Introduction: Straw Flute

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Huzzah! Welcome to your ticket to first chair at the fast food restaurant orchestra! With your new straw flute, you are sure to razzle, dazzle, or at least mildly annoy those around you. For the full effect, have 30 first graders make them and impress their parents at assembly. :)

This project is quick, loud, and yet there is an amazing amount that you can learn about sound and pitch through these small instruments. Play, modify, and make some noise!

The details:

  • What: A straw flute!
  • Time: ~ 3 minutes
  • Cost of Materials: ~ 2 cents
  • Materials: Straw (medium gage)
  • Tools: Scissors
  • Concepts: Sound, Pitch, Resonance, Wind

Step 1: Cut Your Mouthpiece

Cut one end of your straw to a point. Start by squeezing one end together with your fingers, and then cutting two angular cuts to get a triangle.

After you do this, you can even play it now! Sound will come from placing the triangle between your teeth, clamping down a bit, and blowing to make the triangular tip vibrate. It takes a minute to get right, but once you do, you're golden!

Step 2: Cut Your Flute Holes

Let's give our flute some range! Add flute holes by bending the straw and cutting small triangular notches. When you unfold it, you'll reveal your diamond-shaped flute hole.

You can add a couple, and cover or uncover them with your fingers to get different tones. Each tone will depend on where you place them. If you want to check what note you're making, you can use this free online tuner here which uses your computer microphone.

Step 3: You're Done!

Congratulations! You can do all sorts of modifications so let's see what you make!

This is fun for yourself or for a class on sound. Try cutting the straw to different lengths to see what happens to pitch. You can also try calculating where the holes should go to make full chromatic scales.

If you're interested, this is a resource on the physics behind flutes.

Happy fluting!