Glass Xylophones

Art Math Science
Time 30 minutes
Age 7 & up
Group Size Less than 10
Tags Glass, Music, Water

Learn about sound and vibrations by making music!

Using small drinking glasses filled with different amounts of water, you can give children direct experience with resonance and vibration as well as musical expression.


If it’s possible to provide enough spoons and glasses for each team of three to have 4 glasses, that is ideal for this activity. If not, you can give each team one glass, or you can engage children as a single large group. Fill each glass with a different amount of water. See the “Glass Xylophones: Tips and Songs” sheet for suggestions.

Glass Xylophones

Suggested Materials

  • Small drinking glasses or baby food jars of the same size and shape (40)
  • Water
  • Metal spoon or wooden chopsticks (10)
  • Eyedroppers

Make it Matter

Opening Discussion

With a set of glasses in front of you, each with a different amount of water, ask your children what they think will happen if you gently tap a glass. What will happen if you tap a different glass? Will it make the same sound or will it be a higher or lower sound? What do they notice that is different about the glasses?

The Challenge

Can you make music with the glasses of water?


Make it Happen

Doing the Activity

  1. If you have enough materials divide your students into teams of 3.
  2. Have the children place the glasses on a flat surface near each other but not touching. Fill each glass with a different amount of water. Have them tap each glass (gently!) with the spoon or chopstick. Do they hear different sounds? Let them experiment for a few minutes.

Make it Click

Let’s Talk About It

After 5-10 minutes, bring your students together in a group for a discussion. What did they discover? Do all of the glasses have the same pitch, or are some higher and some lower? Does it matter where on the glass they tap? This discussion should last no more than a few minutes.


Make it Better

Build On What They Talked About

Send your students back to experimenting, and hand out eyedroppers so that they can add or remove water in order to adjust the tone of the glasses. Ask them if they can come up with a song.


  • If you don’t have enough glasses for students to work in teams, work with them in a large group. Ask questions and have them make predictions. If they’d like to make a glass play a higher note, what could they do?
  • You could assign a glass to each child, and form a “bell choir”, where each child is responsible for a certain note in a song. Try the activity described below, in which students create a “glass xylophone”.
  • See the “Glass Xylophones: Tips and Songs” sheet for suggestions.
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