Simple PVC Whistle




About: If you've got a problem, Yo, I'll solve it ! -Robert Matthew Van Winkle

This instructable shows how to create a simple whistle out of 1" diameter PVC pipe. 

The general design used here is not my own, as I have relied on many sources from the internet and elsewhere.  This is just my particular implementation of this simple whistle design.  I have included more detail on the construction and performance from my own experience in building it.  I have also included some optional features of my design, such as an attachement for use with an air compressor, and a moveable slide that allows the pitch can be changed.

By adjusting the length from the opening to end of the pipe, the pitch can be increased or decreased.  The pitch produced depends on the speed of sound and the length of the whistle from the notch to the capped end.

The pitch, in Hertz (Hz), can be calculated as:

Pitch =  [Speed of sound (in ft/second)]  /  [ 4 X Length of wistle (in inches) / 12 ]

The length of the whistle corresponds to 1/4" the wavelength of the sound produced.
The speed of sound is approximately 1100 feet per second.           
Parts List

Qty (1)  1" PVC end cap
Qty (1)  Length of PVC pipe.  The exact length is determined by the desired pitch.  About 10"   is a good length to start with.
Qty (1)  1" PVC coupler
Qty (1)  1" to 1/2" PVC adapter
Qty (1)  2" length of 1/2" PVC pipe
Qty (1)  Length of 1" diameter wooden dowel or other round stock that will fit tightly into 1" PVC pipe

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Cutting the Notch

Two cuts must be made into the PVC pipe to make a notch, as shown.  The first cut is perpendicular to the axis of the pipe.  The second is at a 45 degree angle.  Make the first cut about 1" to 1.5" from the end of the pipe, as shown. 

Step 2: Making the Insert

The insert fits into the end of the pipe with the notch.  It can be made from a wooden dowel or any other round stock.  I made this one out of a hardwood dowel. 

One side of the dowel must be removed as shown in the pictures below.  Cut the dowel so that the flat is about 1/4" from the edge as shown in the diagram.

The insert should fit fairly tightly into the PVC pipe.   Push the insert into the pipe so that one end of it is even with the perpenicular cut of the notch in the pipe.

Refer to the note included with the pictures below for additional construction details.

Step 3: Making the Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece is a fitting the attached to the notch end of the tube.  This is the part that you will blow into once the whistle is completed. This one is made from 3 parts.  The first is a 1" PVC coupler, the second is a 1" to 1/2" adapter, and the third part is a short length (approximately 2") of 1/2" PVC pipe that fits into the adapter.  PVC pipe fittings usually fit together pretty tightly on their own, so it is not strictly necessary to cement them together for this project.

Step 4: Optional Air Compressor Attachment

This is an optional attachement that can be used in place of the mouthpiece fitting from the earlier step.  It allows the whistle to be connected to an air compressor, so that you don't have to blow into it.  The whistle can be pretty load when driven with compressed air.

The construction is very similar to that of the regular mouthpiece.  The only difference is that a 1/2" PVC plug is used in place of the 2" section of 1/2" PVC pipe.  I then drilled a hole in the 1/2" plug, and tapped 1/4" NPT pipe threads into the hole, so that I could screw in the quick coupler attachment (the metal piece shown).

Step 5: Optional Adjustable Stop for Chaning the Pitch

If you want the whistle to produce a fixed pitch, you can just experiment with the length of the pipe, starting with a longer pipe and trimming the far end until you have the tone you want.   At this point you would just attach the cap to the far end and the whistle is complete.

You can make an adjustable pitch whistle by makeing a plunger that slides in and out of the tube, effectively changing the inside dimensions that determine the fundamental pitch.
The plunger must fit tightly enough that air doesn't escape past it, yet loose enought that it can be moved in and out without appling excessive force.

I make the plunger out of a 1/2" PVC end cap.  The end cap will not fit down the 1" PVC pipe off the shelf, so the end cap will have to modified.  I used a lathe to turn down the diameter of the cap until it fit well.  If you do not have a lathe, a belt sander could be used but it would be less precise and also it would be difficult to keep a round shape that would seal well in the pipe. 

The plunger could be made of any solid material, like a wooden dowel, so long as it has a good fit as described earlier.

Step 6: Performance

The whistle pictured on the first step in this instructable is made from an 11" length of pipe. The length from the notch to the far end is about 9.5".  The adjustable stop was not used for this test.  The end was capped by a 1" diameter PVC cap.

The graph below is the spectrum of the sound produced by the whistle.  You can see the fundamental frequency, the first spike, is approximately 350 Hz.  You can also see that there are odd numbered harmonics.  The third harmonic is at approximately 1050Hz, and the fifth harmonic is at approximately 1750 Hz.

Recall that the length of the whistle corresponds to 1/4 the wavelength of the sound produced, and that the speed of sound is approximately 1100 feet per second. Therefore, a 9.5" whistle should produce a sound with a fundamental frequency of approximately 347Hz.  This calculated result agrees well with the frequency on the graph below.

I've attached a wave file of the sound produced by this whistle.



    • Indoor Lighting Contest

      Indoor Lighting Contest
    • Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

      Stone Concrete and Cement Contest
    • DIY Summer Camp Contest

      DIY Summer Camp Contest

    9 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Would it still work if you didn't make the mouthpiece and blew directly onto the wood?

    1 reply
    la xerraclavier

    Reply 2 months ago


    (i guess the reducer just functions so that you dont have to deep-throat a mouth full of pvc)


    Question 1 year ago on Step 1

    I am trying to make exact pitches using the equation "Pitch = [Speed of sound (in ft/second)] / [ 4 X Length of whistle (in inches) / 12 ]". I have calculated all of my lengths, but I am a little confused. Is the length supposed to be from the base of the pipe to the end, or from the notch to the end of the pipe? Please email me at Thanks!


    1 year ago

    this looks like a fun and interesting build. thx


    4 years ago on Introduction

    very nice and well written...inn the past I have made small wooden antler and bone whistels with just one tone maybe have to try a wooden one with a slider


    4 years ago on Introduction

    My dad asked me to help him find an air horn he had seen on a link I shared on facebook. I found the one he wanted that uses an air mattress pump as an air source but then I saw your 4 chime version and followed the link here to my favorite site ! Am I right in assuming the 4 chime uses various lengths attached to a larger diameter pvc pipe cap and plug with reducer for the mouth piece? although I may have to make some of these whistles for the grans..


    4 years ago on Introduction

    SirJames, you can cap or not cap, as you see fit, however, not capping will result in a sound one octave higher, eg. Bb 4 would be approximately 14" capped (or stopped). Making the same length pipe unstopped, would produce a Bb5, one octave (2 x freq.) higher.
    This is routinely done on organ pipes to extend the lower register without additional length. eg. A low C organ pipe, unstopped is ~17 ft long. One octave lower, would require a pipe 34 ft long, so rather than make a 34 ft pipe, they use a 17 ft pipe with a stop.

    This is a bit of an oversimplification, and other factors come into play. But try it and see.

    But as you mentioned, the sound does actually emerge from the slanted opening.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    So the one end does not get capped?....I thought that any whistle only allowed the air to exit through the hole by the mouth piece....

    I would love to make this! :)

    TY for Sharing Sir.

    Phil B

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for an interesting and useful Instructable. I hope to clear my "to do" list enough to try this before long.