Sound Energy

Contributor: Roxann Penny. Lesson ID: 12897

What do snores, rap songs, trucks, symphonies, jets, drums and trees falling in the woods have in common? They all make your eardrums vibrate! Learn about sound energy, then make your own instruments!



learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


If a kitty cat wearing headphones plays a song on its cell phone, does it actually hear the song?

Listen up!

What type of sound does the instrument in the image below make? Can you recreate the sound?


To begin understanding what sound energy is, you should first know the meaning of the terms "matter" and "energy."

Matter is everything thing around you. Your computer, chair, pencil, even your clothes, are made up of matter. In short, matter is any mass (object) that takes up space.

The term "energy" is often defined as the ability to do work. In other words, energy is the ability to create change. There are different forms of energy. Sound energy is one form of energy.

How is sound energy created?

Sound is energy created when matter vibrates. Vibrations are very fast back-and-forth movements that you cannot see but can sometimes feel. When objects vibrate, they create sound waves. For example, when you tap the surface of the drum in the picture above, the tapping creates vibrations, which then cause the air particles around it to move. These air particles continue to move and bump into other air particles, creating more vibrations, or sound waves. As the sound waves travel through the air, they eventually reach your ear and cause your eardrum to vibrate. This is when you actually hear the sound of the drum.


How fast does sound travel?

Sound travels through solids, liquids, and gases. The speed of sound is determined by how fast sound waves, or vibrations, pass through matter. For example, sound waves move slower through gases than they do through most liquids. In fact, sound moves four times faster through water than it does through air. Sound travels the fastest through solids because the molecules in a solid are packed tightly together, causing them to vibrate against each other more.

Can you guess the answer to the following trivia question?

If a fighter jet and a sound wave were in a race, which one would win?

Some aircraft, like fighter jets, are able to travel faster than the speed of sound! This is called "breaking the sound barrier," or "Mach 1." Take a look at the image below of a fighter jet breaking the sound barrier.

  • What do you observe in the image?
  • What do you think the white cloudy shape is?

Share your observations with your parent or teacher:

sonic boom

Next, before moving on to the Got It? section to test how "soundly" you understand sound energy, take a few minutes to review some of what you have just learned by watching What is Sound? from SciShow Kids. With your parent or teacher, share at least five facts from the video that you can identify:


When you are done, continue to the Got It? section to summarize what you learned about sound energy.

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