I have been bouncing an idea for a “singing waterfall” around in the back of my head for a while now. Well, since the Chicago Auto-show of what, 2003m 2004? I don’t remember when exactly.

Jeep had an interesting display involving a waterfall that was manipulated to “spell” out the Jeep advertisements in falling water. It was pretty impressive.

A discussion with Matt recently brought it back up. We talked about it, and I decided that I just as well ‘put it to paper’.

The premise of my singing waterfall is that water falling into different sized containers make different sounds. If you could change the size or shape of the splash pool in a waterfall, you could change the pitch of the pool. If you somehow managed to be able to dynamically control the size and shape of the splash pool, you could make the waterfall play music or “sing”.

I am not sure how to change the shape or size of a splash pool without making a lot of noise doing it.

Who is to say that you can’t have multiple pools, and you change the water volume flowing into each splash pool.

For my intents, there are 2 types of waterfalls with multiple splash pools, serial pools and parallel pools (or a combination of the two, but, lets keep it simple for now).


Serial Pools, water flows from one splash pool to the next.


Parallel pools where the water is split into many thinner individual falls.

By controlling the rate of water flow into the individual splash pools, the overall tone of the waterfall as a whole should be able to be changed over time. The addition of electronic valving and water outlets to feed individual streams into individual splash pools should give you the ability to play music with a waterfall.

I am thinking that by creating a wide parallel waterfall you could compartmentalize individual splash pools and create a waterfall with the capabilities to produce a wide range of musical notes.

Sheet waterfall with streamlets of heavier water flow.

By controlling the individual streamlets of water flowing into the tuned splash pools a singing waterfall that doesn’t look like it is being manipulated should be achievable. A steady stream of water across the waterfall sheet would give a consistent undertone. Increasing and decreasing the individual streams give you the notes.

I would have individual (or multiple) feeds each controlled by an electrically controlled valve to turn on or off a stream of water. These water feeds would be positioned and separated in a way that turning one on would have it provide water flow to the appropriate splash pond.

There is enough water control information out there that I won’t get into that here at this point. Looking into that is more appropriate when I.. uhm.. have a place to put a waterfall. Although the micro-controller could be interesting because to get the music to play on key, the lengths of the feed pipes and the time it takes for the water to fall from the top of the falls to the splash pool will need to be accounted for. The larger falls will need to start and stop sooner then the smaller falls. Interesting… Sound buffers and delays… Hrmm…

I think the challenging aspect of this idea is the splash pond design and construction. I think a fair amount of trial and error is in order to spec out an individual fall to produce a given note. Aspects such as size, depth, shape and water volume held of the splash pool combined with water drop height and volume of flow would all need to be cross correlated by experimentation to be able to get the desired dynamic range in the output sound. The construction materials could also possibly also greatly affect sound quality. A soft bottomed sand splash pool may absorb a significant amount of the sound created. Stones & concrete vs shaped and colored concrete may also effect the resulting sound of the splash pool. A hollow resonance “drum” may need to be created for a splash pool to get the tone or volume right.

I think that once these variables are mapped and graphed, the actual waterfall could be designed. You would know what notes would need to be created, so you would create a waterfall with that in mind. The layout of the space around the waterfall will probably need to be taken into consideration so that some smaller, higher pitched splash ponds aren’t acoustically blocked by foreign objects like rocks, bushes, tress, plantings, or even blocked by some of the falls itself.

Once the singing waterfall is complete, it could be so much fun. Build a controller that could take a MIDI feed and play the music on the falls. Tie the falls into the home security system so if somebody comes to the front door when your out back, the falls plays the old fashioned door chime sound. If the kids are up to no good, the whole thing could get really quite… You could have the falls chime the time like a grandfather clock. It could forecast the weather for you. If your trying to sleep, it could play a lullaby or a nice, smooth, relaxing white noise. If your busy in the garden it could be running hard, creating a drumming thundering noise that would be great working music.

Gosh, I like this idea so much I may have to build it.

If you have any thoughts, or use any of these ideas, feel free to let me know. I would just like to see a singing waterfall.

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Forgive my use of somebody else’s photos. They are beautiful and I don’t have anything that will illustrate what I am talking about myself.

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