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Wave Speed on a String

Experiment #27 from Physics Explorations and Projects

Education Level
High School


The goal of this activity is for students to identify and predict the effect of string tension, string length, and linear density of a string on the wave velocity through that string. From their investigation of one of these factors students will, as a class, construct a model that shows the relationship between these factors.

In the Preliminary Observations, students will observe a stringed instrument or hollow box with rubber bands across an open side. Students should identify a couple of factors that may influence the wave speed on the strings such as string tension, thickness/weight of string, and string length.

During their investigations, students will determine the relationship between one factor and wave speed. Since groups may be investigating different factors, you will need a class discussion after the investigations to summarize the class’s findings.

We recommended a specific equipment setup in order to narrow the focus of the investigation. However, students should be encouraged to consider other approaches that effectively isolate the variable of interest.


  • Design and perform an investigation.
  • Draw a conclusion from evidence.
  • Identify string tension and mass per unit length as the determining factors of wave speed on a string.
  • Create a model for factors affecting wave speed on a string.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following sensors and equipment. Additional equipment may be required.

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This experiment is #27 of Physics Explorations and Projects. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

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