How to make a tunable PVC pipe drum

Written by jonah morrissey
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How to make a tunable PVC pipe drum
Simple PVC pipe can be used to make musical instruments. (coude en pvc de 45° image by Marie-Thérèse GUIHAL from Fotolia.com)

Tunable PVC pipe drums were popularised by the Blue Man Group. PVC pipe drums can range from single pipes to a complex system of interlocking pipes. A PVC pipe drum project offers many possibilities for a creative individual with an interest in music. A basic tunable pipe drum can be made from a few sections of PVC. Start off with a small project and work into bigger projects. You will soon be familiar with what to put together to produce a certain sound. Whether you are looking to add some new sounds to your percussion repertoire or just enjoy experimenting with new projects, a tunable PVC pipe drum will offer new possibilities.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Use a table saw to cut down the length of the 15 cm (6 inch) diameter, 28 2 cm (3/4 inch) PVC pipe section to cut a slit. This slit will enable you to fold flaps on either side of the slit over each other to make the pipe smaller.

  2. 2

    Fold the flaps on either side of the slit over each other to adjust the diameter of the pipe so it fits over the end of the 90-degree elbows. Rivet each end of the flaps together. Rivet down the entire length of the pipe. Space the rivets evenly every 15 cm (6 inches).

  3. 3

    Place the 28 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) PVC pipe section on a work surface. Apply PVC pipe glue to one end with the included applicator. Follow the glue application instructions carefully. Insert a 90-degree elbow on this end.

  4. 4

    Apply glue to both ends of a 3.8 cm (1 1/2 inch) section of PVC pipe. Place one end into the end of the elbow. Place a flange over the other end of the 3.8 cm (1 1/2 inch) section of pipe.

  5. 5

    Apply glue to both ends of another 3.8 cm (1 1/2 inch) section of PVC pipe. Insert one end into the flange. Place a 90-degree elbow over the other end of the 3.8 cm (1 1/2 inch) section of pipe. This will create a "J" shape out of the pipe. Allow the glue to dry according to the instructions on the glue container.

  6. 6

    Align the 5 x 1`0 cm (2 x 4 inch) piece of cardboard on one end of the riveted section of pipe. Wrap duct tape around the pipe to secure the cardboard in place and protect it from damage. This is the striking surface of the tunable pipe drum.

  7. 7

    Slide the end of the riveted pipe opposite the striking surface over the J-shaped assembly. Slide the riveted pipe up or down to tune the drum to make different sounds. Play on the striking surface with drum sticks. Have someone hold the drum to change the tune while you are playing.

Tips and warnings

  • Paint the pipes for a more professional-looking drum, especially if you are going to be using them for performances.
  • Wear safety glasses when operating power tools.
  • Follow glue safety warnings carefully.

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