increase benefits while decreasing costs and risks. (9-12)
Science is a Human Endeavor (3-12)
  • Science is a result of human endeavors, imagination, and creativity. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings. (6-8)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (6-8)
    • Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that describe phenomena. (6-8)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions. (6-8)
    • Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions. (6-8)

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically.
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Record Link
AIP Format
, 2018, WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14556&DocID=4735).
Song Science: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Player, , 2018, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14556&DocID=4735>.
APA Format
Hall, C. (Ed.). (2018). Song Science: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Player. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14556&DocID=4735
Chicago Format
Hall, Caroline, ed. "Song Science: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Player." 2018. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14556&DocID=4735 (accessed 19 April 2018).
MLA Format
Hall, Caroline, ed. Song Science: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Player. 2018. 19 Apr. 2018 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14556&DocID=4735>.
BibTeX Export Format
@techreport{ Title = {Song Science: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Player}, Month = {February}, Year = {2018} }
Refer Export Format

%A Caroline Hall, (ed)
%T Song Science: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Player
%D February 7, 2018
%U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14556&DocID=4735
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Report
%D February 7, 2018
%T Song Science: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Player
%E Hall, Caroline
%8 February 7, 2018
%U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14556&DocID=4735

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