Step 4: Bamboo Flute: Panflute

The Panflute is simple musical instrument consisting of closed tubes cut to different lengths, each of which produce a specific tone. This simple concept is the reason why many versions of this instrument have been developed all over the world, from a traditional bamboo Antara in the Andes, to the cane Syrinx in ancient Greece, and even the wooden pipes of viking origin. The general name for these instruments, Pan-flutes or Pan-pipes, originates from Ancient Greek legend and mythology. Pan, god of shepherds, fell in deep love with a Nymph called Syrinx, who was did not return this love and fled from him. She ran to a river and begged the river-nymphs to save her. The Nymphs transformed Syrinx into reeds growing at the water's edge. Pan arrived at the river and was devastated, believing his love was gone forever. While he sat and mourned, he heard the wind blow across the reeds that were growing by the water, which inspired him to cut them and make a musical instrument. He named his pipes "the Syrinx" in memory of his lost love, of whom, ironically, the instrument was made. Today, his invention is known as the Panflute.

Please note: No Nymphs were harmed in the making of this Panflute.

Preparing the Bamboo:
For a compact and easy to play panflute, select a piece of bamboo that is around 1-2 centimeters in total diameter. Unlike length, diameter does not affect the pitch of the pipe, it only modifies the timbre. Also note that each pipe is closed at one end, which will be achieved using the existing nodes. Note also that as their are two "bumps" at each node, the one that is solid all the way through is always the thinnest. It is because of this I made each of my pan pipes by sawing slightly behind the wider "bump" to ensure the tube was always closed.

Cutting the tubes to Length:
As stated earlier, length is the primary factor upon which the pitch of the tube depends. Because I want to give you the option of building a panflute in any key, I won't just tell you the lengths I used. Instead, I'll let you know how to choose yourself.

First, here are the general tube lengths for any pan pipe at ''panflutejedi.com'' These lengths are expressed in inches, which is annoying for me, as I am an American who hates imprecise units of measurement. Use a calculator like this one at manuelsweb.com to convert them to centimeters. (I will add a metric chart as soon as I can. Notice that the higher lengths of the same notes are half of the lower ones. This is true with all closed tubes, so feel free to make lower tubes than shown here.

To begin the actual construction, get your bamboo (fig.1) and measure the appropriate length from the THIN BUMP at the node, which is where the solid end of the tube is (fig.2). Mark the length with a pencil (fig.3). Now, clamp your bamboo down and carefully cut with a hacksaw, as thinner bamboo like this is more likely to splinter than usual (fig.4,5).

Clean and Test Your Pipe:
Though it would make sense to blow on the pipe now to see if it must be tuned and trimmed, you must first clean out the inside. Thinner, higher pieces of bamboo like this often have a white, flaky, "skin" on the inside which must be removed before a tone is produced. Use a file or a drill bit to scrape it all out and off of the bamboo wall (fig.6,7,8). At this point, test your pipe and determine whether it is in tune or not. My first pipe was just sharp of what I needed, so I trimmed it and made it the next pipe on my scale.

Finish the Pipe:
Use either a sander or a sanding bit on your rotary tool to round out the blowing end of your bamboo (fig.9,10). Make sure not to sand off to much, as this may alter the tone. Now, make a mark with pencil just behind the wide node on your pipe (fig.11). Clamp your bamboo down again and make a cut with a hacksaw where you marked (fig.12). This cut will be, once again, quite rough, so it is suggested you sand this end in a similar fashion, also making sure to remove any "skin" that is still attached to the node. Congrats, you now have a finished pipe (fig.13,14).

As stated, you must repeat this process over and over until you have 8 pipes (fig.15,16). These 8 pipes will only make a full scale, spanning one whole octave. Because I wanted my pipes to be more versatile than this, I added four more pipes, still in the same key I had chosen (fig.17,18,19). With these extra four notes, I could now play in both the original key (G), and the key 3 notes higher (C). This is of course optional, but I feel is a great way to make your panflute more versatile without compromising portability.

Making the Cross Members
Find a piece of bamboo that is long enough to span your planflute and is around 1cm in diameter. Make a cut within both nodes with a hacksaw so you have a hollow tube. Hold the tube straight up on your workbench, and using a knife, simply slice the tube in half (fig.20). Not much pressure is required to split the bamboo, and usually is cuts like butter. Warning: If too much force is applied on the bamboo with the knife, you may just slice so quickly, you'll catch a few fingers instead (fig.21). This happened to me, so BE CAREFUL!!! So now, lay out your panflute and place the cross members over the pipes as pictured in figure 22. If necessary, trim the cross members so no more than 1cm of excess sticks out from the pipes. Now that you know where the Cross members go, it's time to tie them on.

Tying the Cross Members:
Get out a whole spool of a choice color string (fig.23). Begin by laying the first pipe diagonally over a stretch of string (the end of string going to the open end of the pipe), with the the upper cross member lying diagonally across the pipe (fig.24). Pull up both ends of the string up (fig.25, 26), and tie them in a simple loop knot (fig.27). Tie another knot above the previous one (square knot). Then loop the spool of string around the knots multiple times (fig.28). After around ten turns, loop the spool around so it is at the opposite corner of the X made by the pipe and cross member (fig.29). Loop the spool around in this direction for another ten turns (fig.37). Place the next pipe by the first (fig.30), and bring the thread over the cross member and the next pipe (fig.31). Wrap the spool in this direction for ten turns (fig.32,33,34). Then bring the spool across to the other corner as done previously (fig.35). Loop the spool in this direction for 10 turns (fig.36). Repeat until all pipes are secure (fig.37-43). Tie off the string in a square knot at the last pipe, securing them tightly.

For the bottom cross member, begin as you did before on the upper cross member (fig.45-49). Continue by brining the string over the second pipe as before, but only loop around ten turns in that one direction (fig.50). Then, bring the string over the second (fig.51), and loop the spool around for ten turns here (fig.52). Repeat this process until each pipe is secure. Tie the string off at the last pipe with a square knot, good and tight.

Kasres4 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 Kasres2 years ago
Just hot glue 'em together
Kasres Kasres4 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)  Kasres4 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.

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?
Skyfinity (author)  Kasres4 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,

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!