While a simple mass on a spring has only one oscillation mode, multiple masses and springs has several different modes.

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Teachable Topics:

  • Propagation of waves
  • Energy transfer


An example of a coupled oscillator is a system of three springs and two masses as used in this demonstration. Energy is transferred between the individual oscillators, the masses, as they vibrate back and forth.

If you imagine the water molecules in the ocean to be the masses of a huge coupled oscillator, then the molecular attraction between each water molecule can be regarded as the spring between each mass. The waves in the ocean, then, are the result of the entire system acting as a coupled oscillator, with infinite masses and springs.


  • Two small weights
  • Three springs
  • A laboratory stan

Coupled Oscillator Apparatus 


  • Set up the coupled oscillator as seen here. Try the starting positions shown in the video to set up the difference oscillation modes.


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