This is a great and fun to play instrument. I will give you simple instructions to follow so that you too can build your own unique instrument. On mine, there are 3 octaves, plus an extra C. If you plan everything right, it can be easy to build. Special thanks to Snubby J who first inspired me to build one. I used ABS pipe even though I called it a PVC instrument.

Here is a demonstration of how it sounds.

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Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed
Shown in photo:
-2" ABS/PVC Piping
-2" ABS/PVC Elbows
-2" ABS/PVC Couplings
-Measuring Tape
-Pipe cutter (a hacksaw will work too, but it makes the edges rough)
Not Shown in Photo:
-2x4 and 2x10's
-2 1/2" Bore
-ABS/PVC Cement
-Power tools and screws
-Castor Wheels (Optional)

Step 2: The "Keyboard"

Picture of The
I used 2 2x4's cut to about 6 feet to make my keyboard. One section was used for the sharps and flats while the other was used for the natural notes. Use the 2 1/2" bore to cut the holes for the pipes. On small gaps, the centers of the holes should be 3 1/2" apart. On the larger gaps, 6 1/2" apart. If starting on a C, space the holes correctly as shown in the picture.

Step 3: Building the Base

Picture of Building the Base
The size of your base will depend on how many notes you choose to use. Mine ended up being a little more than six feet wide. With the two keyboard sections, I created two tiers, placing the one with the sharps and flats on top. For comfortable playing, your bottom tier should be as high as your hand when you have your arm bent at a 90 degree angle. I installed castor wheels on mine to make it more portable, to do this, I had to put 2 2x4's side by side on each side of the base so that there was a wide enough space for the wheels. Where the wheels were placed, it is extended out so the instrument does not easily topple.

Step 4: Paddles

Picture of Paddles
My paddles were purchased online but you can make your own. You need to get closed cell, dense foam similar to the foam used in flip flops, but flip flops are a little more dense than what I have. You can cut up and use the foam from flip flops. Whatever you decide to use, attach it to some sort of wooden dowel or anything you can find that would work. Experiment with the paddles until you find what you like.

Step 5: Assembling the Pipes

Picture of Assembling the Pipes
This is one of the trickiest parts of the whole process. The pipes will hang by the couplings, the pipe is small enough to pass through the hole, but the coupling is too large to pass through. As you add more notes, you will have to add turns to the pipes so you have enough room. Once a note is installed, use the tuner to fine tune it, making minor adjustments to do so. I recommend starting from the bottom because the notes get shorter as you move up. My lowest note was about 8 feet long, which required it to go down, travel across the instrument, then go forward. My highest note was around 1 foot long.

I got an equation from nate true that will give you the length of the pipe you need when you plug in the frequency: Tube Length (in) = (13300/(2*Frequency))+(Tube Diameter/2)

For the frequencies of the notes in the range of the piano go here:
My low note was number 16 (C2) in the list on the wikipedia page.

Remember, if a note is too sharp, it is too short. If it is too flat, it is too long.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches
You do not need to glue every single joint. The best places to glue would be at the couplings or anywhere a joint is bearing weight. When not glued, notes can fall off while playing. This becomes very annoying! You might also want to consider installing something to hold your paddles when you are not playing.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.
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How much ABS pipe did you use? (Length)

Cam353 months ago

how did you cut the holes out?? To put the pipes in?

Ricardo304 months ago
ToriLynn325 months ago

I read that capping the ends of the pipes would require the lengths of the pipes to be half of that if they were not capped. Would that affect the sound?

bobironman9 months ago

Do they have specific notes?

wooac9 months ago

The speed of sound changes with air temperature. These numbers are for 72 degrees F.

How many different octaves did you use?

how do I calculate the lengths of the elbows?
Where did you buy your ABS pipes? I live in Sweden and here they are very expensive, so I am looking to buy them somewhere else at a lower price.
Also how do you know what length of pipe makes what note?
tallman1996 (author)  tmcfarlane11 year ago
Cardboard tubes would wear out really fast because you have to hit them over and over. As for the length of pipe, use this equation provided by Nate True
Tube Length (in) = (13300/(2*Frequency))+(Tube Diameter/2)
Do you think PVC sounds the best or could I use cardboard and get the same sound.
johnman7471 year ago
I was wondering how many pvc elbows/couplings you used? Where did you use the bore's? and what did you use the 2x10 for?
tallman1996 (author)  johnman7471 year ago
I used probably around 50 elbows, and the bore was to drill the holes for the keyboard. The 2x10's were for the side and bottom of the overall frame.
TheVortex2 years ago
how did you calculate the tube lengths that were not in snubby j's list? did you use a formula? Thanks for the help
tallman1996 (author)  TheVortex2 years ago
I found a formula online from a guy named Nate True. He gives this formula:

Tube Length (in) = (13300/(2*Frequency))+(Tube Diameter/2)

You can get the conversion from note to frequency here:
nszenderski2 years ago
how much piping did you have to get total? my friends and i are doing this for a project and we need to know soon if you dont mind. thanks

This chart will show you all the lengths of pipes you need so you dont have to build exactly what you see in the ible.

This link will give you note frequencies so you can calculate pipe lenghts if you want to use different notes that aren't in the table.

Id use the google sketchup to see how to get pipe to fit in
How do you use sketchup for this? I have never used it before. Please help.
I don't really know how to help you. Just dive in and try it out
tallman1996 (author)  nszenderski2 years ago
If you are going to build an instrument with the same proportions as mine and to compensate for any mistakes you might make, you should expect to buy at least 120 feet of pipe. Many times I accidentally cut a pipe too short and had to cut out a new one. I know it sounds like a lot but it all fits in there. I bought mine in 20 foot lengths and they aren't too expensive.
Let me know if you have any more questions, and how your instrument turns out.
Good luck!
ShaunHill2 years ago
What type of wood did you use?
tallman1996 (author)  ShaunHill2 years ago
I just used regular construction grade 2X4's and 2X10's bought from Home Depot. I think it's pine though I'm not really sure.
mholtke2 years ago
You mention that your paddles were purchased online. From where? I have searched and havent been able to fing any yet.


tallman1996 (author)  mholtke2 years ago
I purchased them from "Snubby J", another person with his own pvc instrument. I had to personally email him and he sold me a pair for about $50. I was able to find his email address on facebook.
TheVortex2 years ago
Amazing instrument, thanks for the instructions!
I just have 2 questions, if you don't mind;
1: What did you use to fine-tune the PVC pipes?
2:where did you get those gorgeous paddles?
Thank you for your time!
tallman1996 (author)  TheVortex2 years ago
To fine tune each note, I just used a digital tuner which basically just tells you if you're sharp, flat, or right on. You can get one at pretty much any music store. You can also download a tuner app to an iphone or iPod. As for the paddles, I purchased them from snubbyj. If you have watched PVC instrument videos on youtube, you have probably seen one of his. I just emailed him and asked him about his paddles. If you don't want to buy any, you can make your own too, just experiment with different types of soft materials. Let me know if you have any more questions.
Actually, what I was wondering is, when you fine-tuned, did you approximately chop out pieces of tubes, or did you use some kind of sand-paper to be really precise?
Thanks again
P.S. I might have other questions when I actually start building :)
tallman1996 (author)  TheVortex2 years ago
I mostly used just the pipe cutter, at the scale of this instrument using sandpaper would not make a big enough difference for even the digital tuner to notice. If you want to make a small change just cut off around a quarter inch.
mholtke2 years ago
I am going to help my son build one of these instruments. Is there any way you could upload some more detailed photos of the wooden frame. Maybe a side view and details showing the center support. Thanks!
mholtke mholtke2 years ago
Thanks for the additional photos! That helps a lot. Thanks again for posting your project.

tallman1996 (author)  mholtke2 years ago
I added some more pictures to step 3. Let me know if this works or if you need more details. Thanks!
tallman1996 (author)  mholtke2 years ago
Thanks for the suggestion, I'll get working on it. I'll let you know when I've added that information.
William9303 years ago
How many octaves are nessesary for playing most songs? I want to build a more portable version of this. Great instructable by the way!
tallman1996 (author)  William9303 years ago
My instrument has 3 octaves. So far, that has worked for me in most songs. 2 octaves would be cutting a little close and would limit you. 4 octaves would be ideal but would require a lot more work and money. Unless you have the time and money, I would recommend starting with 3 octaves.

If you choose you may also add extra notes to even things out. My instrument actually has 3 octaves plus 1 note so I have a C as my top and bottom notes.

Let me know if you have any more questions. I also want to know how your instrument turns out.

Good Luck!
cool, thanks for your help
bwells23 years ago
How much did the entire instrument cost to built
tallman1996 (author)  bwells23 years ago
Mine ended up costing about $200-$300. Because of my lack of money though, it took me about 6 months to build. You can make a simpler a cheaper model though by having less notes and a cheaper base. Where I live, the pipe cost about $6 for ten feet. Lumber costs about $4-$6 depending on what size you get.
mikeasaurus3 years ago
Wow, amazing instrument! Can't wait to see the video and hear you play it!
tallman1996 (author)  mikeasaurus3 years ago
New Video! I've got more songs now!
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