Make a spooky screaming cup

Make a spooky screaming cup

A perfect sound effect for trick or treat!

What you need:

  • A large disposable plastic cup
  • String (at least 20 cm long)
  • Water or violin rosin (a sticky substance used to coat violin bows)

How to:

Get an adult to help you with this step. Make a hole in the bottom of the cup, just large enough to thread the string through. You could thread the string through a large needle and use the needle to make a hole in the base of the cup.

Tie a double knot at the end of the string inside the cup, to ensure that it stays in place.

Screaming cups

Cover the string that is outside the cup with violin rosin, if available. If not, then just wet the string with a little water.

Hold the cup with one hand. With the other, pinch the string between your thumb and forefinger. Slide your fingers down the string, while maintaining a firm grip on the string. You should hear a "screaming" sound.

How does it work?

As you move your fingers down the string, it vibrates. This vibration travels up the string into the cup, where is amplified - think of how a loudspeaker works. We hear these amplified vibrations as "sound". Violin rosin or water increases the stickiness of the string, increasing the number of vibrations set up in the string.

Try repeating the experiment with different sized cups, and strings of different length, to see what effect this has on the "screams". Will a paper cup behave differently to a plastic cup?

By Zara Mahmoud

Curriculum information

  • Summary

    Your children can learn about vibrations and sounds by making spooky sounds using this simple set-up. Investigate things like the pitch and volume of sounds.

    Curriculum key wordsOther web links
    • Sound
    • Vibration
    • Wave
    • Hearing
    Colourful and highly-illustrated booklet about sound
    How to present an assembly on sound
    Thousands of sound effects
    Science Curriculum Links
    National CurriculumCurriculum for excellenceNorthern Ireland Curriculum
    Making and detecting sound (KS1 Sc4.3.c) Vibrations and sound (KS2 Sc4.3).Producing sound (SCN 1-11a) Sound vibrations are carried by waves (SCN 2-11a)Different ways to produce sound and when an object vibrates, sound is produced (Strand2: Movement and energy)