Building a PVC Pipe Instrument

full-instrument

As with several other projects, my cousin Jackson – a musician – came over with the goal of producing an instrument – this time out of PVC pipe.  As with our other experiments, we had a vague plan as to how to make what we wanted, but changes were made on the fly.  More explanation to follow, but here’s the results of this “percussive pipe organ.”

That’s Jackson trying it out on the first day with sandals. With some practice, I’m sure he’ll be able to make some really cool tunes. Be sure to check out the time-lapse video of the build after the “read more,” as quite a bit more detail on the build.

So there it is in just a few minutes. I cut out more than that where we were just talking about how we should build it.  It’s probably entertaining for us, but with that the video was around 8:00.  Knowing my Youtube habits, it’s hard to believe many people would watch that. 3:30 or whatever is probably pushing it anyway.

As for materials, the frame is built out of 2×6 pieces of lumber, and the clamping section is two 2x4s.  These are held together by 3 3/8 inch carriage bolts.  The original plan is seen below, but as you can probably tell, a few things have changed.

original-plan

Striker

We first tried bare hands to play this instrument, but after some experimentation found that a pair of sandals worked quite well!  I finally made a few strikers using a piece of 1/4 inch plywood and some rubber pieces that I had lying around.  Ping Pong paddles seem like they would also work well, but I didn’t have any at the time.

building strikers-600PX

Further Experimentation

Although this instrument sounds pretty good now (my playing has gotten better), I can’t help but think that the tightened 2x4s that keep the pipe stationary might be changing the acoustics.  Maybe for the next version (if there is one), I can instead use a few pieces of cut coupling to hold it up, with another 2×6 with holes in it in the middle.  If nothing else, the design would be simplified.

Finally, if anyone wonders whether this is a fun instrument to play, check out this picture of my father-in-law and I drumming out a duet!

pipe-duet-600px

Fun for the whole family!

As for our other musical collaborations, be sure to check out our “Hank Drum,” or even the single-string whamola bass-guitarish instrument that we built!

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11 Comments.

  1. Oh this is too awesome… I’ve been on a real DIY musical kick after Moogfest… have you done any recordings with it yet? We should mix something up crazy together :)

    • Thanks! Yeah, I wish I’d gone to Moogfest. Maybe I can enter something next year!

      We’ve done a few recordings, according to Jackson he’s getting pretty good with it. Feel free to pirate the music off the videos if you want to experiment!

  2. PVC Percussion Pipe Organ Sounds Surprisingly Good! - pingback on May 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm
  3. Ahh reminds me of the Blueman Group :P

    very very nice :)

  4. Great project! How did you “tune” the lengths of pipe- did you know lengths / pitch in advance, or did you cut/tune by trial and error?

    • Thanks!

      Mostly we just guessed at it to begin with. Jackson has a good enough ear that he would tell me to take off a bit more here and there, and swap some of the smaller tubes until we had it right. I think we got pretty lucky on some of the lengths too, so that helped.

  5. Musical question.. Do you know the pitches or scale that the instrument is tuned to? It’s got a haunting feel to it.

    • Hi John, Thanks for reading!

      According to Jackson, it’s an octave and a half arpeggio. Low note G. Once tuned, Jackson sees it becoming a minor scale with an extra root note – G, A, B flat, C, D, F, G.

  6. More Awesome PVC Music | JcoPro.net - pingback on June 5, 2014 at 9:47 pm

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