This is the "5-8 Rock and Roll & the Science of Sound" page of the "Rockin' the Schools" guide.
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5-8 Rock and Roll & the Science of Sound Print Page




Rock and Roll & the Science of Sound

Suggested Grade Level: 5-8 

This research guide serves as a resource for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Education Department course, Rock and Roll & the Science of Sound. For additional information on the course and for more teacher resources, see

We typically think of music as an art form, but every note we hear can be understood in relation to the laws of science.  This class examines the basic acoustic principles in the sounds of rock and roll by investigating how all sounds are created by vibrations, how sound travels to our ears through moving air molecules, and how sounds can be represented in a graph by using an oscilloscope or a computer.  Students will learn how the musical notes of instruments are determined by frequency and amplitude and how the shape of a waveform determines an instrument’s timbre.  Musical examples showcase Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees and illustrate how we perceive the various elements of sound.  The class concludes with a live demonstration of digital audio software in which audience volunteers get to record and manipulate their own voices.


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Our catalog has a subject category for "Inductee." If you enter this term in the search box and choose "Subject" in the dropdown box, you will retrieve information on our resources that are related to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees.

Limit your search by using the facets on the left of your screen in the library catalog, i.e. Format:

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    These research databases can be accessed within the Library and Archives.

    • Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online
      The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online is the first comprehensive online resource devoted to music research of all the world's peoples. More than 9,000 pages of material, combined with entries by more than 700 expert contributors from all over the world, make this the most complete body of work focused on world music.
    • Music Online
      Music Online is the broadest and most comprehensive online music resource that cross-searches all of the Alexander Street Press music databases. These include African American Music Reference, American Song, Contemporary World Music, the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online, Jazz Music Library, Smithsonian Global Sound, and more.
    • Oxford Music Online
      Oxford Music Online is the access point for Grove Music Online, The Oxford Dictionary of Music and the Oxford Companion to Music. Other products offered here are not part of our subscription.
    • Rock's Backpages
      Rock’s Backpages is the largest database of rock journalism online, featuring 17,000+ articles on numerous artists. The archive draws on numerous publications from Creem and Trouser Press to Rolling Stone, and from New Musical Express and MelodyMaker to MOJO. It is fully searchable by artist, genre, writer or keyword (allowing search by album or single title, date, etc). Rock's Backpages also features a library of over 100 audio interviews.

    For Your Students

    Cover Art
    Rock 'n' Roll Music - Kate Riggs
    Call Number: ML3534 .R54 2008
    This book introduces rock 'n' roll music, discussing its history since the 1950s, instruments, and famous singers, such as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones


    Rock Hall Video: Interviews

    Van Dyke Parks

    David Blumberg


    These resources, pulled from class discussion and selected from the Library and Archives' collections, will help you to:

    • Distinguish between the concepts of music and noise, and explain basic physical properties of sound.
    • Give examples of the above drawn from musical recordings and technologies.
    • Identify physical properties of sound waves that determine musical characteristics, such as volume, pitch, and timbre.


    Cover Art
    The Foundations of Rock - Walter Everett
    Call Number: MT146 .E96 2009
    The Foundations of Rock covers the nature and use of all musical instruments and vocal qualities; reveals the many different ways that phrases and sections of songs can be combined; discusses the materials and patterns in melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic invention; explains the many important ways that producers and engineers add to the artistry; and finally suggests paths for combining an understanding of all of these elements with interpretations of a song's lyrics.

    Cover Art
    The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies - T. J. Pinch; Karin Bijsterveld (Editor); Trevor Pinch (Editor)
    Call Number: QC225.15 O94 2012
    Written by the world's leading scholars and researchers in the emerging field of sound studies, The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies offers new and fully engaging perspectives on the significance of sound in its material and cultural forms.

    Cover Art
    Rock Hardware - Paul Trynka
    Call Number: ML460 .R63 1996
    40 years of rock instrumentation, the great instruments, how they are used, and how they shape the sound of popular music

    Cover Art
    Strange Sounds: offbeat instruments and sonic experiments in pop - Mark Brend
    Call Number: ML1092 .B74 2005
    This book includes some of the biggest names in pop music from the 1950s to the present, explaining and illustrating what instruments were used - their history, how they were played, how the artists came to choose them - and in the process uncovering a parallel history of pop music, one where guitars and drums make way for claviolines, ocarinas and stylophones.



    Cover Art
    Her greatest hits - Carole King
    Call Number: CD KING-C HERG 1986

    Cover Art
    The legendary demos - Carole King
    Call Number: CD KING-C LEGE 2012

    Cover Art
    The O'Jays' collectors items - the O'Jays
    Call Number: CD O'JAY COLL 1991

    Cover Art
    Transformer - Lou Reed
    Call Number: CD REED-L TRAN 2002



    Cover Art
    The best of Soul train - Ralph Quatrucci
    Call Number: DVB COLL SOUL-B 2010
    Featuring performances by the O'Jays.

    Cover Art
    Lou Reed : Transformer - Lou Reed
    Call Number: DVD REED-L TRAN 2001

    Cover Art
    Tom Dowd and the Language of Music
    Call Number: DVD DOWD TOM 2003


    Inductee Spotlight: Tom Dowd

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum curatorial director Howard Kramer discusses Tom Dowd's career. Dowd was among the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of Inductees.

    Archival Resources

    New to Archives? Check out:

    • American Music Masters. Les Paul. Henry Juszkiewicz lecture. Ace Frehley interview. (in 2 parts)
      In this Rock Hall/Case Western Reserve University conference on Les Paul, CEO and Chairman of Gibson Guitar Corporation Henry Juszkiewicz discusses the genesis and basic history of the Gibson Guitar Corporation, Orville Gibson, and Paul's contributions as an innovator. Juszkiewicz also takes audience questions. Ace Frehley (Kiss) discusses using Gibson guitars.
    • ARC-0138 Dr. Z Amplification Collection
      The Dr. Z Amplification Collection consists of a signed photograph from Brad Paisley, a photograph of Mike Zaite with Joe Walsh, a poster signed by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and specifications for a gold Bolin Stratocaster presented to Mike Zaite by Steve Miller with an accompanying handwritten note. The items are indicative of the relationship that exists between performers and specialized equipment manufacturers.
    • ARC-0251 Collection on Bob Leefe
      The collection spans the years 1970-1977 and consists of six photographs of recording engineer Bob Leefe, one CD of his recordings, and several clippings.
    • ARC-0307 Tom Dowd and the Language of Music Poster
      Tom Dowd and the Language of Music Poster is from 2003. The film profiles the life and legendary work of music producer and recording engineer Tom Dowd. Historical footage, vintage photographs, and interviews with a who's who list of musical giants from the worlds of jazz, soul, and classic rock shine a spotlight on Dowd, whose creative spirit and passion for innovative technology helped shape the course of modern music. Dowd's credits include recording sessions with the Allman Brothers Band, Booker T. and the MG's, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, John Coltrane, Cream, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thelonious Monk, Tito Puente, Otis Redding, Rod Stewart, and countless other musical luminaries--many of whom are featured in the film through music and interviews.
    • ARC-0326 Les Paul Papers
      The Les Paul Papers span the years 1925 to 2008, with the bulk of the material dating between 1952 and 1963. The Papers relate to the life, career, invention, and artistry of Les Paul and Mary Ford. The bulk of the collection consists of publicity materials, including advertisements, newspaper and magazine clippings from commercial music publications, newsletters and dailies, handbills, press kits, press releases, and programs. The Papers also contain academic papers on Paul, biographical information, brochures, catalogs, chord sheets, contracts, copyright documents, correspondence, hit charts, index cards of jokes, lyrics, music arrangements and manuscripts, orchestrations, Paul's passport, photographs, publications, record covers, recording notes, royalty reports, scrapbooks, scripts, set lists, sheet music, stage design drawings, and miscellaneous materials.

    Rock Hall Video: In the Museum

    Depeche Mode's Synthesizer

    Les Paul

    YouTube Videos

    Lou Reed, "Metal Machine Trio" (Live in Copenhagen, April 24th, 2010)

    Carole King, "It's Too Late' (1971) with Guitar solo Danny Kootch

    The O'jays, "For the Love of Money" live, 1974
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum | Library and Archives
    2809 Woodland Avenue | Cleveland, OH 44115 | 216.515.1956 |

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