Whether you are interested in the physics of sound yourself, or want to teach about the physics of sound waves for kids, one of the best ways to experience sound waves firsthand is to play a cymatics plate and see the sand or salt transform from chaos into geometric patterns formed by sound vibrations right in front of your eyes.
The of Cymatics will be making a video course available on “how to make a DIY cymatics plate” for those who want to build a Chladni-style cymatics plate of their own.
In the meantime, for those who already have (or are building) a DIY cymatics plate and have had some difficulty learning to get the sound vibrations going properly, here are some tips for playing your cymatics plate, and a set of cymatics images that will illustrate some tips on playing a cymatics plate visually for you:
Tip #1: Make sure the surface of the cymatics plate is smooth and free of obstructions or “stickiness.” There are two things you can do to reduce resistance on a cymatics plate surface. One, wipe the surface with a ’static cling’ dryer sheet (like Bounce) to remove any static electricity. Two, take a bit of the powder crystals you are using for cymatics patterns and put some on the surface of the plate, then take a soft cloth and polish the plate lightly with them, before cleaning the plate and applying sound waves.
Tip #2: Make sure your bow is tightened enough. I personally tighten my bow with a pair of pliers, but be careful not to tighten it until it breaks. Also, be sure to loosen your bow afterwards and never leave it tight when you put it away.
Tip #3: Be sure you have enough rosin on your bow. You want to have a really good coating, and you can recoat it each time you play to increase stickiness. In my experience, the more stickiness, the better the cymatics images you will get.
Tip #4: Hold the bow very firmly and press in on the edge of the plate very hard, then pull slowly and firmly, not quickly and lightly, along the edge of the cymatics plate. Get the bow to “catch” and the vibrations to start, then keep going, keeping your bow hard against the cymatics plate’s edge.
Tip #5: Use a sieve to pour your salt or sand through onto your cymatics plate before you play. This give you a nice, even coating of particles to start with, and eliminate any “pouring pattern” that gets left from applying particles by hand, which might show up in your cymatics design and make it less “pure.”
Click on this set of cymatics images to see the tips I’ve offered here illustrated in photos.
And be sure to put your name in for a subscription to the Journal of Cymatics in the upper right hand corner here, so you can get an announcement as soon as the new “cymatics how to” plate instructions become available.