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The Cymatics Sounder

Anyone who has attended one of our workshops, has seen us use the Cymatics Sounder. It is a graphic example of how sound is capable of moving matter.

water wavesBefore we go any further, let me explain what a Cymatics Sounder (CS) is.

In its simplest form, a CS is a resonant chamber. Sound waves enter the chamber, and bounce off of the hard surfaces of the walls of the pipe. In doing so, they behave just like water waves, where two waves cross each other. Waves are additive. A wave peak crossing a wave peak traveling in the opposite direction creates a peak that is twice as high – the sum of the two peaks. A wave peak that crosses a wave trough cancels itself out, and has no height – it’s as though the water was calm. This is referred to as a node.

low frequency sound imageWhen you place a membrane over the top of the CS, and sprinkle in a little sand, it becomes possible to see these peaks and nodes graphically. high frequency sound imageThe peaks are high energy areas full of vibration- they shake up the sand, and so they push the sand away. The nodes are very low energy areas, and so the sand gathers there. Just like the image to the left. As you increase the pitch of the sound, the patterns become more complex like the image to the right.

The fun is in playing around with the sound, with the pitch of your voice and seeing what you can create.



Building your own Cymatics Sounder


  6” x 6” x 4” Wye – 45o reducing Home Depot*  
  4” x 1 ½” Adapter Bushing Home Depot*  
  1 ½” x 18” ABS pipe Home Depot*  
  6” diameter (approx.) x ½” thick wood plug    
  10” embroidery hoop Michaels*  
  12” x 12” x 0.25mm thick latex rubber sheet    
  Fine grained sand    

*Note that the stores listed above are not endorsements – they are simply where I found the parts for mine.

Construction of your Sounder

Cymatics SounderAssembly of the Cymatics Sounder is relatively straight forward. The most challenging part of the assembly is cutting the wood plug for the bottom of the sounder.

The first step is to determine the size of the plug. To do this, place the Wye flat on the piece of wood to be used for the plug and trace the inside of the pipe on the piece of wood. Cut this circle using a coping saw, a band saw, a scroll saw or similar. If you do not have access to one of these tools, use what-ever tools you have to make the disc.  The disc must be the same size, or slightly smaller than the bottom of the Wye.

Use a mallet or hammer to tap the plug into the bottom of the sounder. If the fit is loose, use caulking available from any hardware store to fill the voids. Apply the caulk from the inside of the sounder.

Tap the adapter bushing into the 4” part of the Wye. It will be a tight fit, and does not need to be glued in place.

Trim the 1½” ABS pipe to about 18” long. The length is unimportant. It is simply the tool to “funnel” the sound into the sounder. Insert this pipe into the adapter bushing.

Insert the latex sheet into the embroidery hoop. It should be relatively tight, and free of wrinkles, but does not need to be stretched. Tighten the hoop to lock the latex in place.

If you can’t find the latex elsewhere (we had a challenging time finding it ourselves), we offer them for sale in our store. You can purchase a sheet of black latex that is approximately 11″ square and suitable for use with a 10″ embroidery hoop for $5.99. Click Here to be taken to our store page.

Playing with your Sounder

Place the hoop over the open end of the Sounder, and sprinkle sand on the latex.
Tone into the open pipe being careful to minimize contact with the tube, adjusting your voice and the tension on the latex until you get movement in the sand. Typically, little tension is better than too much tension. From there, it is simply a matter of exploring.