PVC Recorder




About: Will Bosworth, developing projects for HowToons @ SquidLabs.

Always wanted to make your own recorder? me too. check out this tasty musical instrument.
steps 1-7 = photo instructable
step 8 = video instructable


Step 1: Parts Layout

+The PVC Recorder uses 3/4" diameter, 1/16" wall PVC. Pipe length is variable. A foot length is a good place to start.

+ about an inch of 7/8" or 15/16" dowel rod.

+ a saw, a drill, a file, tinsnips.

Step 2: Piece 1, Pvc Jaws

cut a small length of pvc, about 1" long. Then use the snips and cut once along the length of pipe.

Step 3: Piece 2, Wood Stopper

cut a pice of dowel rod the same length as the pvc-jaws (piece 1)

Step 4: Piece 3, Pipe

with the longer piece of pvc, snip out a ~ .25" x 1.25" rectangle out of and end of the pipe. The length of the cut should be the length of the wood stopper + ~.25".

flatten out any hanging edges with a file.

Step 5: Assemble the Three Pieces. Debugging Tips.

put the woodstopper inside the end of the long pvc tube, on the side with the gap.

put the pvc-jaws over the end of the pvc with the woodstopper. Push the woodstopper and pvc-jaws around so that a proper gap is in place.

Blow into the recorder. It should sound like a recorder.

The recorder might not work on the first toot. If so, mess with the placement of the wood-stopper and pvc jaw on the long pipe - The air hole size is crucial for a working wind instrument. tinker and test!

Also, use a file to smooth (don't "round") the edges of the wood stopper and pvc. Smoother surfaces make for better air flow over the surfaces.

If the woodstopper is moving around too much inside the pvc tube, stick some duct tape on the stopper to widen the stopper.

in my experience, tinkering just to get sound shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

Step 6: Add Holes

drill some holes in the long pvc pipe to add notes to the pvc recorder. You can do alot of reading and measuring and get western notes, or you can drill haphazardly and get cool stuff.

Step 7: Play It!

Step 8: VIDEO HowTo



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    28 Discussions


    5 years ago

    I am on my school's Science Olympiad team and I attempted to make this for the sounds of music event. I am having trouble getting a sound out of it though. Otherwise, your instructions were very helpful.


    6 years ago on Step 8

    I'm wondering if it would be possible to make a much larger version of this and create a very low bass sound. I imagine that the holes would probably not be easily worked out without a fair amount of trial & error. Perhaps a "slide whistle" type of approach to vary the length will work better.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    THANK YOU!!! That is really cool. I'm also very interested in the pipe organ you made. Thanks for thinking of me and posting this reply.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I am a music appreciation teacher, and I brought this project to my classroom. It was awesome!! It cost under $20 for 45 students to do the project. We employed physics to understand how wind through a column creates sound, and used mathematical calculations to figure out where to drill the holes to get certain pitches. Thanks so much for an easy, "fool-proof" project that helped my students understand how science and math affect music! They loved it! Thanks!

    Haha, I had an extra feet or 2 of PVC and found this Instructable, so I had my PVC and my Hack saw, and it turns out I have the EXACT SAME hack saw as you. I got it from Lowes, its pretty good for its size/price.


    12 years ago

    HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PLAY A RECORDER!!! lol Very cool Idea but there Is really no way to make sure the holes are in the right place to get the correct notes ****

    2 replies

    What I usually do is make a few sacrificial flutes. If the holes you drill don't give you the right notes, cover them with tape and drill again near them until you get it right. Take the measurements from that and then do the final flute holes in an un-butchered piece of pipe. Once you get it right, you can make any number of copies following the same measurements, since the PVC pipe diameters are so uniform. That's one advantage of PVC over bamboo, say, every section of which is not uniform.


    9 years ago on Step 8

    "You can do alot of reading and measuring and get western notes, or you can drill haphazardly and get cool stuff." Awesome instructable, cant wait to make it :D


    10 years ago on Step 8

    I have made a pvc saxophone but i can't get any of the pitches. i have to cover all of the holes to make any sound can you help?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    for a proper tuning you can also follow the instructions on this excellent site. there are several basic tunings possible depending on the overall measurement of the whistle. best wishes from rhine and moselle rivers!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Tuning the instrument is not as hard as you might think. This is for a minor scale and requires a little trial and error.

    Drill the first hole about an inch and a quarter from the bottom. Play it. With a keyboard or digital tuner find the closest matching higher note. To fine tune it, start grinding off the end of the recorder a little at a time. Making the recorder length shorter raises the pitch. Check the note by playing it after each pass with a grinder. Sneak up on it.

    Once you match the note, drill the next hole 1 1/16 inch up the barrel. It is wise to start with a smaller drill bit. This should give you a whole step. Check the note to the next whole note on your designated tuner. If it is a bit flat, make the hole a little bigger with the next size drill bit. If it is a bit sharp, you need to make the hole smaller (good luck, that's why you should start with a small bit).

    Next hole 1 1/16 inch up.

    Next hole 1 inch up.

    Next hole 1 inch up.

    That gives you a four hole recorder. The scale will be a custom key to your flute, but it will at least be playable.

    If your flute is longer, add more holes, an inch at a time.

    Remember, the order of notes in a scale is:
    whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step.

    This is how Native American Flutes are often tuned, which are similar to recorders, but include a separate air pressure chamber.


    11 years ago on Step 8

    I like what you did, I've been tasked by my 8 year old to build a musical instrument. Thanks for the how to!