Vocal Visualizer: Complete activity guide
Croon a tune, croak like a frog, hum, hoot, or holler—you don’t need to be Pavarotti to transform laser light into dazzling shapes and patterns with the power of your voice.
Tools & materials
- A laser pen/pointer with low power output. Try to find the common variety of laser pointers that are about the diameter of your pinky finger (approximately 1.4 cm or 9/16 inch diameter).
- Rubber bands
- One 11 inch diameter balloon
- Double-sided tape
- Small plastic mirror
- Various lengths of PVC pipe: one 6 foot (approximately 2 meter) length of half-inch diameter pipe; two half-inch diameter “elbows”; three half-inch diameter T-joints; and 10 cm length of 3 inch diameter solid, smooth-walled drainpipe
- Safety goggles
- Measuring tape with both English and metric units
- Permanent marker
- PVC cutter (optional)
- If your 3 inch diameter, smooth-walled drainpipe is longer than 10 cm, use the hacksaw or PVC cutter to cut it down to 10 cm.
- Use the scissors to snip off the neck of the balloon, cutting about halfway between the opening and the widest part of the balloon.
- Stretch the balloon over one of the open ends of the 10 cm-long segment of drainpipe from step 1. This is your balloon membrane.
- Don your safety goggles. Wrap a corner of the plastic mirror in a piece of folded paper and grip the corner with the pliers; use the pliers to break off an approximately 1 cm2 piece of mirror (it’s okay if the piece is irregularly shaped). If the mirror has a protective film on it, peel it off.
- Place a small piece of double-sided tape on the balloon membrane somewhere between the membrane’s center and its outer edge.
- Affix the piece of mirror—shiny side up—to the membrane by sticking it onto the exposed side of the double-sided tape.
- Using a hacksaw or PVC cutter, cut the half-inch diameter pipe into the following lengths: two pieces, each 3 cm long; one piece, 5cm long; three pieces, each 12 cm long; and two pieces, each 50 cm long.
- Arrange your half-inch pipe, elbows, and T-joints as laid out in the image below (or watch the "Build Your Own Vocal Visualizer" video):
- Insert the pieces together, making sure your connections are snug. The frame will form a trapezoid. The narrowing of the pipes helps to better support the vibration chamber.
- Place the vibration chamber atop the two 12 cm-long pieces of PVC pipe with the membrane and mirror facing towards the trapezoid. The membrane can touch the T-joints but shouldn’t sit on top of them. The open end of the vibration chamber should extend a little beyond the ends of the pipes.
- Secure the vibration chamber to the frame by looping two rubber bands around both the two 12 cm-long pipes and the chamber (see image below).
- Insert the laser pointer into the 12 cm length of half-inch pipe located inside of the trapezoidal area. If the diameter of the laser pointer and the pipe match up, inserting the laser into the tube fully will turn it on. If the pocket clip gets in the way, remove the clip with pliers. If the pipe’s diameter is larger than the laser pointer, bulk up the diameter of the laser by wrapping some masking tape around it until you get a good fit.
Things to do and notice
What’s going on?
- Try swinging your Visual Vocalizer quickly back and forth and see if you can make a wave pattern.
- Hold your Vocal Visualizer up to a stereo speaker and play your favorite song. What kinds of patterns and rhythms does it make on your wall?
- Invite a friend who also has a Vocal Visualizer over and make a laser-light show together!