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Pan flutes, or pan pipes, are one of the oldest and simplest pitched instruments. While a pan flute can be made from any tube-shaped material, fashioning your own from bamboo is a great way to make a set of pipes that look as good as they sound.
Cut a length of bamboo to serve as the instrument's lowest note. The longer you cut this tube, the more pitches you'll be able to include on your pan flute. What pitch it will produce will depend on the thickness of the bamboo you have. Thicker bamboo will produce deeper notes, but it will also require more air and breath control in order to play.
Clean out the bamboo piece. Run the wire brush attachment through the bamboo several times to remove any loose debris or sawdust. Blow in one end and out the other to finish dusting out the tube.
Sand one end of the bamboo pole piece. Use a small piece of fine-grain sandpaper and work it around the inside and outside of the tip of the pole with your fingertips.
Make a sound on the bamboo tube. This will allow you to test the pitch and get the one you want. Hold the tube straight up and down (perpendicular to the floor) and position the sanded edge against your lower lip. Blow into the tube, directing your airstream down to produce a musical tone.
Adjust the length of the tube to get the pitch you want. Without adjustment, the tube will probably be close to matching a pitch on the Western scale, but not precise. Test the pitch using an electronic tuner, which will indicate if it is sharp or flat to the nearest pitch. If it's flat, remove a small amount of wood from the bottom of the tube (use sandpaper rather than your saw if the pitch is very close). If it's sharp, trim the pole to match the next pitch up.
Repeat steps 1-5 for each note you want on your pipes, making each tube shorter than the last.
Tie the pipe tubes together. Spread out a length of ribbon (or other similar material) flat on your work surface. Lay the pipes next to each other, arranging them from longest to shortest with the sanded tops lined up in a straight line. Wrap the ribbon around the pipes and tie it. Tie another length of ribbon across the pipes below the first.
- "Musical Instrument Design: Practical Information for Instrument Design"; Bart Hopkins; See Sharp Press; 1996
- Dario Lo Presti/iStock/Getty Images