Introduction: Hypotooter -- a Mini-musical Instrument

Picture of Hypotooter -- a Mini-musical Instrument

The hypotooter is a mini-member of the tootophone family of reed instruments.   (See:   and also;  )

It is made from the protective case for a 12 cc hypodermic syringe, which can be purchased from a pet store or veterinary supply store.  I use the syringes as tools for extruding silicone rubber in making silicone rubber sculptures.  This is a good way to recycle the protective cases. 

The needle cover (pink) is sanded down to make the mouthpiece.  The reed is cut from a piece of scrap plastic that I recovered from a junked flat screen monitor.  Electrical tape holds it all together. 

To protect it in my pocket, I made a carrying case out of PVC pipe.

To hear how the hypotooter sounds, listen to the .mp3 audio file in the last step. 

Step 1: The Syringe

Picture of The Syringe

It's the case we are interested in.  The syringe is not needed for this project.  Syringes make good tools for precise application of lubricating oil.  Without the needles, they can also be used for fine extrusion of silicone rubber.  (The needles are too narrow to force the silicone through.)  If you discard the needle tips, just be careful.  They are very sharp. 

Step 2: Forming the Mouthpiece

Picture of Forming the Mouthpiece

Since the tip protector is small and hard to hold while sanding, I set it in the protective syringe body cover and hold it in place with the syringe (without the needle) from inside.  

To sand the curve, use a forward and backward motion, with a little extra wrist action.   Make sure the curve has no flat spots and that both sides are sanded with the same curve.  Once you get the arm and wrist motion down, it becomes almost automatic. 

Use course sandpaper first, then medium, and then fine.  Remove edge burrs with a very sharp X-acto craft knife, or something similarly precise. 

Step 3: The Reed

Picture of The Reed

The reed is just a narrow, rectangular piece of plastic from the trash.  Plastic sheet material comes with myriad variations of stiffness, thickness, and kind of plastic.  I have found that the most responsive material for this hypotooter is the thinnest material I have.  The plastic used in the transparent covers that protect notebook pages is of similar thickness. 

I usually do a whole slew of mouthpieces, with variations of curvature and reed material and then select my favorite out of the bunch. 

I find that cutting the reed right at the end of the mouthpiece, after the reed is taped in place, is better than having it extend beyond the mouthpiece.  Sometimes, I cut it a little shorter, but you don't want it to be so short that it ends on air and not on the plastic of the mouthpiece. 

Step 4: The Carrying Case

Picture of The Carrying Case

One nice thing about the hypotooter is that it is so small and easy to carry.  It fits in a pocket. 

To protect the reed, I cut a piece of 3/4" PVC pipe (appropriate to the diameter of the hypotooter body), and then cut some fingers in it that expand a little and grab the hypotooter. 

I made a special spreading tool for opening up the fingers during manufacture, so I could clean up the cuts with a file and an X-acto knife. 

I drilled a hole in the PVC for hanging it all from a nail. 

Step 5: Playing Tips

Playing the hypotooter is a lot like silent singing -- without using the vocal cords.  There is movement of the adams apple, and the tongue, as in singing, which changes the volume of the mouth and throat.  Pinch down harder with the lips and blow harder for the high notes. 

There are a lot of variables and they all get easier with practice. 

Step 6: Hear the Hypotooter

To hear the hypotooter, click on the thumbnail icon below to open the .mp3 audio file.  It looks like a piece of paper with the corner bent over. 

It sounds remarkably trumpet-like sometimes.  It's great for chasing those high notes. 


Lordhainiepants (author)2017-01-14

Pretty cool! At the beginning it sounds kinda like a muted trumpet mixed with a clarinet, and it reminds me of 40's and 50's "big band" music where you hear high-pitched trumpet blasts and clarinet and saxophone solos.

Glad you like it. Every change you make to the body changes the sound, so tooters can create quite a variety of sounds, since you can stick them on all sorts of bodies. I put one on a trombone, and it sounded like a trombone -- except no need to use the trombone slide to make the melody.

Wow! I did not suspect you (or anyone else) would reply! I'm only an amateur and I've never actually created an Instructable myself. Thinking about what you said about how the body changes the sound... I can put a tooter on a bamboo stick! Heck, I could put it on anything (including my new saxophone!) I dont have any syringes as far as I know, but I'll try to make a tooter mouthpiece & reed sometime soon. Well, good luck, and keep making those instructables!

Thanks. Good luck. The syringe tooters are the simplest place to start, but when you want to move up, try making a silicone rubber mouthpiece.

Cats_Eye (author)2015-01-01

AWESOME! But what is that little thhhhhhhhhhhhh sound at the end?

Thinkenstein (author)Cats_Eye2015-01-01

If we are talking about the same thing, it is just one of the sounds that the instrument can make.

MR.AwEsOmEnEsS (author)2013-02-26

thanks,this will help wit a school project"Create A Musical Instrument"

poikilotherm (author)2012-12-03

Sounds amazing!

Night910 (author)2010-11-09

Cool, it sounds like a cross between a trumpet with a harmon mute, a soprano sax, and a kazoo

laida1 (author)Night9102012-03-25

Yes I agree

Akask (author)2011-11-23

Do you think i could drill tiny holes so you could use fingerings to change notes?

Thinkenstein (author)Akask2011-11-23

Search Instructables for my "tiny tootophone" and "sax and trumpet tootophone" instructables. The basic instrument is just the mouthpiece, the "tiny tootophone". You can modify the sound by making any modification to the body of the instrument. Sometimes, near the mouthpiece, I put in a "T", or make a fingering hole to get a one-finger wah-wah effect, but I think more holes would probably not modify the basic sound much. I do that better with just mouth control.

The better you get at playing it, the less you need your hands at all to pick out just about any melody. The beauty of this instrument is how intuitive it is to play, like singing. There's no fingering that needs to be memorized to play it.

mctoma (author)2011-11-01

ah ah oh ah la la la la la

Ninzerbean (author)2010-10-26

That sounds great! You need to form a band now. It would be so cool to give each member one of the many instruments you have made and for you all to play together.

rimar2000 (author)Ninzerbean2010-10-26

I agree!

Thinkenstein (author)rimar20002010-10-27

So, how are you on percussion? Guesthouse available.

rimar2000 (author)Thinkenstein2010-10-27

Years ago I thought I was good at music, but life has shown me that I am mediocre toward down.

Thinkenstein (author)rimar20002010-10-27

It's a pity that music making isn't a bigger part of everybody's life. Few people practice music. Nowadays it's just too easy to turn on a radio.

rimar2000 (author)Thinkenstein2010-10-28

I am 1944's. When I was a boy, almost all my friends and I played the guitar, bombo criollo, charango, harmonica, piano, etc. We also sang tangos, South American folklore and folk songs. When record players became popular, and then cassette players, I saw in them a major threat with regard to the "homemade" music, and unfortunately the time said I was right. I play guitar a bit, have a good spanish guitar, (see But as you say, is so easy to put MP3 that for years I don't touch it. A pity, really.

Thinkenstein (author)rimar20002010-10-28

In my barrio, years before I moved here, the neighbors say people used to sing all the time while picking coffee. Now, all you ever hear are radios blaring during the cosecha.

TV's are also vampires. When we get entertained all the time, we forget how to self-entertain ourselves. Creativity suffers.

That's progress?

boaslad (author)Thinkenstein2011-02-08

I fully agree. These days it's becoming harder and harder to find others who even play at all, let alone with any skill. It's really hard for me to accept that people would put more effort and time into playing "Guitar Hero" than learning to pay an ACTUAL guitar. But, they do. It's really sad if you think about it.

Great 'ible by the way. Funky sounding horn you got there. I can't play reed instruments on account of my numb bottom lip, but I fully appreciate any one that can. Even more so for any one who can think so far outside the box. Keep it up.

As for the song.. well, it does remind me of my favourite quote:
"It's the ultimate fusion between jazz and funk! We call it 'Junk'!" -- Robin Williams in Robots

Thinkenstein (author)Ninzerbean2010-10-27

That is one of my dreams, a tootophone chorus with other instruments as back-up, but musicians don't often appear to me locally. I do have a guesthouse available for visitors, and I would love to have musicians come and record with me.

Haliburt (author)2010-12-14

What would you say the range is on that?

Thinkenstein (author)Haliburt2010-12-14

Beats me note-wise. I just play by ear. A musician friend said he could get two octaves of a chromatic scale. He hasn't learned to play it very well yet, though.

HaloReachPro (author)2010-11-29

Exactly how do you play this instrument, like how can you make it play different pitches and stuff?

Rest the reed on the dry outer part of the lower lip. (You want to keep it dry from saliva, if possible.) Curl the lip in over the lower teeth. Pinch down lightly with the upper lip. Blow. (Experiment with lip placement on the reed. Mid-point is about right.) Pinch harder and blow harder for high notes. Pinch less and blow softer for low notes.

Cup the hands over the end of the instrument (creating a closed ball of air at the end.) Open and close the hands to create wah-wah effects with the notes. Closing the hands lowers the notes. Opening them raises them.

Thus, you get approximate notes with the mouth and fine tune them with the hands.

It's easy once you get the hang of it. No fingering to learn. A musician friend was surprised to find that he got two octaves of chromatic scales out of the one I gave him.

nickodemus (author)2010-10-26

Does Hypo stand for the needle casing or its relatively high pitch?

And nice work on this and all your other tootophone instruments, can't wait to see what's next!

Thinkenstein (author)nickodemus2010-10-27

The Hypo comes from the hypodermic needle case. I don't know what the hypo in hypodermic stands for; "under", I would imagine, for under skin needle.

It will be interesting to see if there is a next. I was hoping that soft and squeezable silicone rubber bodies would open new doors, but the results were not inspiring. I have done some double reed ones; with two small reeds side by side. That gave interesting harmonizing effects. Maybe I'll do an instructable on them one of these days.

It's hard to imagine them getting any smaller than the hypotooter. Anything larger than my other mouthpieces just takes too much wind for me. With the little hypotooter, one breath can last a long time and cover a lot of notes.

nickodemus (author)Thinkenstein2010-10-27

Oh, sorry, I didn't mean in the tootophone category, I just meant Instructables from you of any sort.
Bad wording on my part.

If you were thinking of doing another instrument, you might try something similar to a bagpipe, where the bladder controls the pitch...
I think I'll give it a shot soon.

Thinkenstein (author)nickodemus2010-10-27

A bagpipe definitely sounds challenging. You can lead the way on that one! Good luck. Let me know how it turns out.

NicOmbra (author)Thinkenstein2010-11-08

Maybe you could use a balloon as the bag of a bag pipe.

Thinkenstein (author)NicOmbra2010-11-09

I imagine a balloon would work, but I get most of my melody out of these reed instruments by mouth variations directly on the reed. Vibrating the reed indirectly after the balloon bag would probably just give me a monotone drone sound. Of course, bag pipes do have a drone tone.

I'll give it some thought. I really don't understand bag pipe anatomy very well.

Kozz (author)2010-10-26

I can't resist -- I've got to tell you that, listening to your sample MP3, the very first thing I thought of was Billie Holiday. I bet you could cover some of her tunes!

Thinkenstein (author)Kozz2010-10-27

That was a cool video. Yes, I could sure see playing along with Billie.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home ... More »
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