Cymatics is the study of wave phenomena. It is typically associated with the physical patterns produced through the interaction of sound waves in a medium.

A simple experiment demonstrating the visualisation of cymatics can be done by sprinkling sand on a metal plate and vibrating the plate, for example by drawing a violin bow along the edge, the sand will then form itself into standing wave patterns such as simple concentric circles. The higher the frequency, the more complex the shapes produced, with certain shapes having similarities to traditional mandala designs.

History of Cymatics

The study of the patterns produced by vibrating bodies has a venerable history. One of the earliest to notice that an oscillating body displayed regular patterns was Galileo Galilei, who wrote in his 1632 book, "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems":

"As I was scraping a brass plate with a sharp iron chisel in order to remove some spots from it and was running the chisel rather rapidly over it, I once or twice, during many strokes, heard the plate emit a rather strong and clear whistling sound: on looking at the plate more carefully, I noticed a long row of fine streaks parallel and equidistant from one another. Scraping with the chisel over and over again, I noticed that it was only when the plate emitted this hissing noise that any marks were left upon it; when the scraping was not accompanied by this sibilant note there was not the least trace of such marks."

On July 8, 1680, Robert Hooke was able to see the nodal patterns associated with the modes of vibration of glass plates. Hooke ran a bow along the edge of a glass plate covered with flour, and saw the nodal patterns emerge.[2][3]

In 1787, Ernst Chladni repeated the work of Robert Hooke and published "Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges" ("Discoveries in the Theory of Sound"). In this book, Chladni describes the patterns seen by placing sand on metal plates which are made to vibrate by stroking the edge of the plate with a bow.

The term cymatics was coined by the Swiss scientist, Hans Jenny. It is derived from the Greek kyma (????) meaning "wave," and ta kymatika  meaning "matters pertaining to waves."

Cymatics was explored by Jenny in his 1967 book, Kymatik (translated Cymatics).[4] Inspired by systems theory and the work of Ernst Chladni, Jenny began an investigation of periodic phenomena but especially the visual display of sound. He used standing waves, piezoelectric amplifiers, and other methods and materials.

New Discoveries with Cymatics

The discovery of a breakthrough technique that involves making dolphin and whale sounds visible in water, possibly mimicking the very mechanisms that nature evolved in the cetaceans' own sound-receiving apparatus, was announced in late 2008 using a newly developed instrument, the CymaScope. A team led by Jack Kassewitz in the USA and John Stuart Reid in the UK aim to build a lexicon of cetacean words, each word having a specific meaning and each forming a recognizable pattern, known as a CymaGlyph.

John Stuart Reid is an English acoustics engineer, scientist and inventor. He has studied the world of sound for over 30 years. He is the inventor of the CymaScope, an innovative instrument that makes visible sound’s once hidden structures, just as the microscope and the telescope have brought previously hidden realms into view.

Jack Kassewitz's goal is to establish full communication between humans and dolphins. Jack's research has propelled him to search out and obtain cutting-edge technology in order to record cetaceans (dolphins, whales and porpoises) in the broadest spectrum and highest definition possible and now make them visible with Cymatic images created by John Stuart Reid.

Influences in art

Jenny's book influenced Alvin Lucier and, along with Chladni, helped lead to Lucier's composition Queen of the South. Jenny's work was also followed up by Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) founder Gyorgy Kepes at MIT. [5] His work in this area included an acoustically vibrated piece of sheet metal in which small holes had been drilled in a grid. Small flames of gas burned through these holes and thermodynamic patterns were made visible by this setup.

Based on work done in this field, photographer Alexander Lauterwasser captures imagery of water surfaces set into motion by sound sources ranging from pure sine waves, to music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Karlheinz Stockhausen, electroacoustic group Kymatik(who often record in surround sound ambisonics), and overtone singing.

In 2007 Thomas J. Mitchell and his son Stuart told the press they had decoded "frozen music" based on sculptures in Rosslyn Chapel, in part by using cymatics.[6]


1. Good Vibrations, Joyce McLaughlin, American Scientist, July-August 1998, Volume: 86 Number: 4 Page: 342, DOI: 10.1511/1998.4.342

Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni, Institute for Learning Technologies, Columbia University

3. Pg 101 Oxford Dictionary of Scientists- Oxford University Press- 1999

4. Jenny, Hans (1967). Kymatik. ISBN 1888138076

Gyorgy Kepes profile at MIT

Scott, Marion (22 April 2007). Exclusive: Da Vinci Chorus. The Sunday Mail

Links --- Cymascope John Stuart Reid --- Dolphin Research Jack Kassewitz --- Video of Cymatics of salt grains on vibrating square metal plate --- DIY Cymatics --- Rosslyn Chapel Cymatics Music Video on YouTube --- Cymatics Hexagon on North Pole of the planet Saturn ---  Beautiful Cymatics images & video capturing the interaction of sounds with liquids

Videos -- Vibration Creates Form
This is a clip from a David Icke Documentary called "Freedom Road -- Resonance Phenomena in 2D on a Plane The plane is vibrated... -- Cornstarch at 35-55hz
A petri dish full of cornstarch and water, vibrated by a 35-55hz sine -- hexagon 19 flower of life standing wave
liquid in infrasound ... life flower hexagon cymatic faraday chladni . -- Cymatics on Saturn
Saturn Hexagon Mystifies Scientists March 27, 2007 -- resonance
Dr. Hans Jenny in his study of Cymatics -- Magnetic Liquid is Crazy
Take some magnetic liquid add a magnet, and you get instant cool -- Webs of Maya
Victory!!! Our video has reached the number one spot on Google video -- Chladni Patterns on a Square Plate
When sand is sprinkled on a vibrating square plate ... -- The Rosslyn Stave Angel - Music Cipher
The Rosslyn Stave Angel - Music Cipher -- ants,mice and alligators v cymatics
The rhythm of the universe the wave of the future -- Cymatics - Bringing Matter To Life With Sound (Part 1 of 3)
Hans Jenny's rare old video -- resonance3
Dr. Hans Jenny in his study of Cymatics -- Harmonics - Salt on a vibrating table
Salt on a table, vibrating at different frequencies -- Hidden World: Cymatics
The work of German photographer Alexander Lauterwasser is presented -- Sound Waves
Seeing Sound Waves -- Cymatics, Metatron's Cube, Love and Gratitude water crystal. -- diy synth cymatics water
playing my synth through water -- Cymatics - Bringing Matter To Life With Sound (Part 2 of 3)
Hans Jenny's rare old video. -- Beautiful Cymatics & Wave Phenomena
Cymatics - the interaction of sound with liquids and materials -- (Cymatics) Sound Part 1 - Salt
Sound and Vibration in salt crystals -- (Cymatics) Sound Part 5 - Cornstarch
Sound and Vibration in a Cornstarch Solution ... Sound vibration cymatics -- cymatics convection spiral secret
ymatic faraday chladni convection -- Cymatic Non Newtonian Fluid Experiment
A Non Newtonian fluid exposed to vibration can for interesting results. -- DIY projector
Cheap way of having a cinema in you room! without shelling out hundreds of $$ -- Acoustic water dance
Simple sound experiment - I filled plastic cup with water and placed directly on speaker cone. -- Resonantie
How a resonance has influence on rice -- Cymatacon 1
An experiment with sub bass tones and liquids -- Cymatics One: The Morning Star Weeps
Cymatics is the study of wave phenomena. -- Sound and Salt
See what happens when high frequency sound is exerted on grains of salt -- (Cymatics) Sound Part 4 - Water
Sound and Vibration in Water -- (Cymatics) Sound Part 2 - Graphite
Sound and Vibration in Graphite -- (Cymatics) Sound Part 3 - Glycerin
Sound and Vibration in Glycerin -- Cymatics
animating inert substances with audible sound -- Salt lake NT
A physic experiment showing how different soundwaves really looksl -- Cymatic experiment
A simple experiment demonstrating the visualisation of cymatics -- Cymatics - Bringing Matter To Life With Sound (Part 3 of 3)
Hans Jenny's rare old video. -- Chladni Patterns - Adjust your volume!
Chladni Patterns Two-dimensional standing waves -- The Art Of Sound
Table that resonates with sound causing sand to form patterns


Device for rendering visible acoustic vibrations

 Classification:  - international:  A63H33/00; A63J5/10; A63J17/00; G01H9/00; G09B23/14; G09F19/02; G10K13/00; A63H33/00; A63J5/00; A63J17/00; G01H9/00; G09B23/00; G09F19/00; G10K13/00 - European:  A63H33/00; A63J5/10; A63J17/00; G01H9/00; G09B23/14; G09F19/02; G10K13/00
Priority number(s):  CH19630010047 19630814



   ...        ... 

Acoustic device for displaying modal patterns of particulate matter

Inventor:  REID JOHN [GB]
Applicant:  SONIC AGE LTD [GB]
Also published as: GB2431505 //  GB2431505 //   GB2449366
Abstract --  The acoustic device 10 has a diaphragm 14 extending across a housing 12 to define a chamber 15. When a mass of particulate material matter is located on the diaphragm 14, excitation of the diaphragm 14 by a sound source creates a pattern in the particulate matter indicating the property of the sound produced by a sound source. A removable sound collector 60, for delivering sound to the chamber 15, has a connector end 66 for connection to the housing 12 and a collector end 64 for placement next to a sound source such as a loudspeaker. The housing 12 may have a number of inlets to which the connector end 66, which preferably has a compression fit portion, can be connected. The removable sound collector 60 may include a rigid tubular section with a curved profile, which reduces in diameter from the collector end 64 to the connector end 66.



Inventor:  REID JOHN [GB]
Also published as:  EP1955307
Abstract --  The present invention provides an acoustic display device for displaying modal patterns in response to sound from a sound source. The display device (10) has a substantially circular housing (12), which housing (12) includes a continuous curved side wall (13a), a substantially flat base wall (13b), and open end (13c). The open end (13c) is closed by diaphragm (14), thereby forming closed chamber (15). Excitation of the diaphragm can be effected by introducing vocal sounds to the underside of the diaphragm via one of a plurality of sound connecting means (22) that include a flexible tubular section (30), which terminates in a mouthpiece (32). A user can place the mouthpiece over their mouth and nose and make vocal sounds, which are delivered to the interior of the chamber (15).; The mouthpiece (32) can be substituted with a sound collector (60) having a "horn" shape and an annular flange for engagement with a loudspeaker. The other ends (24) of the sound connecting means (22), within the closed chamber (15), each contain a non-return valve so that pressure within the chamber is maintained. The device can also include weight locating means (21a, 21b, 21c) or magnetic tensioning means (80, 84) for tuning the diaphragm. Removable covers having different markings can assist in analysing the patterns produced. Two or more integral curved spirit levels (38) in conjunction with adjustable feet (40) enable accurate levelling of the diaphragm.


Abstract --  Digital images of modal patterns, initially derived by digitising and storing the modal phenomena of a wide range of audio signals can be viewed in real time on, for example, a cathode ray tube, computer monitor, LCD screen, plasma monitor, video projector or band-held display device. Sound from a live or recorded source can be converted by a microphone into a representative electrical audio signal. The signal is suitably fed to an analogue-to-digital converter, whereupon fit is processed by a computer at a sampling rate of, typically, not less than 25 times per second. The wave form of the round sample is analysed for its harmonic content and the modal pattern image corresponding most closely to the harmonic content is released from the device's memory. Thus, a moving set of patterns is seen by the viewer in synchronism with the recorded or live round source.

Sonic Age America


North America: 1 208 264 0171


Sonic Age America:
PO Box 19
Hope, ID 83836
Decoding Cetacean Language with the Cymascope

Chakra Sounds Poster

The CymaScope has captured the actual CymaGlyph image of each chakra sound. Now—for the first time ever, the Chakra Sacred Sounds poster makes these chakra sound images available for meditation to assist you in balancing your seven primary energy centers. ( $19.95 )

John S. Reid Papers

How the CymaScope Was Born
by John Stuart Reid

Wave Goodbye to Sound Waves
by John Stuart Reid

The Art of Sound: How Sound Images Are Captured
by John Stuart Reid

Sound, The Trigger for Life
by John Stuart Reid

Songs From The Sea: Deciphering Dolphin Language with Picture Words

In an important breakthrough in deciphering dolphin language, researchers in Great Britain and the United States have imaged the first high definition imprints that dolphin sounds make in water.

The key to this technique is the CymaScope, a new instrument that reveals detailed structures within sounds, allowing their architecture to be studied pictorially. Using high definition audio recordings of dolphins, the research team, headed by English acoustics engineer, John Stuart Reid, and Florida-based dolphin researcher, Jack Kassewitz, has been able to image, for the first time, the imprint that a dolphin sound makes in water. The resulting "CymaGlyphs," as they have been named, are reproducible patterns that are expected to form the basis of a lexicon of dolphin language, each pattern representing a dolphin ‘picture word.’

Certain sounds made by dolphins have long been suspected to represent language but the complexity of the sounds has made their analysis difficult. Previous techniques, using the spectrograph, display cetacean (dolphins, whales and porpoises) sounds only as graphs of frequency and amplitude. The CymaScope captures actual sound vibrations imprinted in the dolphin’s natural environment—water, revealing the intricate visual details of dolphin sounds for the first time.

Within the field of cetacean research, theory states that dolphins have evolved the ability to translate dimensional information from their echolocation sonic beam. The CymaScope has the ability to visualize dimensional structure within sound. CymaGlyph patterns may resemble what the creatures perceive from their own returning sound beams and from the sound beams of other dolphins.

Reid said that the technique has similarities to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. "Jean-Francois Champollion and Thomas Young used the Rosetta Stone to discover key elements of the primer that allowed the Egyptian language to be deciphered. The CymaGlyphs produced on the CymaScope can be likened to the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone.

Now that dolphin chirps, click-trains and whistles can be converted into CymaGlyphs, we have an important tool for deciphering their meaning."

Fax (253) 322-7996


Cymatics - The Science of the Future?

by Peter Pettersson,
Translation Yarrow Cleaves

Is there a connection between sound, vibrations and physical reality? Do sound and vibrations have the potential to create? In this article we will see what various researchers in this field, which has been given the name of Cymatics, have concluded.

In 1787, the jurist, musician and physicist Ernst Chladni published Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klangesor Discoveries Concerning the Theory of Music.In this and other pioneering works, Chladni, who was born in 1756, the same year as Mozart, and died in 1829, the same year as Beethoven, laid the foundations for that discipline within physics that came to be called acoustics, the science of sound. Among Chladni´s successes was finding a way to make visible what sound waves generate. With the help of a violin bow which he drew perpendicularly across the edge of flat plates covered with sand, he produced those patterns and shapes which today go by the term Chladni figures. (se left) What was the significance of this discovery? Chladni demonstrated once and for all that sound actually does affect physical matter and that it has the quality of creating geometric patterns.

Chladni figures. 

What we are seeing in this illustration is primarily two things: areas that are and are not vibrating. When a flat plate of an elastic material is vibrated, the plate oscillates not only as a whole but also as parts. The boundaries between these vibrating parts, which are specific for every particular case, are called node lines and do not vibrate. The other parts are oscillating constantly. If sand is then put on this vibrating plate, the sand (black in the illustration) collects on the non-vibrating node lines. The oscillating parts or areas thus become empty. According to Jenny, the converse is true for liquids; that is to say, water lies on the vibrating parts and not on the node lines.

Lissajous Figures 
The result of two sine curves meeting at right angles. Illustration: Typoform, Jenny W. Bryant, Swedish National Encyclopedia

In 1815 the American mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch began studying the patterns created by the intersection of two sine curves whose axes are perpendicular to each other, sometimes called Bowditch curves but more often Lissajous figures. (se below right) This after the French mathematician Jules-Antoine Lissajous, who, independently of Bowditch, investigated them in 1857-58. Both concluded that the condition for these designs to arise was that the frequencies, or oscillations per second, of both curves stood in simple whole-number ratios to each other, such as 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, and so on. In fact, one can produce Lissajous figures even if the frequencies are not in perfect whole-number ratios to each other. If the difference is insignificant, the phenomenon that arises is that the designs keep changing their appearance. They move. What creates the variations in the shapes of these designs is the phase differential, or the angle between the two curves. In other words, the way in which their rhythms or periods coincide. If, on the other hand, the curves have different frequencies and are out of phase with each other, intricate web-like designs arise. These Lissajous figures are all visual examples of waves that meet each other at right angles.

Lissajous Figures

As I pondered the connection between these figures and other areas of knowledge, I came to think about the concept that exists in many societies and their mythologies around the world, which describes the world as a web. For example, many of the Mesoamerican people regarded the various parts of the universe as products of spinning and weaving: "Conception and birth were/.../ compared with the acts of spinning and weaving; all the Aztec and Mayan creation and fertility goddesses were described as great weavers."(1) A number of waves crossing each other at right angles look like a woven pattern, and it is precisely that they meet at 90-degree angles that gives rise to Lissajous figures.

In 1967, the late Hans Jenny, a Swiss doctor, artist, and researcher, published the bilingual book Kymatik -Wellen und Schwingungen mit ihrer Struktur und Dynamik/ Cymatics - The Structure and Dynamics of Waves and Vibrations. In this book Jenny, like Chladni two hundred years earlier, showed what happens when one takes various materials like sand, spores, iron filings, water, and viscous substances, and places them on vibrating metal plates and membranes. What then appears are shapes and motion- patterns which vary from the nearly perfectly ordered and stationary to those that are turbulently developing, organic, and constantly in motion.

Jenny made use of crystal oscillators and an invention of his own by the name of the tonoscope to set these plates and membranes vibrating. This was a major step forward. The advantage with crystal oscillators is that one can determine exactly which frequency and amplitude/volume one wants. It was now possible to research and follow a continuous train of events in which one had the possibility of changing the frequency or the amplitude or both.

The tonoscope was constructed to make the human voice visible without any electronic apparatus as an intermediate link. This yielded the amazing possibility of being able to see the physical image of the vowel, tone or song a human being produced directly. (se below) Not only could you hear a melody - you could see it, too!

Jenny called this new area of research cymatics, which comes from the Greek kyma, wave. Cymatics could be translated as: the study of how vibrations, in the broad sense, generate and influence patterns, shapes and moving processes.

The Creative Vibration

What did Hans Jenny find in his investigations?

In the first place, Jenny produced both the Chladni figures and Lissajous figures in his experiments. He discovered also that if he vibrated a plate at a specific frequency and amplitude - vibration - the shapes and motion patterns characteristic of that vibration appeared in the material on the plate. If he changed the frequency or amplitude, the development and pattern were changed as well. He found that if he increased the frequency, the complexity of the patterns increased, the number of elements became greater. If on the other hand he increased the amplitude, the motions became all the more rapid and turbulent and could even create small eruptions, where the actual material was thrown up in the air.

The development of a pattern in sand (step by step). 

Swinging water drops (by Hans Jenny) 

Sand patterns as a function of the size of the plate 

The shapes, figures and patterns of motion that appeared proved to be primarily a function of frequency, amplitude, and the inherent characteristics of the various materials. He also discovered that under certain conditions he could make the shapes change continuously, despite his having altered neither frequency nor amplitude!

The vowel A in sand 

When Jenny experimented with fluids of various kinds he produced wave motions, spirals, and wave-like patterns in continuous circulation. In his research with plant spores, he found an enormous variety and complexity, but even so, there was a unity in the shapes and dynamic developments that arose. With the help of iron filings, mercury, viscous liquids, plastic-like substances and gases, he investigated the three-dimensional aspects of the effect of vibration.

In his research with the tonoscope, Jenny noticed that when the vowels of the ancient languages of Hebrew and Sanskrit were pronounced, the sand took the shape of the written symbols for these vowels, while our modern languages, on the other hand, did not generate the same result! How is this possible? Did the ancient Hebrews and Indians know this? Is there something to the concept of "sacred language," which both of these are sometimes called? What qualities do these "sacred languages," among which Tibetan, Egyptian and Chinese are often numbered, possess? Do they have the power to influence and transform physical reality, to create things through their inherent power, or, to take a concrete example, through the recitation or singing of sacred texts, to heal a person who has gone "out of tune"?

Sound structures in the water drop as a function of the wavelength and a function of the extent

An interesting phenomenon appeared when he took a vibrating plate covered with liquid and tilted it.The liquid did not yield to gravitational influence and run off the vibrating plate but stayed on and went on constructing new shapes as though nothing had happened. If, however, the oscillation was then turned off, the liquid began to run, but if he was really fast and got the vibrations going again, he could get the liquid back in place on the plate. According to Jenny, this was an example of an antigravitational effect created by vibrations.


In the beginning of Cymatics, Hans Jenny says the following: "In the living as well as non-living parts of nature, the trained eye encounters wide-spread evidence of periodic systems. These systems points to a continuous transformation from the one set condition to the opposite set."(3) Jenny is saying that we see everywhere examples of vibrations, oscillations, pulses, wave motions, pendulum motions, rhythmic courses of events, serial sequences, and their effects and actions. Throughout the book Jenny emphasises his conception that these phenomena and processes not be taken merely as subjects for mental analysis and theorizing. Only by trying to "enter into"phenomena through empirical and systematic investigation can we create mental structures capably of casting light on ultimate reality. He asks that we not "mix ourselves in with the phenomenon"but rather pay attention to it and allow it to lead us to the inherent and essential. He means that even the purest philosophical theory is nevertheless incapable of grasping the true existence and reality of it in full measure.

What Hans Jenny pointed out is the resemblance between the shapes and patterns we see around us in physical reality and the shapes and patterns he generated in his investgations. Jenny was convinced that biological evolution was a result of vibrations, and that their nature determined the ultimate outcome. He speculated that every cell had its own frequency and that a number of cells with the same frequency created a new frequency which was in harmony with the original, which in its turn possibly formed an organ that also created a new frequency in harmony with the two preceding ones. Jenny was saying that the key to understanding how we can heal the body with the help of tones lies in our understanding of how different frequencies influence genes, cells and various structures in the body. He also suggested that through the study of the human ear and larynx we would be able to come to a deeper understanding of the ultimate cause of vibrations.


In the closing chapter of the book Cymatics, Jenny sums up these phenomena in a three-part unity. The fundamental and generative power is in the vibration which, with its periodicity, sustains phenomena with its two poles. At one pole we have form, the figurative pattern. At the other is motion, the dynamic process.

These three fields - vibration and periodicity as the ground field, and form and motion as the two poles - constitute an indivisible whole, Jenny says, even though one can dominate sometimes. Does this trinity have something within science that corresponds? Yes, according to John Beaulieu, American polarity and music therapist. In his book Music and Sound in the Healing Arts,he draws a comparison between his own three-part structure, which in many respects resembles Jenny´s, and the conclusions researchers working with subatomic particles have reached. "There is a similarity between cymatic pictures and quantum particles. In both cases that which appeares to be a solid form is also a wave. They are both created and simultaneously organized by the principle of pulse (Read:principle of vibration). This is the great mystery with sound: there is no solidity! A form that appears solid is actually created by a underlying vibration."(4) In an attempt to explain the unity in this dualism between wave and form, physics developed the quantum field theory, in which the quantum field, or in our terminology, the vibration, is understood as the one true reality, and the particle or form, and the wave or motion, are only two polar manifestations of the one reality, vibration, says Beaulieu.

In conclusion, I would like to cite Cathie E. Guzetta´s poetic contemplation of where the investigation of the relationship between sound and the arising of various life forms might lead us in the future: "The forms of snowflakes and faces of flowers may take on their shape because they are responding to some sound in nature. Likewise, it is possible that crystals, plants, and human beings may be, in some way, music that has taken on visible form."(5)

Disclaimer! The quotes from Hans Jenny´s book Cymaticsis not exactly as they appear in the book. The reason for this is that the author of the article doesn´t have access to the book in question for the moment, but he´s working on it. Although the overall spirit and meaning of the quotes is accurate the responsibility lies totaly on the author.


* Klein, Cecilia F.: "Woven Heaven, Tangled Earth: A Weaver´s Paradigm of the Mesoamerican Cosmos", in Ethnoastronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the American Tropics, Ed. by Anthony P. Aveni and Gary Urton, Annals of the Academy of Science, Vol. 385, New York, 1982, p. 15

* McClellan, Randall: The Healing Forces of Music: History, Theory and Practice, Element, Inc., 1991, p. 50

* Jenny, Hans: Kymatik: Wellen und Schwingungen mit ihrer Struktur und Dynamik/Cymatics: The Structure and Dynamics of Waves and Vibrations, Basilius Press, 1967, p. 10

* Beaulieu, John: Music and Sound in the Healing Arts, Station Hill Press, 1987, p. 40

* Guzzetta, Cathie E.: Music Therapy: Nursing the Music of the Soul, in Music: Physician for the Times to Come, Campbell, Don (Editor), Quest Books, 1991, p. 149

A DIY Cymatics Display

Piezoelectric Cymatics Experiment --- A simple vibrating platform can be made from a piezoelectric sounder mounted on a plastic tube. The piezo sounder can be connected to a signal generator or even a PC sound card. By placing a small amount of powder or fluid on the sounder, various patterns and motions can be seen depending upon the applied frequencies.

This image shows a pattern formed by a fine powder vibrating at a single, mid audio range frequency. Depending upon the size of your sounder and the materials used, the patterns will emerge at a range of frequencies.

Sometimes a pattern will only remain stable at one exact frequency, whereas other patterns will emerge over a broad range frequencies. By mixing signals together more complex patterns can be formed. If you don't have signal generators handy try using classical music as it contains a great deal of harmonics and mathematical ratios within the sounds. Other types of music may work too, but the drum beats tend to destabilize the patterns.

Cymatics in a coffee cup ...    ...    ... 

Different materials will respond in different ways to the vibrations due to varying density or particle size and shape. Materials can also be separated or made to flow through each other.

Diagram of Cymatics Display deviceThis diagram shows a flat Piezo sounder glued to the top of a small section of tubing for support. The connecting wires should be supported by attaching them to the tube. It is important that the wires are not tight as they may prevent the piezo sounder from oscillating fully. The wires can then be connected to an signal generator such as the DIY signal generator, power pulse modulator, or even a PC headphone output.

There should only be a pinch of powder such as salt placed on the sounder to see the effect. The sound should be adjusted whilst watching the surface to see how it responds. Make sure the sounder is as level as possible otherwise the powder will slide off before any patterns are formed.

You may notice that a certain frequencies the powder will jump into the air quite suddenly, destroying any patterns. This occurs due to resonance, and turing down the volume should allow you to form patterns at the resonant frequencies.

Liquids will form patterns with a very high resolution. High audio frequencies can create very fine pattern, barley visible to the naked eye. A laser beam, reflected by the vibrating surface can be used to magnify the effect. The reflected laser beam can produce an image on a screen, which will represent the vibrating surface.

The projected images can look like 3D holograms, and it is often quite difficult to see how the projected pattern relates to the actual pattern on the reflective material.

You can make much larger versions of this project using a speaker with a flat playe replacing part of the cone. Details are shown in the comments section below. To drive a speaker you will need an amplifier to give a good supply of power to the speaker. An alternative is to use a high power signal generator such as a power pulse controller.

If the piezo transducer is driven at very high, or ultrasonic frequencies, and with a large amplitude it is possible to 'atomize' liquids such as water. This creates a fine mist that resembles steam in appearance. Such mists are actually tiny droplets suspended in the air yet they behave as if they were all part of a single dense fluid medium.

Some patterns will only form at specific frequencies, so adjustments need to be made quite slowly in order to observe the effect.

At certian frequencies the surface used will resonate, and this will produce very pronounced movements. It's even possible to cause all your particles to leap up and off the surface.
A simple test may be to add a pinch of salt to the surface, then brifly sweep through your frequency range. If at no point do the salt particles leap up, or make any large motion, you should assume that the vibrations are too weak, or that the material is damping the standing waves.

Also, square waves will cause harmonic vibrations too. This means for example; Your square wave input is 1 kHz, you will see 2 kHz, 3 kHz, etc as vibrations, but the harmonics are of lower amplitude. These harmonics may help or hinder the pattern formation.
With a sine wave, you have more precise control, but you will only see simple cricles as the pattern.

I noticed one particularly interesting effect when using salt particles on a piezo sounder. Very occasionaly a lone salt crystal would begin to move along the surface, gradually disintegrating and leaving a trail behind it.

Cymatics Videos
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1 minute //  2.9 megs
2 minutes //  3.5 megs
2 minutes //  5.7 megs

Ernst Chladni

Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni,  November 30, 1756 – April 3, 1827) was a German physicist and musician.

Chladni was born in Wittenberg. His important works include research on vibrating plates and the calculation of the speed of sound for different gases. For this some call him the "Father of Acoustics". He also did pioneering work in the study of meteorites, and therefore is regarded by some as the "Father of Meteoritics" as well.

One of Chladni's most well known achievements was inventing a technique to show the various modes of vibration in a mechanical surface. Chladni repeated the pioneering experiments of Robert Hooke of Oxford University. On July 8, 1680, Hooke had been able to see the nodal patterns associated with the modes of vibration of glass plates. Hooke ran a bow along the edge of a glass plate covered with flour, and saw the nodal patterns emerge.

Chladni's technique, first published in 1787 his book, Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges ("Discoveries in the Theory of Sound"), consists of drawing a bow over a piece of metal whose surface is lightly covered with sand. The plate is bowed until it reaches resonance and the sand forms a pattern showing the nodal regions . Since the 20th century it has become more common to place a loudspeaker driven by an electronic signal generator over or under the plate to achieve a more accurate adjustable frequency.

Variations of this technique are commonly used in the design and construction of acoustic instruments such as violins, guitars, and cellos.