Tubulum FAQ

I have gotten lots of questions from people who want to build their own tubulums or PVC instruments and I’m sick and tired of having to answer you all individually! D:< (jk)Β  so I have created this FAQ to give you easy access to my best possible and most detailed answers to your most common questions!

Of course, if you don’t see your question answered here, leave a comment below (read the comments too, they’re interesting) or send me a message on my facebook or YouTube and I will get right back to you!

I absolutely support and encourage you building your own tubular percussion instruments! If and when you finish your PVC project, send me links because I want to see them! πŸ˜€

1. How do you make your tubulum heads/reeds?

First, just a matter of naming, I call them heads. This is because, although they do kind of look like organ reeds, they actually function more like drum heads because they are struck directly to agitate the air inside the open tube. What you call them is up to you, but I’ll call them heads from here on.

My heads are made from a solid piece of PVC pipe, mitered at an angle on one end, with a foam-duct tape sandwich acting as the striking surface. As far as the exact angle of the cut is concerned, I chose a measurement and just rolled with it. For your project, depending on how tall it is going to be, how tall you are, etc. I would encourage you to experiment with different angles of miter to see what works best for you! How does that work? We’ll get to that in a moment.

To build a head, you first need a means of cutting them at your predetermined angle. If you have a chop saw that can clear your pipe, congratulations! If you don’t (which I didn’t) you will need to build a custom miter box to accommodate your pipe and cut at the angle you need. Miter boxes can be made out of plywood, and there are plenty of tutorials online on how to make them from scratch! Find one, follow the directions, and voila! Miter box! The one difference between most boxes and the one you will build though, is that while they will have standard 90 and 45 degree angles, yours will have your custom angle, going straight through the center, so everything remains aligned. The objective is to be able to place your head halfway into the box, and cut your angle so that it goes through the very middle of your pipe, as will be explained in a bit.

Once you have your miter box complete, you can start cutting heads.

*CAUTION Any PVC cutting should be done in a well-ventilated area using proper eye and breathing protection. If you are a minor, always have parental supervision while cutting. Most importantly, do not cut your fingers off. Can’t say I didn’t warn you.*

There are two things to keep in mind while cutting your angle. First, only cut halfway through the diameter of the pipe; with the playing surface covered (the angled part) there should be a perfect semicircle of open pipe. This is needed to achieve a decent sound. Second, make sure the pipe does not move while you are cutting. If it does, the head will not be level and it will be more difficult to seat the duct tape.

Finally, seating the duct tape. My heads are made with two layers of duct tape (white on the outside, for style) with a layer of floor underlay material between them. You can use any thin, closed cell foam material you can find. Make the outer layer of duct tape long enough to wrap around the head, and the inner layer long enough to hold the foam, but short enough that it won’t get in the way of the adhesion of the tape to the head.

And you have built your very own tubulum head! Congratulations!

The duct tape and foam head is a relatively inexpensive solution, though it is possible to use just about any airtight, elastic material to cover the playing surface. The best materials will be soft, but rigid enough to efficiently transfer energy from your drumstick into the tube.

2. What diameter pipe do you use?

My tubulum is made with 4-inch diameter drainage grade PVC. Theoretically, a thicker pipe will preserve the pressure wave more efficiently, but any form of tube works for a tubular percussion instrument.

It is possible to make part (or most) of your tubulum out of flexible 4″ PVC. I haven’t tried, personally, and I’m not sure what the differences are in sound produced. It has however been done successfully before and is a viable alternative! The only advice I can give you is to make sure you don’t buy the perforated variety! πŸ˜‰

*Also, to the best of my knowledge, having more or fewer bends in your pipe will not affect the sound in any way.

3. How much did that thing cost to build?

I have no idea. Really, I don’t.

The best estimate I can give you is based on the most expensive part; the PVC. Specifically the elbows. So if you would like to know approximately how much the majority of a Monster Tubulum cost to build, go to your local hardware store and price out 82 45Β° elbows, 35 90Β° elbows and 8-10 lengths of PVC.

The best ways to lower that cost would be to use flexible PVC, use fewer elbows, or plan to build fewer notes (or higher notes). It all depends on what kind of monster you want to build!

4. Where did you get your plans?

TL;DR: I made them.

I did search for information on how to build a tubulum, and there are were at that time a few DIY tubulum instructions out there, but beyond the general concept, I didn’t end up using any large part of them. It wasn’t the easiest way to do it, but the entire design is basically a collection of solutions to potential problems, and figuring out what the dimensions needed to be.

One of the things I encountered during the design was the mystery of how long it was going to be. I actually didn’t know how much space the tangle of tubes would take up. So I left that measurement out until the end, disassembled everything, cut it to size, added wheels and the final deck, and reassembled.

Another design difficulty was the exact routing of the tubes. I had very little concept of what it was going to look like before I started building. The process of routing the tubes alone took months. If you are planning on building a tubulum using hard elbows and want to route them in an enclosed space, the only way I have found so far to plan ahead is to map them in a 3D design program. But, if you (like me) aren’t a computer aided design wiz, then it will be pretty hard.

My best advice on building an instrument is to first take into account your most important measurements, such as the height at which you want to play it, what the dimensions of your playing surface will be, and (possibly most importantly) how you will fit it through a door if you need to. Next is your choice of materials. Wood is accessible to me, but if there is another material that would work (and if you are or know a welder) go for it!


5. What is going on with your note layout?!

It is a little weird, isn’t it?

The way the pipes are set up doesn’t really lend itself to any conventional note setup. Also, it is greatly affected by the way the instrument is played.

So, taking this into consideration, I created a layout that allowed me to play the things I knew how to play at the time most effectively. This also happened to be the same way the note layouts on the first BMG PVC instruments were determined.

If nothing else, it’s unconventional, and I encourage yours to be unconventional as well!

P.S. … Unless you know music theory. As I have learned more about music, the more this layout just feels weird. So if you are familiar with music, take that into consideration. If not, just have fun with it! πŸ™‚

6. How is it tuned?

The tubulum acts on the property of a hollow cylinder of a given diameter that is open at both ends producing a wavelength as described by an equation I didn’t really understand in a physics class I took several years ago. Actually, I kind of wish that article existed back then; that makes so much sense now…

I’ll see if I can explain it here:

The formula goes like this: f=nv/2l

f is the frequency you want to get (frequencies of musical notes), n is the node you are calculating for (which will always be 1 in this case), v is the speed of sound in meters per second (about 343.2), and lΒ is the length of the tube (in meters!).

So, to write it out, it looks like this: Frequency = the speed of sound / 2(length).

For our purposes, we need to solve for length (l), so we rearrange the formula like this:

l = v/2f (we can drop the n because it will always be 1 anyway)

So now all you need to do is drop in your values for v and f, and you have a formula that gives you a more or less accurate length! (hope this helps!)

You can use that formula to more or less determine how long your tube needs to be to achieve a given note. The catch, however, is that it is very difficult to calculate the incorporation of elbows into this formula. I tried. There were spreadsheets. … So many spreadsheets. Essentially, you can use that formula to get close, but the more elbows you plan on having in your instrument, the less useful it will be.

The method I used, and the method I would recommend is to buy one or two sacrificial lengths of PVC to act as a “test tube.” Using that, and a tuner, you can begin to get a basic idea of what length produces which note at your elevation and air temperature. This also gives you an opportunity to work out your head design!

The tuning of a PVC pipe is mostly like the tuning of an organ pipe, or a flute, or a trombone, or a garden hose (yes, I have seen someone play a garden hose). Basically, the longer it gets as an uninterrupted more-or-less hollow cylinder, the lower the note will be. In my experience, the longer it gets, the more the length needs to change in order to move the frequency a whole tone!

7. What happens when you blow air into it?

This. … It’s not incredibly effective, at least in its current configuration.


8. Have you tried playing with mallets?



As you would expect, mallets soften the attack of the note, but as I demonstrate in the last phrase of the video, they aren’t very good for playing quickly πŸ˜›

You are now a tubulum expert.

If you have any other questions, just leave a comment below, or send me a message through my facebook or YouTube page!

P.S. read through the comments for answers to things by people, some of whom are me!

P.P.S. Also, if you build a tubular percussion instrument, send me links! I want to see them! πŸ™‚

61 Responses to Tubulum FAQ

  1. Robert says:

    Jerry, It started with PVC didgeridoo with my Grandson, then wound up on your fine (and fun) YouTubes. Thanks for the Vids, and for this page summary. History? How old were you then? and now? Where has your curiosity taken you lately?

    • I’m glad you enjoyed them! This project was completed in 2009, when I was in grade 12. Lately I’ve been a university student, and I have another interesting and challenging PVC project in the works. I hope to announce it officially before the year is out, barring technical difficulties, so be sure to stick around! πŸ™‚ This time around I’ll be posting regular updates on the build process as it happens.

  2. I have a plan set up, but, the cost! Mine will have 96 elbows, and around 960 square inches of floor underlay. the rest is undetermined.

  3. Simon says:

    Hi Jerry!
    First let me congratulate you for your good work and great videos!
    But I also have a question, or two:
    I started to experiment with different kinds of tubes and ellbows but with the ellbows, especially with the 90Β° pieces, thereΒ΄s the problem that the cylindrical character of the tube is gone and the tone isnΒ΄t going lower and sounds like cr….
    Could you send me a link to a page were I can buy the materials you have used?
    I tried the standard ellbows from our local hardware store and they didnΒ΄t work.
    I found cylindrical bows, but only in special stores for swimmingpool equipment and stuff like that.
    They would work but the costs are more than the six-folds!!

    Maybe you can help me!

    Best greetings from Flensburg ( North-Germany) and keep on rocking !


    • Haha, thanks! more to come soon, I hope! πŸ™‚
      I'm not really sure what kind of elbows you're talking about, here. The ones I used were standard 4" drainage PVC elbows, which all have smooth curves… As far as I know, that's standard, at least in Canada.
      As long as the seal is tight and it isn't a really sharp angle, I don’t know what would cause it to decrease the quality. But I’m not sure what kind of an elbow it is, so that could be the case.
      I got everything at my local hardware store, so I’m not really sure what kinds of places ship it out, sorry… If it’s the standard type in Germany, I think it would take a bit of research to find out where the closest supplier of different elbows is.

      If you haven’t already, I’d suggest getting in touch with the founders of bmgfans.com They’ve made their own PVC instruments, and I think they are based in the Netherlands, so at least they’re a lot closer! They might be able to help you find the right elbows!
      If you really can’t find any elbows, an alternative (I haven’t tried this) might be to use corrugated (flexible) PVC for most of the tube, or even just for the parts you need to curve!

      Thanks again, and I hope your project goes well!

  4. Zack says:

    I’m curious as to what method you used for securing the pipes into the apparatus? Did you install slots fitted for each one to prevent them from moving around and sliding, or do they generally stay put without security? The plans I drew up would require binding them with ropes or strips of fabric, but that would detract from the piece aesthetically.
    Thank you,
    Zack S.

    • To secure the “primary tubes” I wrapped two strips of the same foam material I used in the heads around each pipe, at the points at which they contact the frame. The idea was to create a snug pressure-fit. Over time though, the tubes settled and started to get somewhat less stable. If you build your frame to fit the pipes snugly enough, I think you could even get away with having nothing between them!

      This depends, of course, on how many notes you plan on building. If it’s an arrangement that fits into vertical columns as opposed to the honeycomb design seen on mine, you will likely need to drill out some particle board or plywood to fit between them and make sure they don’t move around!

      Thanks for the question, and good luck on your build!

  5. TongHyun says:

    hello, Jerry
    first of all, your project was awesome and i was really inspired by your video. so i am trying to build this one but i wonder if i can get the dimensions you used, i meant the length of pipes, cuz i am going to build one for my science project and i dont have too much time to try and test each notes… i will do that later, but it would be very helpful if you can provide me the length for the notes of 2nd octave. also, would using an elbow make the key or note of the pipe higher? i was looking at the equation on wikipedia, but kinda do not understand the n which should be node in this case.

    thank you again,
    Tong H.

    • Hey,

      Unfortunately, I don’t know what the lengths are. Because I used so many elbows, I basically had to build until it got to the right frequency. As I said, a good way to approximate how long your pipes will need to be is to go through the process of cutting down a “test tube” and using a tuner to determine at which lengths you get the right frequency. It varies depending on altitude and temperature, so results will be different in different cases.

      Using elbows will not alter the frequency, other than adding a length equivalent to that of the elbow. However, determining how much length you add per elbow was something I never actually figured out. Anyway, I recommend the test tube method to give you a rough estimate, and try to compensate for however many elbows you intend to include.

      Good luck with your build!


  6. bitguru says:

    “property of a hollow cylinder of a given diameter that is open at both ends”

    But it’s not open on both ends. The head-end is sealed, right? If it were open on both ends it would sound an octave higher.

    On the wikipedia page you link to, the image for sound waves in a half-closed cylinder is misleading. The placement of the loudspeaker icons is wrong. The waves drawn in red are essentially correct if you presume that the bottom end of the tube is struck (or, if it were a clarinet, blown) and that the top end of the tube is open to the air. (The end that’s open to the air will not have a pressure differential with the outside air, so the red line will coincide with the dotted line on the open end.)

    I can’t help but think the notes of your tubulum might ring out more if you used a material stiffer (but still able to vibrate) than foam tape, but I’m not sure what to suggest. How does it sound if you use a hard rubber mallet instead a drumstick?

    • Actually, it is open at both ends! Check out the part about head construction; half the diameter is intentionally left open in order to allow for sufficient airflow. The head is just there to create the pressure wave, without covering the entire end. This is done because in order to release enough energy into a closed-off cylinder to create a very good sound, you would need a much more efficient means of transfer than a drumstick.

      I really can’t speak to the ongoing accuracy of the Wikipedia article, but last I checked the applicable formula was reliable… And as I mentioned, it does in fact behave as a tube that is open on both ends. The article deals with resonances I believe, but you are right in noting that a column of air will go to its primary resonance when struck, so it has proved useful.

      A lot of people have wisely suggested the use of mallets. The sound is similar, but mallets have the disadvantage of being somewhat bulkier and harder to maneuver on the unforgivingly small sweet-spot of the playing surface. I agree that the sound is a little dead since the head is fairly dense. I tried firmer materials in the testing process, but they wouldn’t deform enough to create a very powerful pressure wave, and it ended up sounding tinny and fairly quiet.

      I think the ideal head material would be a latex or rubber that is elastic and strong enough to stand up to a good beating, while having enough mass to get a good sound wave going. I haven’t found a good one yet, but it’s definitely on my list of things to test.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Parker J says:

        Have you ever tried using a ballon as the head material? If you cut it then stretch it over to were it stays.

      • kraken says:

        Instead of a balloon, maybe theraband could do? It’s a kind of thick latex band (5″ or 6″ wide) sold by lengths or by rolls, used for training and exercising. They’re also used by slingshot builders (the “gold” strength, that is). Many strengths are sold. You could stretch it tight on the head’s opening, maybe keeping it in place with a slightly larger “ring” that would slip in a tight fit over the pipe and rubber. Available on fleebay for relatively cheap prices.

      • Sounds like a good idea! I’d have to figure out how to keep it attached, though… It’s an odd shape to hold, but if all else fails, duct tape! πŸ˜›
        The other thing to figure out is how to add a bit of mass to the rubber; in order to get enough volume, the material needs to be able to push a lot of air all at once, which requires just enough rigidity. The thing about elastic type rubbers is that they tend to be so good at deforming that they absorb a lot of the energy.
        Definitely something worth looking into, though!

  7. bitguru says:

    [Actually, maybe I’m wrong about the half-open thing. There’s nothing to keep the pressure up (like air from a clarinet player or an organ bellows) at the closed end. Obviously the pressure is high when you strike the head, deforming it into tube, but as the head bounces back the pressure will head the other way. So perhaps it does act as open-on-both-ends cylinder.]

    • Yeah, that’s just the kind of thing I found hard to wrap my head around when I first learned about resonances. Fact is, when you increase the pressure in a tube, air actually escapes through both ends, then since that creates a lower relative pressure inside the tube, air rushes back in, both ends. On a very small scale of course, since we’re dealing with small amounts of energy. If you ever get to see some good slow motion footage of a cannon firing, you can see the same kind of effect in a very dramatic way. πŸ˜‰

  8. bitguru says:

    I thought I read your description carefully but I somehow missed “there should be a semicircle of open pipe.” (I did read “only cut halfway through” but incorrectly presumed that was to reverse it in the mitre to cut from the other end. My bad.)

    But let’s say you stretched something like a snare drum head over the head-end of the pipe in an airtight manner. This would make a half-closed cylinder in the sense of airflow but, per my second comment, I don’t think it would behave as one acoustically.

    I think for that you would have to seal one end of the tube off with something rigid (perhaps a PVC end-cap from the hardware store) and then excite the air column some other way. Perhaps striking the side of the tube (probably best at a spot closer to the open end than the closed one) with a hammer or something. Or the tube wall might be too rigid for that to work.

  9. Is it possible to send me the dimensions of your work, becuase I intend to build and finsh it in a weeks time for a project that is very important.

    • I actually don’t have dimensions for it… The best advice I can give you is to go with what works!
      Good luck on your build though, and if you run into any problems along the way I’d be happy to help you out! I’d love to see the finished project!


  10. nick says:

    do you have a way of recording and could do a session for me ?
    re playing the parts of a tune i am producing and sending the files back via web


    • Sorry, I don’t have any time right now. After I get some of my upcoming videos recorded, then I might have time for some collaboration, but I can make no guarantee. And the timeline for that continues to get pushed back. Thanks for your interest, though!

  11. Phil says:

    Do the pipes need to actually be bent? I realize that this would create a fairly large apparatus if it were all straight pipes, but it would cut down on costs, and allow for accurate measurements. I’m thinking about building one of these myself, using 4 inch pipes like yours. If you could give a rough estimate, what would be the length difference between solid notes?

    • To my knowledge, the extent to which the tube is bent does not affect the pitch or timbre. It is, however, great for size constraints. I found that the length between full tones increases as the frequency decreases, but there isn’t a standard difference. If you plan on making a straight version, the formula I mentioned in the FAQ should be a fairly good indicator. Thanks for the question!

  12. bitguru says:

    There is indeed a “standard difference.” the lengths won’t differ by a fixed length, but they will differ by a fixed ratio: 1.059463 (apprixmately)

    This value is the 12th root of 2, which means the length doubles by going down 12 semitones, which is just what one should expect for an interval of an octave. See wikipdia’s article on “Twelfth root of two” for (slightly) more information.

    The actual ratio will probably be a bit off from this due to issues with end correction but it should be close. (Search google for “end correction” [with quotes] for links to a couple of pages on the topic.)

  13. Matt says:

    Hi Jerry,

    First off, I have to say I love your videos, your creativity, and especially your hard work and passion for music. I want to build a pipe instrument of my own this summer, but I am torn between building a tubulum and a pipe xylophone (what you see in snubbyj’s videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D2o8F2MOuI&feature=relmfu). Can you provide any insight on which would be easier to learn or which one has a clearer sound? Does the xylophone allow for more songs?

    Let me know what you think and keep posting the awesome videos!


    • I’m glad you like the videos! I have a ton more on the way! πŸ™‚

      The snubbyj PVC instrument design is beneficial for a couple of reasons:
      1) The paddle playing design allows it to reach higher notes without distorting the sound. Tubulums can only go so high, but PVC instruments can span most of the range of a standard keyboard.
      2) PVC instruments can more easily be arranged into a standard keyboard arrangement, which a lot of people find is easier to play than the note configurations of tubulums.

      However, there are also some drawbacks to the PVC instrument design:
      1) Since the standard keyboard layout is quite linear, they tend to become fairly long, which might present a bit of difficulty if you want to play it on your own.
      2) In my experience, at least, it is easier to build tubulum heads and play them with drumsticks than it is to build paddles, but there are some good paddle designs out there, and if you can find the right materials, making paddles and playing with them shouldn’t be too difficult.

      I’ve also found some distinct benefits of the tubulum design:
      1) You get to take more liberties with your note arrangement. The PVC instrument gives you two or so rows of tubes, but you can really add as few or as many rows and columns as you need, and be as creative as you want with the note arrangement
      2) I have found that it’s easier to play with drumsticks as opposed to paddles, but I’m a drummer so maybe I’m just used to it πŸ˜›
      3) I might be a bit biased, but I think it gives a better punch on the lower notes… Don’t trust my judgement on that one, though πŸ™‚

      In general, I think the PVC instrument design would be easier to learn if you are familiar with a standard keyboard layout. However, if you are more of a drummer than a pianist, the tubulum might be for you. Since the PVC instrument design gives you a greater range and a full note arrangement, you would be able to play more things on it (if you design it that way).

      So there are the pros and cons, as far as I see it πŸ™‚ Whichever you build, I guarantee you will have fun building and playing it! I might build something more like a PVC instrument this summer… We’ll see how that goes.

      Thanks for the comment, and good luck on your build!!

  14. Hi,

    on your second row I see “F#1/F1” on the same spot? how does that work? does that mean you have chosen one of them? Have you tought about a way to have them both?

    • That was the first note I knew I would have to sometimes augment with my “F-extender,” a specific length of pipe I attach to the end. Since then I’ve augmented a few of the other notes to play specific things. It provides some flexibility, and a few “alternate tunings.” The only way to have them both would be to either build one with another pipe, or substitute one of the other notes. A lot of thought went into this note layout, as crazy as it looks! If you’re looking to build your own, I would suggest putting a lot of time into figuring out how you are going to play it, which notes you really need, and how you want to arrange them.

      Thanks for the question!

  15. Robert says:

    How do you make that each pipe has its own note. I mean how do you make them an “A “or a “D”. Is it the length of the pipes?

  16. Parker J says:

    I know that you don’t know the measurments but could you give me an estimate of the longest tube.

    • Thanks for the question! I can’t exactly measure the note directly, since it goes all the way through the center of the instrument, but the equation can give us a very good estimate.
      To get length, it looks like this: length=speed of sound/(2*frequency)
      Since the lowest note is D#1 and the speed of sound is about 343.2m/s^2, the equation becomes this: 343.2/(2*38.89) which means it is approximately 4.41 meters long!
      I have found this equation quite useful for estimating how long pipes will be on my next project (coming soon; check my facebook page for details!)

      • Parker J says:

        Thanks. I was trying to figure out how much pipe to get for a “test tube” to build my own. You must have a lot of patience also.

  17. Kelly says:

    I just want to add that the thing is BEAUTIFUL! I found your YouTube video looking for sources to help me build a marimba that would survive living outdoors in our Canadian winters and stopped dead in my tacks when I saw your “intestinal/grey matter/spaghetti-mess” looking musical sculpture. Thanks for sharing this with the world!

    • Thanks! I found that in trying to make it as efficiently packed as possible, it ended up looking quite flowing and organic, which I’m glad people can appreciate!
      PVC instruments generally stand up well to weather (though I tend to keep mine inside for the Canadian winter;) especially when they’re single-piece tubes, or the tubes are bonded. One thing you should know though, is that it might de-tune over time due to expansion and contraction, or if you are planning on playing it in highly differing temperature conditions, but that would be the case with just about any outdoor instrument.

      For best outdoor performance, I would recommend a PVC instrument over a tubulum, since they are played with paddles, whereas tubulum heads might be damaged in bad weather.

      If you do end up going with a PVC instrument of any sort, be sure to send me videos!! Good luck! πŸ™‚

  18. Parker J says:

    You have to try out for America’s got talent next season!!!!!

  19. En Drofiak says:

    Just wanted to say what an inspiration your blog and music is. I’ve been obsessed with unusual musical instruments my whole life, and it’s just terrific to see there are other madly enthusiastic people around – and making cracking music!

    Greetings from Europe,

  20. Mitch says:

    Are the tubes glued together? That would make it more stable but not allow for much trial and error in assembling it.

    • All of the tubes on the Monster Tubulum are held together with nothing but friction and gravity! In a couple of my videos you can actually spot the more critically strained parts of it falling off πŸ˜› But, someday, at the end of its life, I might either glue the pipes together, or turn them back into regular old PVC components. Returned to nature as it were πŸ˜‰

  21. Jerome M. says:

    Hi Jer, (sorry my boyfriend always calls me Jer and it stuck.)

    A few questions, My director says if I successfully make one of these he’ll let me march with it in the drum corps. So I really want one now. First question, to make it march-able, I was planing on using some sort of snare or quad harness. With a few adjustments I think it’ll work. Another idea for me was that I was going to make the tubes into a harness, (use smaller tubes bend them around shoulders.) To make it more march-able I was also planning on using 1 inch or 1.5 inch. (also making it more affordable.)

    Thanks for helping. I cant wait for you to respond and help me.

    Jerome (btw im not black XD Everyone thinks I am.)

    Contact me @ kovo123@gmail.com

    • That’s alright. I had “Jer bear” going for a while. Not by choice πŸ˜›

      I’m actually in the process of making a portable instrument right now! You can check out the progress on my Facebook page!

      If you have access to such a harness, I would recommend trying it out! Since I couldn’t find any, I’m using the frame from an old outside-frame backpack. Two things you need to keep in mind though, are how you will support the playing surface, and how you will support the tubes. Be sure not to make it too front heavy, or it could cause some back strain
      I actually tried incorporating the playing tubes into the frame, but in my experience, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. One thing you need to keep in mind is the lengths of your tubes (see the link to the equation above). In order to make the tubes into a harness, you would be dealing with pretty low notes, which would make the whole thing a lot heavier. So just keep in mind the range you want it to be.

      As far as diameter goes, the larger the pipe is, the louder it will be. For a marching instrument, I wouldn’t recommend going any smaller than 2″ or else the lower notes will be too quiet.

      Hope that helps! Again, be sure to check out my facebook page (facebook.com/thejerrymobile) for some progress shots of my own instrument (it’s not finished yet) and let me know if you have any other questions!

      • Jerome M. says:

        Thanks! (I had jerbear too XD I’ve also had JerJer)

        I found the backpack tubulum and it seems fairly easy. I found an old backpack with a conviently placed laptop pocket sewed into the frame.

  22. Jerome M. says:

    Hey Scratch that last post I gave you. A few years ago (my boyfriend reminded me of this) we went to a blue man group concert and he mentioned a few minutes ago one of them having one built on a back pack.

    • This is true. But (spoiler to follow) the lengths of their tubes aren’t exactly… Representative of what an acoustic PVC instrument would be. So watch out for that; an acoustic instrument will need a slightly different design scheme.

  23. DoccieDraaiorgel says:

    Is it possible to close off one end of the pipe to get an octave higher, but still keep the same … “loudness”?

    • Yes, this works quite well to get an octave lower while saving space and I have plans to work on a closed tube instrument (if I ever finish the one I’m currently working on).
      Two things though:
      First, I haven’t tried this out with a tubulum design, only a PVC instrument design (2″ pipes, struck with paddles, not drumsticks)
      Also, while it is an effective technique to get lower octaves in a smaller space, the formant (character of the tone) is much different from the sound an open tube makes, and I have not yet experimented with playing closed and open instruments together, so I can give no guarantees as to how it might sound! πŸ˜›

  24. DoccieDraaiorgel says:

    Scrap that octave higher, I meant lower. Sorry.

  25. pradyumna says:

    Hi I am a Production sound recordist and a Indian percussionist. i have enjoyed reading through each and every part of this page and of course your videos, but one thing i am wondering about is, how do you mic them? if you could reply me on my Email or just notify me on my email when you comment here it would be great.

    • In my past recordings I have used a stereo pair of microphones directly over the playing surfaces, which works quite well. It works because the sound resonates from both ends of the tube. The one drawback to this is that it over-represents the “slap” of the stick hitting the playing surface, which is easy to compensate by using a low-pass filter in production. I’ve recently started working with a portable stereo recorder which should work in that same position, if I can position it there without it falling over! πŸ˜›

  26. DoccieDraaiorgel says:

    Do you think that in the Netherlands (We don’t use the inch) they have PVC pipes with 10.16cm diameter?

    • Yes, you should have access to 10cm diameter PVC. Just be sure to measure that width before you start building anything, because regardless of what unit it’s measured in, the actual size is usually a bit different from what it claims to be! πŸ™‚

  27. DoccieDraaiorgel says:

    Hmm …
    What if you closed off the heads, but kept it in the same angle?

  28. Ian Stevens says:

    A suggestion to calculating the length of the tubes (I have neither tried nor intend trying this) obtain 2 tubes, one should fit snugly into the other, not too tight though to allow for easy movement and adjust the length by sliding the inner tube further in or out till the correct note registers, then measure the total length. Slight variations may occur in the construction of the actual tube for the instrument due to elbows etc, but that should be able to be rectified by simple trimming of the end piece.

    Jerry I take my hat off to you for your time and commitment in the construction of this masterpiece. I admire your dedication. When I first saw The Blue man Group on Youtube I was dumbfounded at the quality of music from a few PVC pipes. I watch their videos often, and today I came across your video.
    Besides what I have said above, I am speechless.

    • Thanks, Ian! πŸ™‚

      That does sound like a convenient way to make a test tube to cover a range of frequencies! The only reason I’ve never tried it is that finding two tubes (or making one) to fit snugly over each other doesn’t seem like the easiest thing to do, from what I’ve seen. At that point you would pretty much be building a drumbone too, which is also a cool project if you have at least two friends willing to play it with you!

      Yes, the biggest thing that will throw off your calculations is how many elbows you need to account for in the final tube. Test and re-test though!

  29. Al Kinlaw says:

    Hi Jerry Just an easy yes or no question. I plan to teach some music therapy to nurses (more like
    music fun) but work full time. Any chance you would be interested in makinf one of these for me
    for payment?

    • The short answer is no I can’t, but I would certainly like to help you make one.
      The long answer starts with “not yet.” As much as I would love to make tubular percussion instruments full-time (and I would) the cost of time, materials and shipping would make the final price somewhat frightening. Right now I’m still working on my second instrument, which has been a whole new process of development and learning. It still isn’t complete, but should be soon. That being said, I have considered making a very limited number of tubular percussion instruments for sale, as a trial run. It will still be a while before I am able to start in on that project, but I do intend to make it happen. So keep an eye on my YouTube channel, where I will definitely announce if and when I am able to do something like that!

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