Instructables

Pvc "TOOTOPHONE" -- a musical reed instrument

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FOTUTO (8).JPG
FOTUTO (9).JPG
This is the first of an evolving series of tootophones that I have made.  I leave it up for historical interest, but suggest you try the "Tiny Tootophone"  for the basic mouthpiece, and the "Tootophone Sax and Trumpet" for some interesting body variations using x-ray film.  This PVC design is not even in my "top ten" list any more.  My latest tootophones have only one fingering hole.  

The body of this tootophone is made of 1/2" CPVC pipe, which is used for hot water plumbing and is of a smaller diameter than 1/2" PVC pipe. 

The tootophone is similar to a soprano recorder in terms of size and finger spacing.  The mouthpiece is heat formed to make it a little narrower than the CPVC pipe.

The reed is cut from a piece of plastic from an old flat screen monitor I disassembled.  Just about any semi-stiff, clear packaging plastic will work to make a reed that vibrates. 

I have always liked the idea of playing saxophone, but found the bamboo reeds to be frustrating to get sounds out of.  For some reason, these plastic reeds are a lot easier to blow.  Being less frustrating to blow, the tootophone is more fun to play, at least for a beginner.  Being more fun to play, I play more, and that's what it's all about.  Tootophones are fun to play. 

Figure maybe a dollar in material and many hours playing around.  This is very cost effective entertainment. 

Be sure to check out the audio files at the end, to hear what the tootophone sounds like. 



 
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leroy19998 days ago

what is the equipment needed ?

Thinkenstein (author)  leroy19996 days ago

Mostly a drill, bits, and an X-acto knife.

whiteoakart4 years ago
Old credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards make great reeds. 

I made two of these:  one from 3/4" PVC and one from 1" PVC.  They sound great, but the finger holes start to get a little far apart for a comfortable reach as the tube gets bigger.  A larger mouthpiece will also yield a slower vibration and, therefore, lower note.  It might be worth trying to graft a 3/4" PVC mouthpiece onto a 1/2" tooter.  The photo is of the 3/4" version.  The multitude of holes is for experimentation purposes.


sax2.jpg
That looks impossible to play, that thing has 15 holes
Too many holes! How can you cover them all? :O
I should note:  You can make a bell on the end by heating the end (per thinkingstein's instructions in Step 3), then pushing the soft end over a cone shape.  I used a funnel.
bwells22 years ago
can you fit a real cane instrument reed on that
bwells22 years ago
Sounds halfway between a saxophone and a kazoo
ssjcell12 years ago
Hey Thinkenstein!
Your reed instrument has pushed me to make a saxophone. I have made a mouthpiece that looks like yours and it gives a good, saxophony sound. But, unfortunately, no matter how long my pvc tube is, it gives the same high pitch. I made the mouthpiece-fingerholetube connector from a piece of cardboard and taped it with electrical tape (all over the cardboard). Did I do anything wrong?
Please, help me.
Thinkenstein (author)  ssjcell12 years ago
Hi Ssjcell1. This was one of my first tootophones. It was always a bit out of control. I suggest you forget this and move on to my "tiny tootophone" instructable, and the saxtooter and trumpetooter instructable. The saxtooter uses the tiny tootophone mouthpiece, made from an insulin syringe (about 15 cents to make), uses a silicone rubber reed, and sounds reasonably like a sax. The body is made of x-ray film, free from the x-ray lab at the hospital.

Hope that helps.
rgreen102 years ago
What's the range on this?
Thinkenstein (author)  rgreen102 years ago
My tootophones have evolved quite a bit since this one. I never play this one any more. My favorites are of the tiny tootophone variety. http://www.instructables.com/id/Tiny-Tootophone

They get a couple octaves with no problem.
SPYBOOM2 years ago
could you use a saxophone reed on it.
My dad said he had one I could borrow.
Thinkenstein (author)  SPYBOOM2 years ago
Search for "Tiny Tootophone" to get my favorite tootophone design. They have evolved over time, and this PVC design was one of the first.

Regular reeds are stiffer than the plastic and rubber I use. Softer reeds are easier to blow. Tootophones have gotten easier to play the smaller they have gotten. Some of my favorite reeds are made of silicone rubber, sometimes mixed with filler powders, like Cab-o-sil, a powder used as filler in epoxy clay, I believe. Others are made with x-ray film plastic, after scrubbing off the image.

Anyway, I suggest you skip ahead to the Tiny Tootophone, which is made of an insulin syringe and costs about 15 cents to make.

Have fun!
Ninzerbean3 years ago
I am now the proud owner of my own Tootophone (thank you Thinkenstein) and I just love it, it is really easy to get the hang of, and my dogs love it too - everyone should make one because it is so easy to stick in your pocket and take everywhere with you. The sound just makes everyone happy.
Thinkenstein (author)  Ninzerbean3 years ago
Happy is good. Thanks.
SWV17874 years ago
I would very much like to make one using some old venetian blinds strips to make the reeds as I have some laying around. or do you think they would be too stiff to make an effective reed?
joen SWV17873 years ago
be careful! I understand that depending on how old venetian blinds are they could be contaminated with lead. When I had my house treated for lead contamination, the blinds were part of what had to go because they were contaminated. Lead was used in the manufacturing process. Please don't poison yourself.
Venetian blinds often have a longitudinal curve to them.  If they are flat, then they will work.  As I mention in another post, I use a discarded credit card, which is pretty darn stiff.
Brother_D4 years ago
 Why not just take up the kazoo? You get the same awful sound...
(I don't mean to be mean, it's too hard to convey tone over the internet.)
Thinkenstein (author)  Brother_D4 years ago
I just made a new tootophone recording with better equipment.  It's in the last step.  Hope you like it.
Thinkenstein (author)  Brother_D4 years ago
I like to think that it sounds better live than the dictation recorder I have is able to present it.  It does have some kazoo qualities at times.  Sometimes it sounds sax-like, or horn-like, or like something bizarrely different. 

Anyway, I still have a lot of fun playing it, and I think play is an element of music making that is good to hang onto. 

While both the kazoo and the tootophone are voice-like in a way, the tootophone has a greater range of notes, and playing a reed instrument is different than humming into a kazoo.  There is no use of the vocal cords, for one thing.

I have found that music is sometimes more enjoyable for the musician to listen to than for others.  Oh well...
 I see. It is a very interesting and fun looking project. Respect.
Bad Donut4 years ago
sounds like a kidnap/rape scene.. wtf.

BUT BESIDES THAT: good instructable. is it possible to get a cleaner tone out of it?
Thinkenstein (author)  Bad Donut4 years ago
I just made a new tootophone recording with better equipment.  It's in the last step.  Hope you like it. 
Thinkenstein (author)  Bad Donut4 years ago
Yes, one can get cleaner tone.  I think the main problem is the dictation recorder I used to record it.  It is meant for voice recording and doesn't have a great microphone. 

Also, there is sometimes a world of difference between different mouthpieces.  I have made about 20 or 30 tootophones, and my favorite one is almost effortless in getting the notes I imagine.  Some are far from easy to play. 
This would go over great on YouTube.  How about some vids?
Thinkenstein (author)  kimbe mtumbo4 years ago
I don't have any video equipment, but thanks for the idea. 
joreknight4 years ago
looks cool it reminds me a lot of a xaphoon, a sort-a cross between a sax a clarinet and a recorder.
 
Everyone should go to the site of the guy who makes bamboo xaphoons out of Maui.  He is a true maker. He has a video of the process of making one.
almost a saprano sax
Kiteman4 years ago
We need to see exactly how it goes in the mouth - pointy end first, obviously, but how far, and at what angle?
THATS what she said. :D
Thinkenstein (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
Those are all variables one has to explore. 

The farther it goes in the mouth, the more reed vibrates and the lower the pitch. 


Doctor What4 years ago
 Cool!  I love DIY instruments!