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Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to Make a Panpipe / Pan Flute

My homemade pentatonic pan flute always surprises those I play it for because it has a lovely tone (better than my purchased bamboo one) and plenty of volume. As promised, here are the instructions:

Materials: one length of half-inch plastic pipe (available at hardware stores), a plastic ware lid, colored string or embroidery floss, two craft sticks (optional horizontal braces), glue (for plastic), beads (for optional embellishment)  Tools: small saw and/or knife, marker, sturdy scissors

    Measurements
         for Half-inch Plastic Pipe


         C     6 1/16
          D     5 3/8
          E     4 ¾ “
          G     3 15/16
          A     3 7/16
          C'    3 1/32



Measure, mark and cut as accurately as possible. (Remember cutting a bit long is safer than cutting short.) Then trim with a knife to fine tune if needed. (The pipe is quite soft.)


Using the end of a piece of pipe as a pattern, trace end caps onto a plastic lid. Cut the caps out with scissors and glue them onto the bottom end of each pipe. (Hint: Use the smoothest, prettiest cut ends of the pipes for the  top, open ends of pipes where your lips will touch.)

 Place pipes in order, left to right, lowest to highest. You may choose to use two crafts sticks, one on each side, to stabilize the pipes. (On this particular flute, I simply wove the string very tight.) Weave and or wind colored string or embroidery floss between and around pipes (and craft sticks, if applicable) to hold them together. Sealing knots with a dab of glue is a good idea. Add tassels made from your string/floss and beads or charms if desired.



Voila!
You have a playable and to-be-proud-of panpipe!

    

37 comments:

  1. Is it a treble or bass clef instrument?

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    1. This is definitely a treble instrument. As you can see, the pipe lengths are quite short. The lowest note is middle C. You can double the pipe lengths to drop the pitch an octave. Hope this helps. Thanks for your interest.
      Jeri

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  2. My grandson has to make an instrument for a class project and he LOVES yours! I am not understanding how you weave the pipes together all the way down...yours looks awesome!


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  3. Thanks for your interest and question, bseman. First, lay the pipes in order and tie the string around the pipe on one end. Weave the string over and under till you get to the other end, and then reverse this process, placing the string just below the previous one. After you have woven a few rows (as in the second to last picture), tighten the stings to pull the pipes close together. Continue weaving (and reversing) by inserting string in the small spaces between pipes (see last pic) and placing strings tightly and neatly below previous rows. Once your band of weaving is wide enough, tie off the last thread and a strip of clear glue along a few pipes on the back side. As you can see, I alternated thread colors, which required a few extra knots. Hope this helps.

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  4. Thanks so much, I can't wait to get started on this!
    I hope his turns out as nice as yours!

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  5. What kind of glue did you use to hold the lids in place?

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  6. I used Duco Cement. It works great with plastic. It comes in a tube. There are other similar brands that work well too. Good luck. : )

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  7. I recently bought a pan pipe and not getting much sound out of it. I know how to position my mouth and I'm still not getting anything. How do I fix this

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  8. Hi Collette,
    If air leaks through the bottom of the pipes, that may be the problem. Make sure the bottom is sealed by adding some clear glue and see if that helps. Best wishes for success with this!
    Jeri

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  9. This is so helpful for my school exploring music project. Thanks for posting this.

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    1. You are most welcome! I'm delighted this is helpful to you.

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  10. I see you have the notes and corresponding lengths...very helpful but where is F ?

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  11. I mention in the opening sentence that this is a 'pentatonic' flute, which means it uses a five-note folk scale: C, D, E, G, A, and the octave C. (It's missing B also.) If you want to add an F pipe, make it 4.5" long. Hope this helps.

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  12. My first pan pipes... 1/2 I.D. PVC from Lowe's. Tenor tuned
    These tube weren't tunable. I used pennies to seal the end of the tubes.
    My 2nd set of pipes... 1/2 O.D. PVC from OSH. Alto tuned, better method.
    The trick to the 2nd set... 1/2" dowel rod used to make tuning stick and plugs for tubes. Also, cut tubes 1/2" longer than needed so that the tuning plugs can be inserted.
    Grease end of tubes then insert 1/2" x 1/2" plugs. The plugs are prepared by Hot Glue gunning an O-ring around the plug; inserting plug, then Hot Glue gunning more wax before pushing plugs in all the way in. After cooling, the plugs can be forced out with the tuning rod. Grease plugs before re-insertion.
    I will use F and B for tuning the pipes to F#(Gmaj.) and Bb(Fmaj.) and of course, Cmaj. More keys can be tuned.
    Next step... figure best method of winding twine around the tubes.
    For the First pan pipes, I simply Hot Glued the pipes to the horizontal strips. Then I filled the mouth piece spaces between the pipes with wood filler to create a smooth space across the pipes.
    I don't anticipate using the filler on the Alto pipes (2nd set). Maybe I'll bevel the CEG tubes for differentiation.

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  13. Very helpful, How long would the "B" note be , and what is the reason for saving the caps for the top. Thanks Bill Druschel

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    1. A "B" note should be approximately 3 1/4 inches. As suggested previously, you might cut it slightly long and use a tuner to trim it. In my hint, I meant to use the nicest cut edge of each pipe for the top end. Hope this helps. Best of luck!

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  14. Hi Jeri, nice reading through your comments. Its enlightening. I want to request you if you can get the different lengths of 22 or more pipes of panflute. Thanks

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  15. I spent a good part of the day making a set of pipes with 1/2' PVC pipe, schedule 40 BUT I can't get any volume out of these louder than a whipser. What did I do wrong or do you have to have a microphone to enhance the sound?

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    1. My pipes are fairly loud and flute-sounding. Are you blowing across (not into) the pipe edges? Make sure the bottom pieces are sealed tight. If air leaks, you won't get much sound. Sorry to hear your hard work isn't paying off.

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  16. Which formula did you use to calculate the length of the tubes? Because I'm using 5/8 inch pipes instead of 1/2 inch pipes and I would like to get the same tones.

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    1. I think the length would remain the same, Maartje. Wider diameter pipes will require more air to get a good tone. The formula I use for tube lengths is here on my blog under my post, "How to Create Boomwhacker-like Instruments out of Cylinders." The ratios listed there will give you a basic formula to work from. Hope this helps.

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  17. Is there any other pipe that could be used to make your Pan Flute. I have been checking out many different pan flutes, and it seems to be ... buyer beware. I know that you can pay quite a bit of money for a good flute. I have read the comments of a couple of people that spent around $300.00 on a pan flute and said that it was basically a piece of junk. LOL So I am going to try and make one 13 pipes long. I THINK LOL please email me at kjv4thee@nexicom.net if you can help me. Thank you so much. Ron

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    1. Yes, Ronald, you can use other types of pipe, but it needs to be fairly small diameter (5/8" or less), and you will want to make sure it is air-tight. I apologize for the slow response. Best wishes!

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  18. ok, so just as a (dumb) clarifying question; Are you suppose to glue the plastic lids completely down to the PVC?

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    1. Yes, Summer, it's important to seal the ends completely. If they leak, you won't get quality (or possibly any) sound.

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  19. What would happen to the sound if you used PVC pipe that was 1" or 1.5"?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. It would be very difficult to get a sound out of such a wide diameter pipe because it would would require so much air. If you are working with larger pipe, I suggest you explore my posts about making Boomwhacker-like instruments or my boom pipes recipe. Also, please beware of PVC pipe, as it is very difficult to cut, and the dust created is a health hazard.

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  23. Does the type of material contribute to the sound/tone quality? (like hardwoods in a violin sound box)

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    1. I suppose the type of material makes some difference, but with this level of instrument, not much and not as it would in a violin. With a pipe, it is the air that does vibrating, and the air just needs a hard cylinder to amplify it.

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  24. Do you have any suggestions fora short and simple song to play with the flute that uses all of the six notes?

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  25. what tunes can you play with these 6 notes?

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  26. How do I get a higher volume? Just by blowing harder and why would that increase the volume?

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  27. Yes, more air will help you sound louder. Also, try focusing your air stream so it splits at the opposite edge of the top of each pipe. Good luck!

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