Standing Wave
Light, Sound and Waves

Standing waves

Practical Activity for 14-16 PRACTICAL PHYISCS


Generating standing waves from transverse waves on a rope and from longitudinal waves on a slinky spring.

Apparatus and Materials

  • Slinky spring
  • Rope, 6 m, soft and flexible
  • Tank, large rectangular transparent

Health & Safety and Technical Notes

Read our standard health & safety guidance


  1. Tie one end of the rope securely to a fixture on a wall. Pull the other end taut. Move that end up and down, to excite transverse waves. Build up a pattern of standing waves, by feeling for the right resonant frequency, and adjusting the tension.
  2. A more effective method is to drive the motion at a node. Secure the rope firmly at both ends. Mark off the rope into equal segments, such as fifths. Make a loose ring with a finger and thumb round the rope at the nearest marked point. Move your hand up and down, and change the frequency until the 5-loop motion builds up. Different resonances can be produced, of course, by changing the frequency or the tension.
  3. Build up a longitudinal standing wave on a Slinky. Clamp both ends of the well-stretched spring, support it on a trolley runway, and excite it by hand near a node.

Teaching Notes

  • Be clear about the purpose of your demonstration. Depending on the course level and students’ abilities, your purposes in demonstrating standing waves may be any or all of the following:
    • To demonstrate standing wave patterns as a form of vibration.
    • To discuss energies associated with different patterns.
    • To consider the two trains of waves necessary to the production of standing waves.

This experiment was safety-tested in February 2006

Standing Wave
is a special case of Interference
is used in analyses relating to Resonating Pipe Oscillating String
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