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Rockin' the Schools: 5-8 Rock and Roll & the Science of Sound



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

For Your Students

Online Resources

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.




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:

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
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