What do musicians and Thomas Edison have in common? If we say both have to be creative and inventive, we touch on some personality traits, but we haven’t touch on how the physical accomplishments of both actually coincide. There is actually something practical and concrete in relationship to the craft of both musicians and Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison’s use of the incandescent light bulb to create light and the musician’s use of an instrument to create tone both rely on the same physical occurrence to produce results. Vibration.
For the musician, resonance is the key to a great tone – one that is both pleasing and expressive. When a musician passes air through their aperture, it begins to cause the reed, lips, or air column to vibrate. The better the vibrations, the better the resonance. In the case of Edison’s incandescent light bulb, the filament is the key to a great source of light -one that can be warm or bright. When electrical currents are passed through a filament it actually creates vibrations within the filament. The filament heats ups and begins to produce light. The better the vibrations, the better the light. Both wind instruments and incandescent light bulbs require vibration to achieve their ultimate purpose.
The idea of the light bulb can be used in teaching young musicians about the impact that vibration has on their instrument and why they need to strive to play their instrument with an awareness of these vibrations. Students who understand that proper playing habits will enhance the amount of vibrations instead of limiting them will greatly increase the quality of their musical experience.
Every filament has its maximum capacity for vibrating that will produce its strongest light. So too, we want to reach the maximum vibrations with our instruments to produce our best sound. Just as vibrations make a light bulb glow with light, so too will they make our instruments glow with sound.
Steve Giovanoni is in his 23rd year of teaching. He is currently in his 12th year at Randolph Field ISD in Universal City, TX. While at RFISD he has taught Band, Dual Credit Music Appreciation and Music Theory courses.
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