How to Make Traditional Bamboo Panpipes

by Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild Google
This deceptively simple instrument is played by blowing across the open ends of the pipes.

This deceptively simple instrument is played by blowing across the open ends of the pipes.

Jupiterimages/ Images

Panpipes can be made of almost any material that is easy to hollow out, or is naturally tubed shape -- including PVC or soda straws. Bamboo, thanks to its pithy center, is a natural choice for making panpipes. The bamboo needs to be fully mature and seasoned before cutting it into lengths for the pipes. The lengths are cut from in between the joints, then coated with wax to seal one end and protect the bamboo from moisture.

Items you will need

  • Bamboo
  • Craft knife
  • Saw
  • Sharpened metal stick
  • Sand paper
  • Wax
  • Kettle
  • Electronic tuner
  • Wood holder
  • Large needle
  • Twine
Step 1

Select lengths of dry, mature bamboo. Inside diameters may vary, but 5/8 inch is a good size. Use a craft knife to strip away any surface detritus. Cut the joints off either end of the lengths. Use a stick or piece of metal slightly smaller than the bamboo's interior diameter to gently drill out the pith.

Step 2

Cut the lengths to within 1/2 inch of the recommended length for each note. Lengths for a five-pipe set could be as follows: "C" at 6 1/16 inches, "D" at 5 3/8 inches, "E" at 4 3/4 inches, "G" at 3 15/16 inches and "A" at 3 7/16.

Step 3

Sand the bottom end of each tube until it is rounded. Put the wax in the kettle and melt it. Place the sanded end of the bamboo in the melted wax. After the end is plugged, drizzle a little of the wax into the tube, and swirl it around on the inside to coat it and create a moisture seal on the inside of the tube.

Step 4

Sand the mouth-piece end of the tube until the outer edge is smooth, but leave a sharp edge on the inside rim. Swirl some wax over this end as well.

Step 5

Check the tone of each pipe by blowing across it as if you were blowing across a pop bottle opening. Fine tune it using an electronic tuner that will place an indicator light at the closest note. When you are satisfied with the tone of each tube, place the tubes in order on a holder such as a notched board to hold them in place while you fasten them together.

Step 6

Thread a large needle with heavy twine. Weave it in and out around the pipes. Pull the string until it holds the pipes firmly, but not so tightly that it will crack the bamboo. Seal the knot with a drop of wax or glue.

Tips & Warnings

  • The notes you use for your pipe will depend upon the key in which you wish to play. You can find more about that in piano theory books that talk about chords.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images