Sound and Matter

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11476

Does the type of matter that sound travels through really matter? Ever see a cowboy in a movie listen to railroad tracks to see if a train is coming? Why? Watch, listen, experiment and learn about it!


Physical Science

learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Which object do you think sound will travel through the best?balloon, water, sand

Throughout the Related Lessons in this All About Sound series, found in the right-hand sidebar, you have been learning how sound is formed and how it moves so it can be heard.

Take a minute to refresh your memory. How is sound formed? How does it move? Explain your answers to a teacher or parent.

If you said sound is formed by vibrating matter, you are correct! Sound travels in waves called compression waves, but did you know that sound moves differently through different types of objects?

In the previous lessons, you learned that the average speed of sound is around 760 miles per hour, but this speed can vary depending on what type of media, or phase of matter, the sound is traveling through.

Look at the pictures at the beginning of the lesson. The balloon represents gas, the bag of water represents liquid, and the sandcastle represents a solid. Which phase of matter do you think sound can travel through with the most ease? Print the Sound and Matter Experiment from Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Write your prediction in the section labeled "Hypothesis."

To determine the answer to this question, you will complete an experiment. Use the Sound and Matter Experiment worksheet as your guide and to record your data. You will need the following materials to complete the experiment:

  • three Ziploc® bags
  • sand or soil
  • water

When you are setting up the bags for the experiment, make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible from your solids and liquids bags. Now, complete the "Experiment" and "Conclusions" sections of the worksheet.

Which media allowed the sound to travel the best in your experiment? Show your results and your conclusions to your teacher or parent.

You should have found that sound travels best through solids. This is because the molecules in a solid are packed tighter together, allowing the molecules to bump into each other and vibrate more. Sound has the most difficulty when traveling through air or gasses. This is because air molecules are loosely spread out, making it difficult for the molecules to vibrate and bump into each other.

To learn more about the relationship between sound and matter, watch this Science - Transmission of Sound video by Designmate Pvt. Ltd. – Official. It will review what you have already learned about compression waves and illustrate how sound travels through different media:


Did the results of your experiment turn out correctly? Were you able to hear the tapping sound best through the sand or the soil? Share your response with a teacher or parent.

If your experiment had a different outcome, discuss what you might have done differently, or repeat the experiment. Then, when you are ready, move onto the Got It? section to review what you have learned about sound and matter.

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