Tonoscope Resources

What is a tonoscope? A tonoscope is a fun acoustic device that enables you to see beautiful patterns created by the sound of your voice. The device was first created by scientist Hans Jeny in order to explore wave phenomena. Understanding such patterns informs the use and design of many everyday things from musical instruments to household products, cars and buildings. How does it work? As you sing into the tonoscope, your voice creates vibrations. As you experiment with different tones and sounds you should be able to tune into one of the membrane’s natural frequencies. An object’s natural frequencies are the frequencies at which it is naturally inclined to vibrate once set into motion. When using the tonoscope, you’ll know if you’ve found one of these natural frequencies, because you will begin to see a clear, symmetrical pattern. Some parts of the membrane begin to move and others don’t. The parts that remain still are called nodal points. When the sand or salt moves into a nodal point, it stays there. The beautiful patterns you see are known as Chladni patterns. You can experiment making these patterns with your own tonoscope.

The Acoustic Tonoscope

Tonoscope building materials supplier list:

Here is a list of suppliers for materials needed to create your own acoustic tonoscope. Experimentation is part of the fun, so please do feel free to try various materials for the membrane, containers for the body of the tonoscope and various grains instead of table salt. We are also always curious to find out how your experiments turn out so please contact us and let us know your results!

In case you are interested in ordering latex sheeting or purchasing embroidery hoops in bulk, try these suppliers:

Latex Sheeting:

Pentonville Rubber

We recommend .31 gage dark coloured latex

Bulk embroidery hoops:

Jay Trim

Q-max cutters


Teachers love the tonoscope!