Picture of PVC Soprano Recorder
Recorders are fairly easy to play; much easier than side-blown flutes.   They are relatively cheap instruments to buy, but if you want some DIY fun, here's how to make one out of PVC pipe. 

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

Step 1: The Parts of the Recorder

Picture of The Parts of the Recorder
The recorder is composed of three parts; the mouthpiece, the body with the fingering holes, and the standard connector which joins the mouthpiece and the body. 

The spacing and size of the holes in the body are copied from a store-bought plastic recorder. 

The mouthpiece is composed of concentric layers of different size pipe.  The pipe diameters are:  1/2" CPVC (smallest diameter used for hot water),  1/2" PVC (the layer around it with a section removed to create an air channel), and 3/4" PVC (to cap the top of the air channel).

The air channel conducts the air you blow to a sounding hole.   A wedge shape at the hole interrupts the air flow and creates vibration and sound. 

The fingering holes in the body modify the pitch of the sound by creating different amounts of resistance to the air passing through the pipe.  Opening all the holes lets air escape with less resistance by the easiest route, through the first holes.   Closing all the holes creates a longer column of air inside the body, and more resistance, which results in lower notes.   
mdperry9772 months ago

how long is the part only with the finger holes?

You don't need to know it. You just have to make sure that when you play the note played is a C4 (523,25 hertz) with a tuner (you can download one on a smartphone for exemple, or on a pc a microphone).

Thinkenstein (author)  mdperry9772 months ago
I haven't made any of these in years, and have none around to measure for you. Sorry about that.
eeloopenguin7 months ago

I don't understand how to make the mouth piece. I am doing a project for school. Will someone help?!?!?!

It was going great until I connected it all together... When I blow on just the mouthpiece I get a nice, strong, sharp note, but when I connect the pieces together and try to play, it just sounds like air. Any idea where I went wrong?
cjs12981 year ago
I would use CPVC being that it's not considered toxic.
NANSTER3 years ago
Has anyone tried to make this model with a wider diameter of PVC pipe?
sngai NANSTER1 year ago
I just made a "great bass" recorder with 1.5" pipe. See my recent Instructable.
JstDoIt2 years ago
I thought I was doing well and successfully creating my recorder up until the point where I tried to play it. It sounds nothing like yours, it only sounds like air blowing through a tube...help?
Thinkenstein (author)  JstDoIt2 years ago
It sounds like your air stream is not meeting the wedge of the sounding hole at the right angle, or the wedge is not shaped with an appropriate angle to meet the oncoming air. Play with the variables.

Variables, like sounding hole size are easier to adjust by trimming off material than adding it on. I wouldn't even know how to do that, so maybe it is best to just start from scratch if that is the problem. Start holes on the small side rather than the large side, if you are not sure of them.

It's a balance of a lot of factors. Play with them.
tankdo4 years ago
wow,sounds nice!
galanie4 years ago
Made this yesterday and playing it today. Awesome :) I used a simpler style of mouthpiece (howtern's) since I couldn't find any CPVC and so used 1/2 inch PVC pipe for the body but it plays fine that way. I think that if a person could find different configurations you could swap mouthpieces between pipes to have different ones. Might experiment today.
Thinkenstein (author)  galanie4 years ago
The mouthpiece is the trickiest part. Having it swappable saves a lot of work for trying out the different pipes, once you get a mouthpiece you like.

Years ago, someone I knew was making shakuhachi bamboo flutes and I could never get a sound out of them. They are probably the simplest end blown flutes as far as fabrication of the sounding area goes. Lately I've been experimenting with making them out of PVC, specifically to fit my mouth and have been having a lot better luck. I still haven't got the necessary lip control for reliable playing, though. Recorder type mouthpieces take all that art out of it, along with a load of frustration.
sounds like a flute. cool!
JAGGIE4 years ago
That's awesome! Really nice sound and well played, too.
Thinkenstein (author)  JAGGIE4 years ago
Thanks. Glad you like it.
any ideas for the other sizes of recorders?
Thinkenstein (author)  robertblacksmith4 years ago
I had a soprano to copy the finger spacing, hole size, and approximate pipe diameter. It would help to have a model for other sizes, too, but I don't have any others. I'm sure it could be done.

I don't think you can just scale everything up. For one thing, bigger air channels would mean more breath, and tiring out sooner. I would probably keep the channels and sounding holes about the same size as the soprano.
Ninzerbean4 years ago
Wow that sounds wonderful!
Thinkenstein (author)  Ninzerbean4 years ago
Thanks. Making the object is just half the goal. The sound is what music is all about.
dchall84 years ago
That sounds great! Yes I know you can get recorders for $2 and yours probably costs more, but home made is better. Thanks for posting it.
Thinkenstein (author)  dchall84 years ago
Yes, you can't really compare all things by dollar value. DIY is a fun game to play, and you usually learn something of use for later.
rimar20004 years ago
Very good work, thanks for sharing!
Thinkenstein (author)  rimar20004 years ago
Thanks. Glad you like it.