The first Star Wars revolutionized more than just visual special effects—the sounds of Star Wars are arguably the most iconic in cinema. You can call up any of them in your mind right now: the hum of a lightsaber, the whir of the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive, the evocative swell of John Williams’ fantastic score. Many of these sounds (outside of the soundtrack) were created by master sound designer Ben Burtt. He’s the one who made Darth Vader’s famous wheeze. To create the sound of a Star Wars blaster, Burtt famously struck high-tension wires with a wrench.
But you don’t have to go that far to make your own blaster noises. You can take advantage of the same scientific principles Burtt did right in your own home, and with a toy you probably already have.
In the video above, I explain how you can quickly and easily make pew pew laser sounds with just a Slinky and a piece of paper. Why it works is a bit complicated, but the end result is worth understanding. Because of the way a Slinky is made and what materials it is made from, waves of different frequencies separate within it in a phenomenon called dispersion. In a Slinky specifically, waves of a higher frequency will travel faster than lower frequency waves. If you were to hit a Slinky and amplify those waves then, you’d hear the high frequency ones first, followed quickly by the low.
The end result is a sound that starts off high and goes low — ppeeeeeewwww pew pew! It’s super easy to do and only takes a toy you can get at a dollar store and a bit of science.