Museum of Science and Industry

Make Music With Straws

Make music with drinking straws and learn about how sound works. You can entertain your family and friends by playing some well-known songs.

What You'll Need

8 straws
Masking tape
Pen or marker

What to Do

Measure and cut the straws into these lengths: 19.5 centimeters, 17.0 cm, 15.5 cm, 14.5 cm, 13.0 cm, 11.5 cm, 10.0 cm, 9.5 cm. Label the longest straw #1, the next longest straw #2, and so on. The smallest straw should be labeled #8. Tape the straws together in order from longest to shortest. You can use small pieces of straw (about 2 cm long) as spacers between the longer straws. This is called a pan pipe.

Hold the pan pipe vertically below your lips. Blow across the tops of the straws as though you are blowing across the top of a pop bottle. Try playing one of the songs below, or make up your own songs. Remember: 1 is the longest straw and 8 is the smallest straw.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
11 55 66 5 44 33 22 1
55 44 33 2 55 44 33 2
11 55 66 5 44 33 22 1 

Jingle Bells
333 333 35123
444 4433 3355421

Mary Had a Little Lamb
3212333 222 355
3212333 322321

What's Happening?

As you blow across a straw, the air in the straw vibrates. These vibrations travel outward and reach our ears sounding like the notes of a scale. You can change the pitch (the perceived highness or lowness of a sound) by changing the length of the straw. A long straw produces a low note. A short straw produces a high note.

Museum Hours
  • Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas
More Information

Museum Location
Museum of Science+Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
1 (773) 684-1414
Getting Here

Buy Tickets Online

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