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.

This is awesome I made the pan flute and quena. I'm still trying to play the quena
So am I correct in saying you should leave the node in the end as the cork? Or does it get knocked out also?
I prefer thr native american style flute personally and all woodeinds are good.i made a flut today with pvc and its doing ok.its tuneing it thats gona be the deal breaker lol.i incourage you all to build a style best suited to you and dont be close minded.no bamboo then look gor any tube that will work.improvise.just be carefull.this is oddly addicting work<br>
<p>I am planning to make a pan flute with my son, thanks for the fantastic instructions! We have lots of bamboo growing where we are. Ideally, if I can get my hands in some or repurpose an old garment, instead of using string going round and round the pieces, I will use some leather strips which have been wet, as this would be much faster. When dry, I imagine it would shrink and hold the flute together even tighter. :)</p>
<p>My flute isn't producing a sharp sound at all. I'm confused on the instructions for creating the embouchure. What exactly does it mean to bevel it away from the player?</p><p>Also, is the very top node supposed to be knocked out or left in?</p>
<p>This is great! I just realized this was posted years ago and I was hoping there were and still videos out there somewhere. Please advise.</p>
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?
<p>Check the garden department of large stores (Hardware &amp; variety stores). Sometimes they sell bamboo for gardening stakes. You can use PVC pipe too - though small diameters are not as common. Look at toys in a dollar store too - useful tubing is out there if you're creative.</p>
<p>&quot;Asian Grocery Stores&quot; All large cities have them</p>
<p>Very true. We have a bunch of them here (Federal Way, WA).<br>H-Mart is a really big one (Korean), and a Chinese oriented store (no pun intended) just opened about 1/3 mile from our house.</p>
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.<br><br>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.
Really nice flutes. <br> <br>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.
<p>I bet you could soak it in water based varnish to preserve it in the green state.</p>
Without a reed how does the blowing end work?
<p>You blow across the hole, like blowing across the mouth of a coke bottle.</p>
<p>can i ge bamboo in nearby stores like home depot...? maybe near the great lakes region? (i know this may sound stupid, but yes, that is my question.)</p>
<p>I grow a lot of bamboo on my property and am always looking for interesting ideas for it. It seems that curing bamboo is a concern for many here. To start with, never choose fresh, new bamboo. It should be 3-5 years old. If it withers and becomes brittle, it was harvested too early. You can usually tell the young stalks by how green and fresh they look. Look for ones with a dull and even yellowish tint. The leaves might look faded. The skin should resist your fingernail, with no give. Once you've harvested an older stalk, keep it out of the sun and it will last forever. There is no need to cure bamboo if you follow this advice. </p>
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.
how you put your holes....teach me...did you sanding the inner part?
please make an instructable about your flute....
<p>Lol, I can try. This flute broke last year and I need to make a new one.</p>
when you make a new one...make sure you make a instructable or vid about it..... :)
<p>Inner part usually peels away, you don't have to sand it.</p>
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 &quot;switch cane&quot;. 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
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
Step 2: Bamboo Flute: End-blown Shakuhachi <br>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!
Hello Sir!<br> 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.<br>Thank you!
Just hot glue 'em together
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)
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.<br><br>Do what you want, but I suggest a root.<br>Thanks,<br><br>Schuyler.<br>
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)<br>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&quot; (Sorry bout using imperial, I'm just a dumb American :P) piece? Maybe 15-18?<br>Thanks!<br>~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.<br><br>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.<br>
Wow! This is the first I've heard of someone making these for a school project! <br>Good Luck to you!<br>I would love to see what you've done so far with the traditional flute. Does it play well? Could you post pictures?<br><br>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.<br><br>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.<br><br>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.<br><br>Anyway, please tell me what you think, and I'd be happy to help you in any way I can. Thanks,<br><br>Schuyler.
Thank you for the prompt reply, that is alway nice :P<br>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<br>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))<br>Thanks again!<br>~Kasres
You could try a woodburning tool to brown the edges
The flutometer doesn't work. Is it possible to give your exact hole distance placements from the top down?
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.
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). <br> Besides this excellent tutorial. I would really like to know how to make flutes in different keys so I need some sort of calculator.<br><br>
I found a good calculator here;<br>http://twjcalc.sourceforge.net/2.10/TWJCalc2.10.html
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.<br>
I have heard similar things. It isn't something that I myself would ever try though, but if you want to, go right ahead!

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Bio: Hello! I'm a young Noise-Maker from Philly, whose life is helplessly entwined in music, engineering, art, design, and writing. My current endeavor is to ... More »
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