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How to make Mr. Shaha’s Handy Harmonica

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How can you make a toy ‘harmonica’ with supplies from around the house? In this book promotional video, British science teacher, writer, and filmmaker Alom Shaha demonstrates how to make a Handy Harmonica from two popsicle sticks, folded scrap paper, and some rubber bands.

The project is just one of the STEM tutorials from his book Mr. Shaha’s Marvellous Machines: Adventures in Making Round the Kitchen Table. What’s happening here?

“When you blow into the harmonica, you make the rubber band vibrate. The vibrations of the rubber band are passed on to the air around, making sound waves that travel outwards and eventually into your ears. You can feel these vibrations with your fingertips where you hold the harmonica, and you can see the rubber band vibrating if you look in a mirror while blowing.”

You get a different pitch of sound depending on which hole you blow into because the different lengths of rubber sandwiched between the paper dividers vibrate differently. Shorter bits of rubber vibrate more quickly (with a higher frequency) and produce a higher note.

handy harmonica

“Stretching the rubber band more tightly will also change the way it vibrates—a more tightly stretched rubber band will produce a higher note.

“Can you design and make a harmonica that only has one hole between two dividers, but allows you to make different notes? …Does blowing soft or hard change the sound?”

Alom Shaha demonstration
Shaha notes that a harmonica was one of the first musical instruments ever taken into space. Plus, don’t miss this video gem via his blog, where he explains, “You really shouldn’t teach a child about harmonicas without also teaching them about Stevie Wonder.”

Follow Mr. Shaha’s Books on YouTube for more tutorials.

Plus, watch more videos from Alom Shaha and more DIY instrument videos on TKSST:
• How to make latex glove bagpipes
How to make a carrot clarinet
• How to make homemade slide whistles
• How to make Mr. Shaha’s Balancing Bird
• How to build your own Wave Machine physics demo

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