flutes have to have a long history. They are so simple and logical
in concept that many primitive people with very few tools have conceived
the idea and built them from natural materials for thousands of
years. Straight forward and linear, one can learn to play in a
very short time. However like anything musical instruments
there are degrees of playing. Just 'playing', and 'playing well',
are two different things. To play, meant to me that you
can make music on it and it sounds good. Others can play along
with you and it sounds good. You may even have listeners that
think you are great. This i what i call 'playing'.
This leads to 'playing well'. Somebody who can 'play well'
can bring tears to your eyes with the beauty of the music and the tones
they are able to coax from the instrument. People like Zamfir
have mastered this art, and the natives of Andes mountains seem to have
a soul for it. I just 'play'. i do not presume to
think i 'play well' because it takes years not months to do that, but
mostly because i do not impress myself yet. Unless i can impress
myself with something, then i do not consider my self very good at it,
what ever it may be. I have no idea if what i am doing
is correct or not proper method because just like everything else i
know, i taught myself. With nothing to draw upon, it is difficult
to know any more than what you experience yourself in the process of
discovery. These steps do produce a very pretty sounding
instrument. And it is relatively simple for anybody with just
a little ability and very few tools, to make these things. They
are portable and you can bring your music any where you go.
|All the pan pipes start
out here. You need bamboo. The stuff i use is around
5/8" inside diameter. Some is a bit larger and some is a
bit smaller but 5/8" inside diameter seems to work best.
From what you see on the left above to what you see at right above only
takes a couple days of relaxed labor to produce. Do not
use "green" bamboo. The bamboo should be dry and completely matured.
If you can find bamboo with long sections then this is better for making
music. The longer the tube the lower the pitch. In
the photo above "D" is the lowest tone for this set of pipes.
I lucked out with this one because i found one section long enough that
i did not have to have a nodal restriction (and possible divergence
from straight) and have to make the tube from two sections; cleaning
out the node between the sections. The node is the little wall
between the bamboo sections and the nodal restriction is the narrowing
of the inside diameter at these areas. When we must use
a tube made from more than one section, then i use a long drill to open
the passage and a special tool i made to scrape out the constriction
to a straight through diameter.
|Notice the angle
face and the sharp edge of the leading edge above left picture of
the scrapper end. The scrapper is nothing more than a
3/8" diameter steel rod with one end sharpened to scrape out the inner
walls of the bamboo nodal areas. Above right shows how
the pressure is applied so as to bring the sharp edge of the scrapper
over the inner node while rotating. I continue this scrapping
until the area in the node is the same size as the diameter in the
rest of the tube. Some times i wrap sand paper or emery
cloth around a wooden dowel and use it in a power drill to sand out
this area as well. When we have all this done we end up
with something like the lower right. A bunch of raw material.
| The ends of the bamboo
will be sawed just short of the node, as shown in the photo at lower
left. Getting rid of the excess material
and making a nice rounded end for the bottom of the tube is done by
sanding. I just do it by hand on a belt sander as shown
below right. Then i stack all these rounded off sections
in the holder above for sizing. I sort them by diameters,
not lengths because i will saw them to the lengths i need later on,
after the ends are sealed off with the paraffin. The larger diameters
will be used for the lower toned pipes and the smaller diameter tubes
will be used for the shorter, higher pitched pipes. The
next step is to seal off the soft, thin and porous nodal ends.
the ends are rounded over as shown above i immerse them in hot paraffin.
Notice how the bamboo actually boils, like something dropped in hot
fat. This is the moisture being boiled out of the bamboo,
as the water leaves, the paraffin takes it's place. I actually
suck on the open end like a straw to create a low pressure in side the
tube, causing the hot wax to ooze through and seal the bottom of the
tube air tight and water proof. I do this to all the tubes
before cutting them to the rough lengths needed to produce the tones
they are intended to play. Immediately after sealing the
end of the tube this way, i wipe off the excess wax and then pour a
bunch into the open end so as to coat the entire inside of the tube
with paraffin. I pour about an inch or two into the tube
and start rotating it while slowly tipping it over the paraffin pot.
As i turn the tube the hot wax sloshes around the inside and soaks in.
As i tip the tube while rotating the wax makes it's way to the open
end and pours back into the pot. When it arrives there i know
i have coated the entire tube. And i wipe off the excess again
and wipe the entire tube down to clean any remaining wax away.
i need tools, i make them. Here is a saw jig i made to cut
up the tubes for the pan flutes. Notice on the right hand
picture, the graduations on the jigs Vee are letters instead of numbers?
These letters correspond to the notes that a tube that length will produce.
The jig has a cross member, making it look like a big cross or something
to fight vampires with. This cross piece slides smoothly
in the groove in my table saw. (below left)
All i need to do is drop a piece of sealed-end bamboo in the Vee, align
the sealed end width the letter that represents the tone i want, and
just push it into the saw as shown lower right. Bingo, i
get a tube cut to produce the tone i need. I usually leave them
about 1/4 " long or more so i can do the "fine adjustment" with a sander.
From here on out, the length of the tube will depend on my electronic
tuner and i do not want it to be too short. It is hard to make
a tube longer. I can always cut off a bit, but hard to cut 'on'
Since you probably don't
have a nice little saw jig like mine, i have developed a table of information
on how long to cut your tubes by measuring off the lengths.
You may find this table helpful for determining
tube lengths regardless of tube diameter. The difference in
pitch due to tube diameter is slight.
Finishing the pan flute