Instructables
Bamboo. Despite being a plant of prehistoric ancestry, this simple plant has "grown" to be a huge part of many cultures. Due to it's unparalleled growth speed, It's hollow construct, and widespread growing range, Bamboo has been used to make for a broad selection of items, ranging from watermills to limbo sticks and Tiki bars . In fact, at least one species of bamboo is native to each continent except for Antarctica and Europe. No other plant has influenced the growth and development of human society and culture more than the humble bamboo has, making it possibly the most important plant in human history.

As I stated earlier, bamboo is perfect for making a great variety of items, including musical instruments. The natural, hollow culm of this giant grass makes it perfect for making woodwind instruments. Over time, various cultures have developed a variety of bamboo flutes, pipes, whistles, and general noisemakers. Partly due to the simplicity of the plant itself, bamboo instruments are extremely easy to make, and make well at that! In this instructable, I'll teach you how to to make 4 bamboo instruments that will only cost you the time to make them.

We'll make a bamboo...

  • Traditional Transverse flute
  • Japanese end-blown Shakuhachi
  • Andean end-blown Quena
  • and a Panflute

You'll need to have in general:
  • A drill.
  • An assortment of drill bits ranging in diameter from 2mm to 1.5 cm.
  • A rotary tool (Dremel) with a cutting wheel and various sanding and grinding bits.
  • A general purpose hand-held sander with various sandpapers ranging from at least medium to fine
  • String.
  • A sharp knife/boxcutter.
  • LOTS AND LOTS OF BAMBOO! Green or golden, sappy or cured, depending on your preference.

Details of what is needed for each instrument are included in their specific step.

Just because bamboo doesn't grow naturally in your area, probably doesn't mean you can't find growing as an ornamental plant or by the roadside. All the bamboo used in this instructable was either found being thrown away by my neighbors, or was growing by the side of the road and needed to be cut down. I live in relatively temperate Pennsylvania, but still I found natural, growing bamboo. Check around your neighborhood before heading to the hardware store. After all, If you can find it, it's free!

These instruments have simply amazing sound, as the timbre of each is mellow and natural, much more than if you made them from plastic of PVC. They are free, they are easy, and they are a LOT of fun, so why don't you give them a try?

This instructable will be the first in a series of other instructables about other bamboo instruments, so stay tuned!

~Skyfinity.

 
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One of my favorite ibles ever! It took many tries but I finally made a decent sounding 5-hole native american flute. I sand my bamboo to give it a smooth surface and nice color.
DSCN3681.JPGDSCN3682.JPG
how you put your holes....teach me...did you sanding the inner part?
please make an instructable about your flute....

Lol, I can try. This flute broke last year and I need to make a new one.

when you make a new one...make sure you make a instructable or vid about it..... :)

Inner part usually peels away, you don't have to sand it.

jamiec533 years ago
You may have already said this somewhere, but what is the diameter of the inside of the bamboo? Thanks
And what is the smallest diameter that you could make one with?
I made a bamboo flute with "switch cane". Outside diameter is less than 4mm. Inside is about 2.5mm. It is super high pitched and loud. I could only fit three tiny finger holes on it. Anything is possible. To make the holes, I used a red hot piece of sharpened coat hanger rod and burned them in.
the size of holes are same or not
mondeluz2 years ago
i have a question. where the hell am i suppose to get a bamboo trees in north europe????? love the idea it is great but can u make same flutes from other trees? if not then i would be happy to get advice where can i get a bamboo trees if i am in europe?
you can to use pvc
You may be able to get some bamboo online. Maybe there is a Botanical gardens near you. Bamboo grows quickly and needs to be pruned back a lot. if you befriend someone at a Botanical garden, they may give you some trimmed off pieces. I live in the Great Lakes region of the Northern US. To get bamboo, I can sometimes trade other flute makers for wood that they can not get in the South. Perhaps you cold find a flute makers forum online. Not all bamboo is suitable for flute making. Try for pieces about 20mm to 25mm in diameter with walls between 3mm and 5mm thick.

Alternatively, a type of wood I know you can find that is good for flute making is elderberry. It has a soft, styrofoam-like pith that you can clean out easily with a sharpened metal rod. Hopefully, you can find some with the center, hollowed out area at least 15mm-20mm diameter, but I have made tiny flute with a 5mm bore. Native Americans from this region used elderberry to make flutes.
kakang_anip16 days ago
love this instructable.... can you teach me how to make it in vid?... i not really understand how to make it....exspecially how to make holes n calculate it.....please
doodlecraft3 months ago

Awesome!

SwarMoi3 months ago
Really nice flutes.

I have a question. Does bamboo get all brown and dried up? I found some (it was green) but then when I put it on the shelf for a few days (it was not in the sun), it got all brown and dried up and brittle. So is it bamboo or just something that looks like it?
Bamboo is a grass, and turns brown as it dries out.
Vitality31 year ago
Step 2: Bamboo Flute: End-blown Shakuhachi
I heard this really cool song on youtube, and I wanted to make a bamboo flute so I could play it. I wanted to make it but I don't know the exact instructions. Could you please add text so I can make this? Thanks!
Kasres3 years ago
Hello Sir!
I recently started to make these for a school project, and while I haven't made the Shakuhachi or Quena yet, I have made the Traditional flute and am working on the pan-flute, and I was wondering if there was any way to connect the pipes other than the method listed as I do not want to spend over an hour tying them together.
Thank you!
pwnag3 Kasres1 year ago
Just hot glue 'em together
Kasres Kasres3 years ago
Also (Sorry for the double post, but I just remembered this question), do you need to use a root end for the Shakuhachi? It seems to me like you can use a regular piece of bamboo to get a somewhat similar effect (Just asking :P)
Skyfinity (author)  Kasres3 years ago
The Shakuhachi is traditionally made from a root for a reason: the Shakuhachi is it's own type of flute. It's a weird, end blown, mellow instrument that has an odd traditional Japanese scale and distinct tone. Part of that tone comes from the unique bore of the inside of the flute. The root section of the bamboo used in the Shakuhachi is dense, unlike the hollow areas of the upper sections. This allows the flautist to carve an inner bore that is less wide than that of the opening. If you do not use a piece of root-section bamboo, you will not be able to bore the base out to the correct diameter, and will thus compromise the intonation. If you would like to make an end-blown flute that is not like the Shakuhachi, all you would need to do is apply the flutomat program to your end-blown design.

Do what you want, but I suggest a root.
Thanks,

Schuyler.
Well, I'll try the root, but my major issue At the moment is how to knock out the nodes, as I don't have a piece of metal long enough and none of my drill bits can make the cut (No pun intended)
I figured I'd have to make one smaller. but the issue is the dimensions; intonation isn't too important right now, but is very nice to have, If you know the right placement on them I'd appreciate it for it :P (I'm guessing about a 13" (Sorry bout using imperial, I'm just a dumb American :P) piece? Maybe 15-18?
Thanks!
~Kasres
Take a piece of long metal rod (1/2 inch dia) and grind a point on the end like a pencil. Heat it with a propane torch until it is red. It will burn through the nodes nicely. Get a piece of rod that is as long as necessary to reach more than halfway through the length of the bamboo. You can also use a burning rod to make the finger holes. The nice thing about that is it leaves no splinters, whiskers, or cracks.

Regarding location of finger holes: Every flute is different. Measure your flute from the sound hole to the end and divide it in thirds. Try to keep your finger holes in the middle third or you may have problems with the top and bottom notes jumping octaves (called nodal interference). Make your holes about a thumb width apart. Make them smaller than you think they should be. The notes will be flat. Make them larger a little at a time until you get the desired notes. Use a keyboard or electronic tuner to check your progress.
Skyfinity (author)  Kasres3 years ago
Wow! This is the first I've heard of someone making these for a school project!
Good Luck to you!
I would love to see what you've done so far with the traditional flute. Does it play well? Could you post pictures?

As for connecting the pan pipes, my method was using very fine thread looped around each tube over and over again, which was, as you've predicted, an arduous task. Keep in mind that these flutes were the very first I made, and I have since then learned from my mistakes.

Unfortunately, I still feel the best and most secure way to get the tubes attached to one another is to tie them. I suggest you use a thicker twine, not thread, and tie each cross over only once. Make sure it's good and tight, and you should be fine. You probably were interested in using glue to join them, however If you use a thick twine and only loop once for each tube, you should be fine.

Also, I didn't make this clear in the instructable, but it is very important to cure your bamboo. Have you done that? These flutes were quick, dirty, and uncured, but if you want a lasting instrument to be proud of, you should cure your bamboo. If you haven't, there's still time to cure the transverse flute you made.

Anyway, please tell me what you think, and I'd be happy to help you in any way I can. Thanks,

Schuyler.
Thank you for the prompt reply, that is alway nice :P
We are going to cure the bamboo very soon, and once that is done we are actually going to superglue the support rods onto the tubes, as it doesn't need to be perfect, just to last long enough to get to second block :P
Also, I would love to tell you how my traditional came out, but I am no flautist and I cant even make one tone on that bleedin' thing '_' (I plan to have one of the lases play it and tell me how I did :P) and I will upload pictures at some point (And I did cure the transverse, but I made it look more wooden which I like more than straight green (using the Japanese method and a backyard grill :P))
Thanks again!
~Kasres
You could try a woodburning tool to brown the edges
Scippio1 year ago
The flutometer doesn't work. Is it possible to give your exact hole distance placements from the top down?
thepelton2 years ago
Another way I heard of to knock out the walls at the nodes was to use a red hot piece of rebar, and burn through them. I would be afraid of hitting the side of the bamboo on the way down however.
joejdrums3 years ago
Skyfinity, does the calculator work at all? I cannot seem to enter any data into it. What was the source for the calculator (i.e. formulas as I could just create my own in Excel).
Besides this excellent tutorial. I would really like to know how to make flutes in different keys so I need some sort of calculator.

I found a good calculator here;
http://twjcalc.sourceforge.net/2.10/TWJCalc2.10.html
Patman273 years ago
I have read that it is better not to drill bamboo, as it may split later on. What I'm doing for my flute is heating the end of a metal rod (or drill bit for the holes) with a blowtorch and burning the nodes and holes out..
That is the best way to do it. It is easy to do and gives you a nice clean hole.
Skyfinity (author)  Patman273 years ago
I have heard similar things. It isn't something that I myself would ever try though, but if you want to, go right ahead!
What would the actual notes be for one of these in Concert pitch? I would like to be able to create the most in-tune instrument I can for the transverse, I have tried before I saw this wonderful instructable and they sounded rather good, but I never even tried to tune them.
Get yourself a electronic tuner and sneak up on the desired pitch. Make your holes smaller then you think (the note will be flat), then slowly increase the size until you reach the pitch. Start with the bottom-most finger hole and work up. Once you are done tuning, you will have to start at the bottom and fine tune a bit more. The change in hole sizes affects the interior volume of the flute and thus the tuning, that is why you will need to do at least two passes.

Be aware that wooden and bamboo flutes are very sensitive to temperature and humidity. If you play your concert-tuned flute in a place with higher or lower humidity than where you made it, the tuning will change anywhere from 10 to 50 cents, but it still should be in tune with itself. Mostly, bamboo and wooden flutes are made to be solo instruments.
I tried making a quick test version of this so I just put the holes in a comfortable spot, when I try to use it I get a noise that isn't flute bir is more than just the sound f blowing air. Is it because I didn't put the holes in the exact right spot or is it something else?
It is most likely the shape of the edge of the sound hole, not the finger holes. If you bevel the edge opposite your mouth, it will make it easier to play. An experienced player does not need this, but a beginner will find it easier to get a nice sound with a bevel.

The location of the finger holes will determine the note that is played when you uncover it. You can create any scale you desire for a particular flute by changing the location of the finger holes.
oweng40003 years ago
At times, the Shakuhachi recording you made sounds like something off of an old Coltrane album. Cool!
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