Flutes can be made from river cane, bamboo, wood, silver, gold and clay. They can have three holes, seven holes or more. While audiences are familiar with soloist James Galway, his penny whistle and his gold flute, many children started with a type of flute called a recorder played holding in front, rather than the transverse flute, which is held up to the right side and blown across the aperture. A simple five-note musical instrument, a bamboo flute provides a good introduction to music for children because every note and song sounds good. This children’s pentatonic flute is also easy to make.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Piece of bamboo approximately 10 inches long
- Knife, slender with a sharp point
- Saw, thin blade
- Gimlet (hand tool for boring holes)
- Pint of mineral oil
Choose a length of bamboo, approximately 1 inch in diameter, that can yield more than one 10-inch flute (just in case you need to practice making them). If the natural section lengths end up making the children’s pentatonic flute longer or shorter, adjust the overall length of the flute accordingly.
Saw the bamboo at the natural section divisions. Using a saw will place less stress on the bamboo and avoid stress cracks in the bamboo flute. Align the more narrow end of the bamboo as the top, to be used as the mouth hole.
Pierce the wind hole on the face of the bamboo flute 2 inches from the mouth hole with the sharp point of the knife at a 45-degree angle, slicing a piece of the outer bark off the exterior. Use the gimlet to make sure that the top of the slice creates a hole at least 5/8 of an inch wide. Take the rasp and smooth the sides and the lower 45-degree angle slice.
Pierce a hole in the back of the five-note musical instrument where the child’s right thumb naturally lands to hold it. Place the gimlet at a 90 degree angle in the tiny hole that you made for the thumb and bore the hole to approximately ¼ to 5/8 of an inch in diameter.
Pierce five holes on the face of the children’s pentatonic flute with the tip of the knife starting approximately half way down from the mouth hole. Group the top two holes to fit the first two fingers of the left hand approximately ¾ of an inch apart. Measure approximately 1¼ inches down to bore the lower 3 holes to align with the first three fingers of the right hand.
Tips and warnings
- Soak the entire bamboo flute in mineral oil to give it a nice sheen and protect it from cracking in extreme barometric pressure drops. Decorate the children’s pentatonic flute by burning a pattern in the bamboo or tying leather or ribbons and beads on just below the thumb hole.
- This is not an appropriate activity for children unless an adult uses the knife to cut the bamboo and pierce the holes.
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