Building PVC pipes instruments

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Building PVC pipes instruments

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BUILDING PVC PIPE INSTRUMENTS BY NICOLAS BRAS

Introduction In this ebook you will find everything I know about making wind instruments with PVC pipes. Theory, acoustics, practical advice, detailed tutorials, numerous blueprints and drawings, construction tips, things I discovered during many hours spent in the workshop experimenting. My goal through this ebook is to give you the keys to then be able to manage any realization or instrument project. I have been working on this book for a year now, and I intend to continue this work. I will update the manuscript, and send notifications. Thank you for your trust, I would be happy to read your feedback!

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Introducing myself I am Nicolas Bras, musician and instrument builder based in Paris, France. I've been building musical instruments with PVC pipe for 15 years now, and I wanted to start by telling you how and why. I started music at the age of 6 with classical guitar, then percussion at 14. With very little investment but some predispositions, I found a real interest in it with the discovery of West African traditional percussion instruments. I made my first instrument at the age of 17, a PVC pipe didgeridoo, sculpted and deformed by heating it with a thermal scraper, with a candle wax mouthpiece, followed by a second with a traffic cone as a bell. I wanted to learn the didgeridoo and had no instrument; I looked for some tutorials, experimented a bit, and started playing the didgeridoo. After a chaotic high school where music and rehearsals took up much more time than lessons and revisions, a science baccalaureate obtained with no glory, I intended to work as a sound engineer and joined University for a very useless year. The following year I missed the entry into another school and I returned to my University classes. For three weeks. I stopped, found some guitar lessons to teach and started learning tablas with a French musician trained in India. After a few months he suggested that I went to Varanasi with him to take lessons with his master. I went and spent a month learning tablas and Indian music with them. Back in Paris, the decision was made: I will make a living from music. Live concerts seemed inaccessible to me, I took a look at teaching, but my level was too low for Conservatory. I discovered the profession of intervening musician, a kind of music teacher for primary school which seemed to correspond well to my profile. I was 20, I started the Intervening Musicians School in Sélestat, Alsace, and the first three weeks were clear: making a hundred instruments each to use during sessions in schools. I set to work, and between noise makers and small percussion instruments I also made my first overtone flutes with PVC pipe. As I was studying Indian tablas and its sung music theory, I instantly adopted the overtone flute and its percussive playing.

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I was amazed by the sound quality of my PVC flutes, and tried to reproduce a bansuri flute brought back from India to answer this question: if I make it the same shape, would I sound the same? I found a pipe with the right dimensions, clumsily drilled the holes, and the result was surprisingly similar to the bamboo instrument. I started to divide my free time between researching documentation on acoustics, organology, musical instruments and the way they produce sounds, and experimenting in the workshop with all the materials that I could find. I finished my studies with a diploma and around fifty musical instrument prototypes, many of them made with PVC pipes. After 3 years of interventions, guitar and percussion lessons, and educational workshops about instrument making, I stopped all my current contracts to start my own project, Musiques de Nulle Part (Music From Nowhere). Since then, I’ve been offering musical instrument exhibitions, solo concerts or collaborations, educational workshops, installations, talks, master classes, and continue to build new instruments everytime I can. I collaborate with circus companies, theatre, storytellers, musicians and bands, visual artists, pedagogues, composers. I’ve built a perfect profession for myself. I’ve been invited to places more and more far away, for residences in Morocco, Switzerland, Spain, La Reunion, tours in Ecuador, Brazil, Germany and French Guiana, and creations in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. (By the way, I started the first lines of this book there, on my phone, while waiting four hours for a canoe on the Oyapock riverside.) The Musiques de Nulle Part project is developing. Collaborators are added to the adventure, the exhibition includes 100 pieces illustrated by video demos, and ambitious creative projects are developing – an orchestra of 70 flautists playing on PVC instruments, an installation for robot musicians produced by 150 college students, scenographies for directors, composition, recording of a first album ... The year 2020 should have been a climax: United States, Senegal, Croatia, Kosovo, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Reunion Island, Guyana, Brazil, Madagascar, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, China ... But no. It will be for later. Time to finish this book! 4

Acoustics of holes In this chapter I will bring together all my observations and useful information on the physical and acoustic functioning of holes in aerophones. I will discuss the theory and application to PVC instruments. Don’t hesitate to return regularly to this chapter and then go back to experimenting to observe the concrete effects on your achievements. CAUTION: this chapter contains graphics and physical formulas; despite this I will try to make it accessible to everyone. Allergic to science or traumatized from high school? Stay, it will be okay. We find instruments with finger-holes in all the aerophones families: flutes, single reeds, double reeds, free reeds (rarer, like the bawu or the hulusi), even in brass instruments such as the cornett or the serpent that were made before the invention of the valve. On all tubular instruments, the principle is the same: a hole is used to shorten the vibrating air column to obtain a higher note. Imagine a flute without holes where we would have to cut a piece to play a higher note, then you would stick this same piece again with adhesive tape to return to the previous note, and you will easily understand why we chose to bore holes instead.

Why does a shorter air column give a higher note? Bernoulli's law of pipes explains that to us. We will start with the simplest aerophone, a cylindrical pipe, open at both ends. To put it in vibration, we strike one end by bouncing the palm of the hand or the fingers on it, or we blow on the edge with the mouth a few centimeters away.

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When this sound is produced, a progressive wave is created at the beginning of the pipe: a pressure wave moves along the air column at the speed of sound in air, i.e. 340 meters per second.

When the wave reaches the end of the pipe, it goes out into the air, and simultaneously produces another wave which sets out in the opposite direction at the same speed.

Back at the beginning of the pipe, this wave goes out into the air and another wave starts again for a new cycle.

The duration in seconds of the complete first wave / second wave cycle is also called the period; it’s the time taken by the sound wave to travel twice the length of the pipe. If we draw the sound wave as a graph, we can represent the progression like this:

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The frequency, measured in Hertz, tells us the note of this pipe. That’s what a musician is interested in. Frequency is the number of periods within a second.

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Frequency is the inverse of period, which is noted:

Bernoulli's pipes law, mentioned earlier, links the length of the pipe, the speed of sound in air, called celerity, the duration of the period, and the frequency.

and since frequency is the inverse of period:

This is of course a theoretical formula which, like all theories, doesn’t really apply to reality.

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The instrument that comes closest to this theoretical model is the percutube, or aeropercutophone, a bunch of pipes open at both ends struck with the help of foam rackets, thongs (flip-flops) or simply with the hands.

2 octave Bass Percutubes The best known versions of these instruments are made of PVC, but we find traditional bamboo versions on the Solomon Islands. On these instruments, we can quite literally apply the formula. The other instruments of the ‘open at both ends’ pipes family are tube flutes. Regardless of the type of flute - duct flute, side blown flute, notch flute, end blown flute the pipe end where the sound is produced is partially blocked, so you get a lower note than calculated with the formula, more or less depending on the type of flute.

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For instruments with a pipe closed at one end, the physics and formula are a little different.

The first wave travels the length of the pipe, is reflected off the block and returns to the opening to be able to exit and produce the second wave, which also makes the same journey. 10

For a period, the travel is 4 times the length of the pipe, instead of 2 times for the open pipe.

The period for a blocked pipe lasts twice as long, the frequency obtained for a pipe of the same length is therefore divided by two, so we get a note one octave below. Here again reality is more subtle than theory. In the flute family, the pan flute (pan-pipe) is literally made up of pipes closed at one end, but the position of the musician's mouth, which more or less closes the opening, changes the pitch of the note. Brass instruments are also considered as closed pipes with their mouthpiece. The tubular instruments of the reed family are also closed pipes; moreover the reed dictates its own vibration speed, which makes the whole process even more complex.

OK, but what about the holes? Let’s look at that now. When we drill a hole, the wave no longer goes to the end of the pipe but comes out through the hole; the length is shorter, the period faster, the frequency increases, and so the sound is higher.

But of course, it's not that simple! In reality, the wave does not come out completely and continues a little after the hole, more or less depending on its diameter. A larger hole will allow more of the wave to come out, and give a higher note.

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For the same reasons, the sound coming out of a hole will not have quite the same timbre as the sound coming out of the end of the pipe, which is why we can see some flutes with tuning holes, which are not intended to be closed but are used to adjust the timbre of the instrument.

It is also this phenomenon that explains ‘fork fingering’.

A fork fingering lowers the note of an open hole by closing the following hole or holes.

In the first case, the instrument plays a C#, in the second case a C, the fork fingering lowers the note by a semitone.

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Fork fingering also allows you to obtain certain high notes by more or less complex combinations, the queen of the fork fingering being undoubtedly the baroque recorder.

C

C#

D

D#

E

F

F#

G

G#

A

A#

B

C

Baroque recorder first octave range The influence of a fork fingering on the pitch of the note emitted will depend on the type of instrument, side blown flute, block flute or reed, but also on the diameter of the hole left open. Remember, the wider the hole, the more waves come out, so the fork fingering will have less effect. The diameter of the holes will therefore depend on the type of instrument, the diameter of the instrument, the desired timbre, a rather full or rather closed sound, the need or not to make fork fingerings and alterations. But that's not all.

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The diameter of the holes will also vary for the comfort of the musician. Of course, we can only open the holes within the limits of the fingers, but more than that, the internal diameter of the pipe will allow the holes to be positioned so that the musician can play comfortably. Let me explain.

These two instruments are in tune, but the first one has a hole layout which makes it very difficult to play. A 6 hole flute is normally played with the index, middle and ring fingers of each hand. The problem can be seen with the right hand. Here are the positions needed to close the holes of these flutes, the second position is really better.

Uncomfortable right hand

Ergonomic right hand

The smaller a hole, the lower the note. To get the note you want with a smaller hole, we will have to drill it closer to the mouthpiece. It is by playing with this notion that we can find a comfortable location. Be careful not to make holes that are too small, the instrument will lose its timbre quality, and the second octave will be too low.

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Harmonics For now, we have only been interested in the fundamental register of the instrument, i.e. the lowest notes. But, depending on the instrument, when you increase the speed of the breath, you obtain other higher notes, the harmonics. We'll see how it all works. For this, the parallel with stringed instruments is a good illustration. A string is stretched between two fixed points. Here is its fundamental mode of vibration:

We observe an antinode in the middle of the string (place where the amplitude is the most pronounced), and two vibration nodes at the ends (points where the string does not vibrate). We can touch this string with the tip of the finger in its middle and obtain a note called a natural harmonic; the string will then vibrate in this way:

We then observe two antinodes separated by a new node at the contact point of the finger. The note obtained is an octave higher than the root note of the string. This is the first harmonic. The second harmonic is obtained by touching the string at a third of the length; we then obtain 3 antinodes and a note which is the twelfth of the fundamental note of the string.

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We obtain a new harmonic for each whole division of the string, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6… The notes obtained are, for a C string:

The phenomenon is similar in a cylindrical pipe open at both ends; the amplitude of the vibration of the air in the pipe draws the same shape as the vibrating string:

For a wind instrument, when the speed of the breath is increased, the air column in the pipe switches to harmonic vibration modes, more or less easily depending on the type of instrument and its geometry. It will also follow the same harmonic scale. When we open a hole by playing the register of the first harmonic, we observe the same thing as for the fundamental register, with an important difference - the effect of the diameter of the hole. The fact that the hole is too small will greatly reduce the pitch of the note and therefore its tuning compared to the note obtained with the root. The majority of traditional flutes have a playable range of 2 octaves: in the lower register from the lowest note to the last hole, then in the higher register from the octave of the lowest note, up to the note two octaves above the lowest note.

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C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

Bb

B

C

6 holes bansuri in C range

C

D

E

F

G

A

Bb

B

C

D

E

Tin whistle in C range

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F

G

A

C

Overtone flutes with holes use a larger range, an incomplete low register, more harmonic registers and sometimes fork fingerings to get certain notes of the scale.

G

A

B

C

G

A

B

C

D

E

F#

G

A

B

C

D

E

F

F#

G

Fujara in G range

Conclusion and observations The optimum drilling of an instrument is therefore a compromise between all these parameters. Yes, that's a lot of parameters to manage. My advice is to integrate all this, observe a lot of instruments and try to understand the reasons and the logic behind each hole. That's what I do.

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Raw material and tools Here are the tools I use every day to make PVC flutes. You can of course do it with less, and start with a saw and a knife, but this tools list allows you to work precisely without being an experienced craftsman (I have been cutting pipes every day for 15 years, I am still unable to cut straight without my mitre saw).

Essentials tools The mitre saw allows you to always cut straight, which is important for assembling parts, and cut very small strips, around one millimeter, to tune the root note of the flute. It can also cut at various angles, for example to cut whistle mouthpieces at 45 °. Ideal for building workshops, easy to use and secure, even for kids with a little help. The bench drill allows very precise drilling, and reduces the risk of cracking PVC by drilling too quickly, or damaging it by drilling too far. I use metal bits from 5mm to 13mm to drill PVC pipes. You can put the pipe in a bench drill vice for more precision (personally I use it less and less). If you do not want to burden yourself with a bench drill, it is quite possible to work with a manual drill and a vice. In this case it’s best to use the more precise wood bits, or pre-drill with a small bit to guide the drilling. Your main tool for tuning holes and making pipe flute fipple edges, the jeweller's file. The half-round shape allows you to do everything: the flat face for the edges, the round face for the holes. I have two that I do everything with: a 4mm wide file for the small holes and edges, a 7mm wide for everything else. Avoid the less precise diamond file; choose the all-steel version.

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The small metal saw and the tin shears will be used to cut the head opening of the duct flutes. You can do everything with the small saw, and the tin shears allow you to cut quickly and precisely, especially small pipe diameters. The tin shears are also a very good tool for a building workshop; more simple, precise and secure.

Carpenter's square and measuring tape for all measurements. The carpenter's square measures precisely from the edge of the pipe, which will be very useful. In addition, the thick neck can be used for straight tracing, for duct flute openings, and for drilling alignment.

The cutter, for finishes, to repair a mistake and cut excess adhesive tape, keep it close at hand.

Other useful tools I didn't put the deburrer in the essentials because anything can be done with the half-round file. But, once mastered, it allows you to widen holes quickly and with great precision. I can't live without it, it's probably my favorite tool.

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The fine grit sandpaper improves the finishes, the comfort on the instrument, the playing and the feeling. I usually use 150 grit.

The caliper can precisely measure hole diameters and opening sizes. It’s very useful for checking your work and noting the measurements.

The rotating multipurpose tool (I’ll call it Dremel) serves two specific tasks: digging the air inlet of Native American flutes and cutting the opening of large diameter duct flutes.

The heat gun, a kind of big hair dryer that I use to heat soften the PVC; very handy for adjusting the wooden blocks, some connections between parts, or to melt the pipe to give strange but very practical shapes to air extensions.

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The benchtop sander can be dirty and bulky, but it’s handy for precise tuning and finishing, to take your craft to a professional level.

Raw material Apologies to all the non-metric systems people, all my measurements and references are in millimeters, and I only know european reference sizes; I hope it will fit with your local suppliers! I use three types of pipes: Electrical conduit pipes: electricity department, thin wall, small diameters, inexpensive. PVC water pipe: plumbing department, variable wall thickness, variable qualities, choose them well! Most of the time I use the thin-walled pipes, around 2mm, and mostly only use pipes with a smooth inner wall; some pipes with a grainy inside affect the sound quality. Pressure plastic pipes: rarer, they’re generally found in specialized stores, thicker wall for small diameters, quite expensive. To make the blocks I use two types of wood: Beech wooden dowels, to be found in different diameters which quite miraculously correspond to the pipes’ inner diameters: the 14mm diameter dowel for the 16mm diameter pipe, the 18mm diameter dowel for the 20mm diameter pipe, the 22mm diameter dowel for the 25mm diameter pipe, with more or less adjustment. Beech is a perfect wood for this use because it does not expand with moisture, unlike other species such as

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pine or fir. Curtain rod. The two sizes correspond to the inner diameters of the 32mm diameter and 40mm diameter water pipes, another miracle of DIY stores.

Sleeves, elbows and tees, in all sizes and shapes; with those you can shape your instruments easily.

Electrical sheath pipe used alone produces a tuned whistle which I use very often in my music, and once connected to a duct flute it no longer produces sound but acts as an air extension, which will often be useful.

Office tape, or scotch tape, transparent, as thin as possible. You will need a LOT. I use it for all the connections, making one or more turns on the male part (the one that goes into the female part) to force the part in and make a tight connection. Depending on the number of turns, you will be able to make a connection that is easy to disassemble or impossible to take out.

Electrician's tape, practical because it is thicker. I use it in the same way as office tape for some connections, and to correct bad drillings on prototypes.

Beeswax, I use it for the peul flute mouthpieces in the traditional way. Another interesting use, a traditional wind instrument player technique, is to partially fill some holes with beeswax to tune it. I do not really use it this way because PVC instruments are quite stable against the elements, but for musicians playing on wooden or bamboo instruments, it can become 23

essential. Their instruments are sometimes drilled wider and closed with beeswax, allowing the musician to precisely tune his instrument according to the weather.

Zip ties, I use a lot of them to assemble all my complicated instruments in a way that is always reversible and light. All sizes and lengths are available. There are models that can be reopened, interesting for temporary projects or prototypes; they are a little more expensive.

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How to read my blueprints Here you will find the instructions for reading and using all the wind instrument blueprints on this book.

PVC alto whistle in A, 20mm diameter BE CAREFUL - All lengths are in millimeters! In the title you will find: The name of the instrument. The pitch of the instrument, note and scale. Normally, the note given as the pitch is also the lowest note of the instrument - the one obtained when all the playable holes are closed. For some instruments those are different from one another (bansuri or peul flute for example), so I write the pitch then the lowest note. Pipe diameter.

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The value under the hole is the distance from the end of the pipe to the middle of the hole. The value above the hole is the diameter of that hole. The letter above the hole is the note you get by opening the corresponding hole. The following is specific to the type of flute:

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Side-blown flutes

PVC diatonic side-blown plate flute in D, 25mm diameter

The value under the head is the total length of the instrument, measured from the middle of the mouthpiece to the end of the flute. The value(s) above the head is the diameter of the mouthpiece, if the hole is not round, like here the length and width are indicated. You must have noticed that two pieces of information are missing on the plan: the size of the block and the distance between the block and the mouthpiece.

The length of the block does not matter, as long as the assembly is tight. Common sense dictates that it be rather short, but it’s up to you! The distance d between the middle of the mouthpiece and the beginning of the block is always equal to the internal diameter of the pipe. This rule was theorized by Theobald Boehm, father of the modern side-blown flute. I still apply it to the letter (except from time to time, but I will clarify).

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Duct flutes

PVC alto whistle in A, 20mm diameter ALL LENGTHS ARE IN MILLIMETERS! First of all, I know that in English decimal notation is written with a period and not a comma, but I have over 400 plans in my archives with commas, and I don't want to edit everything, so you’ll have to excuse my French laziness. The value under the head is the total length of the instrument, measured from the start of the fipple edge to the end of the flute. The values above the head correspond to the dimensions of the opening. Here too some information is missing. The size of the head does not matter; there is a minimum length to respect, but it can be longer without affecting the sound, I will specify that for each model. The shape can also vary, without affecting the sound:

Simple ring

Recorder shape

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Head with air extension

Be careful, this is not true for all flutes; native flutes for example have specific needs. I will then specify the needs of these flutes in addition to the blueprint. I also do not document the shape and size of the edge on the blueprints; I will detail them on separate plans for each type of instrument.

End-blown flutes

PVC pentatonic end-blown flute in D minor, 20mm diameter For end-blown flutes, the value under the head is the total length of the instrument. You don't need much info at this stage about the mouthpiece - the construction of that will be detailed on a case-by-case basis.

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How to drill and tune holes Let’s start with a blueprint:

PVC diatonic side-blown plate flute in D, 25mm diameter

The lowest note The lowest note of the instrument is obtained by closing all the holes. So this is the first tuning to be done, because all the holes closed is the same as not having holes at all (it seems obvious, but it deserves to be clarified). To make a wind instrument, we always start with a pipe cut longer than necessary. To tune the lowest note, we must cut longer and then gradually shorten the pipe to achieve the intended note.

I often make a removable head, with a sleeve to attach it to the body. This way I can more easily make another drilling, do a new drilling in a different key or make new experiments. Some sleeves have a stopper in the middle, in this case remove it with a rasp, file or Dremel, it is preferable that the two connected pipes are edge to edge. You can also directly use the belled end of the pipe.

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Make sure the sleeve is close enough to the mouthpiece so it will not interfere with the hole-drilling later. Shorten the instrument with a saw or a sander until the desired note is obtained. Remember to clean the cutout or sanding well, and warm the air column by breathing heavily inside the flute four or five times – a cold air column flute is lower in pitch than a warmed flute. Remember to play the upper harmonics as well, to find a balance between the tuning of bass and high notes.

Drilling Once the first note is tuned, trace the line where you will drill the holes, using a square edge, and mark the hole measurements on the pipe. I also write the diameter of each hole on the pipe to avoid mistakes!

The blueprint gives the diameters and measurements of the finished object, but for a precise tuning, I always drill 1mm smaller than it says on the plan, or even 2mm for the largest diameters. This allows you to be able to adjust the tuning work according to the drilling and a possible lack of precision, a difference in the manufacture of the head, or simply a difference in raw material; slight variations in the diameter or the internal texture of the pipes from one to another could modify the results. Drill the holes and clean them with a deburrer or a file. If all goes well, all the holes will give notes that are too low. We will work on each hole, starting with the furthest from the head. I work on the inside of the holes first, widening the base of the chimney; that improves the tone.

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This work also raises the note, so check the pitch carefully before doing the next steps; sometimes the target note has already been obtained! In principle, if the pitch is still too low, and just a little too small, gradually widen it with a file or a deburrer. All around the hole if the note is close to the desired pitch:

...or concentrate on the top of the hole if the note is significantly low, until you reach the desired note:

For each new note pitch, play and improvise on the few notes already tuned to test the instrument and your tuning. Usually when we play a note into the tuner, we correct the pitch, even unconsciously. If we play fast, the real tuning of the instrument is easier to hear.

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I often use an electronic tuning fork, an Indian tampura-style drone or a guitar loop in the background while tuning, to better feel the accuracy. All of this is of course relative, and changes depending on the type of instrument. When I make new prototypes, or new tunings, I analyze my existing instruments and try to estimate the holes’ location. I drill the first hole, the one furthest from to the head of the instrument, clean it and give it a try. If I can tune it with deburrer and file, I do it, even if I end up with too big a hole. If it is too high, or significantly too low, I cover it with electrician’s tape and drill a new one, even if it is harder or impossible to play, just to find a better location. Then I drill the second hole, and repeat the same process all the way up the pipe. Then I cut off the head of the instrument and put on it a sleeve (or I dismantle it if I have already put on a sleeve). I take a new pipe for a body, tune it, and mark a new estimate of the holes’ location, based on the results of the previous try. I repeat the operation as many times as necessary until I obtain a well-balanced, in tune instrument. Tell yourself that, even if you follow all my directions and blueprints to the letter, there is little chance that your first flutes will be perfectly tuned. The tuning of your flutes will also depend on your playing: I started making flutes before I knew how to play them, so my making has evolved along with my playing.

Finishes Be careful to keep the hole as round or oval as possible (depending on the instrument) at all stages during making and tuning. Once the instrument is fully tuned, for playing comfort you can soften the edges of the holes very lightly with a file and sandpaper, it's also possible with a light deburrer movement. Do not neglect the comfort and the quality of the finish, it will improve the precision of your playing!

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Calculate new pitches In this book I share with you several pitches for each instrument in different diameters, but if you need or want pitches that are not there, here are the tips for finding that yourself! A longer pipe will create a lower note, while a shorter pipe will create a higher note. Once the correct note is found, divide the length of the new flute by the length of the model flute. We get a coefficient. Be sure to measure as I do on my plans, from the bottom of the fipple edge for the duct flutes, from the middle of the mouthpiece hole for the side-blown flutes, from the membrane for the membrane clarinets. Then multiply the locations of each hole from the model flute by this coefficient, and we obtain the drilling plan of the new flute. It's a simple cross-multiplication, it doesn't give an exact result every time but you get a good rough draft, then you can make a final draft by correcting the results of the first try. I made my own spreadsheet that includes all these calculations; ask me and I can share it with you! Another technique, used by traditional instrument makers, is magnificent because of its ingenuity and simplicity: stretch a rubber band along the model flute, and mark the hole locations with a felt-tip pen on the rubber band. Then stretch it again on the new flute and draw the measurements. Cross-multiplication without the calculations!

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Duct flutes Flutes with air ducts are the easiest to play. The instrumentalist's breath passes through a conduit directly to the edge; it’s the flute that shapes the sound. These are therefore the most critically engineered flutes to make.

Duct flutes are very diverse. The shape of the edge, the proportions of the opening, the relationship between length and internal diameter – the variation of these elements creates great variations of timbres and ranges. It is also possible to branch the air supply before the fipple, which allows multiple flutes, with the only limit being the musician's breath.

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Overtone flutes Overtone flutes are rather long flutes compared to their diameter. Having a low fundamental note allows a wide range of high notes when increasing the speed of the breath. We meet all types, drilled or not, duct flutes, notch flutes, side-blown flutes, end-blown flutes; I even made an overtone pan flute somewhere in my prototypes. Without holes The easiest overtone flute to make and to play, the one that features in all my workshops and in my music, is a duct flute without holes inspired by the Slovak koncovka. Overtone flutes are played primarily in Eastern Europe, using varied breath power and closing or opening the end of the flute. These harmonic flutes allow a very percussive and intuitive playing and, being restricted to a limited scale, they allow improvisation without too many melodic constraints.

The shorter the flute is, in relation to the diameter, the more it favors the fundamental and has difficulty accessing high overtones. The longer the flute is in relation to the diameter, the more it favors the high notes, while the lowest notes will sound more muffled, or will even be impossible to play. The balance depends on the ratio of the diameter, length and shape of the opening and the edge. Depending on this relationship, the flute will be able to play more or fewer notes of this scale, by closing and opening the end of the instrument.

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C

G

C

E

G

Bb

C

D

PVC overtone flute in C range

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E

F

F#

G

Here are the detailed building steps for your first flute.

PVC overtone flute in D, 20mm diameter

NECESSARY MATERIAL

NECESSARY TOOLS

● PVC electrical conduit pipe 20mm diameter ● Beech wooden dowel 17-18mm diameter

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Half-round file Tin shears Small metal saw Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner OPTIONAL

● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer ● Heat gun

Block: cut an 18mm diameter wooden dowel piece, 20mm long. Sand the cutout area well; a small splinter across the air path may prevent the flute from sounding.

Ring: cut a piece of 20mm diameter PVC pipe, 20mm long. Cut, with the shears, a strip around 10mm wide. You can round off the angles to avoid hurting your mouth later (speaking from experience).

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Body: on the blueprint, the measurement is 494mm, this is the distance (after tuning the note) from the beginning of the fipple edge to the end of the flute. To find out what length to cut, add the size of the block (here 20mm) to the size of the opening (here 8mm), plus a margin of error to finely tune the instrument (let's take 20mm) To make the body of your instrument, you will have to cut a piece of 20mm diameter PVC pipe of approximately 494 + 20 + 8 + 20 = 542mm. Knowing that the margin of error is arbitrary, if you make a lot of the same instrument and master your crafting, you can reduce it, or on the contrary increase it if you are experimenting with new prototypes. Clean both ends. Cutting: make a mark 28mm from the end of the pipe, using the carpenter’s square.

Make 2 marks 8mm apart on the edge of the pipe,

then draw two lines to complete the rectangle, by putting the pencil on the metal edge of the square to be sure to draw straight.

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Cut with shears along both lines, then cut the PVC with the small metal saw, bend the tab several times to weaken the PVC, then tear the tab. File all cuts to obtain a straight and clean rectangle. Fipple edge: carve the edge with the flat side of the metal file, to around a 10° angle, with your fingers resting on the pipe.

Work on the edge across its entire width, moving the file evenly from left to right, until the thickness of the pipe in the middle of the edge is no longer visible.

Then carve inside the pipe to get a fine, straight line without any burrs.

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Assembly: spread the PVC aside with your thumb to push the block in. Add the ring over the block, blow into the hole between the ring and the block. You should now hear your flute for the first time! Raise the pitch of the flute by shortening the pipe. This first flute is a good model to begin the overtone flute and to experiment, without a need to blow too hard. It is tolerant enough to shape variations and approximations. Now it is time to experiment. Make several heads with sleeves, varying the width of the opening by half a millimeter, wider or narrower, to experience the differences in tone and balance, differences in sound definition, or a more or less breathy sound. Vary the lengths, between very short and very long, to listen to each of the heads in different pitches and choose which please you the most.

Air extensions For flutes that are longer than your arm length, you will need to add an air extension so that you can blow and play on the end of the pipe at the same time. For that, you will have to make a head with a sleeve and an air extension.

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Some air extension designs Flexible pipe: you can use a garden hose, a transparent hose (smaller diameter) or an electrical sheath pipe (the flute connected to the electrical sheath pipe cancels its "natural" whistle; it can however persist over great lengths or on certain types of sheath, but that’s not uninteresting!) You can give it the desired shape, simple or fancy, with a few well-placed zip ties. PVC conduit pipe and elbows: We use the 90° elbows to create the air extension, and choose the shape you want.

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Thermoformed PVC conduit pipe: a piece of pipe or an elbow heated with a hair dryer (that takes a while but you can do it) or, better, with a heat gun, and bent to get the shape you want. To obtain nice regular curves, you will need to use a pipe bending spring. For me, I heat it empty, which gives an artistic crumpled effect; as long as the air goes through it it’s fine! It is important to avoid folding the body of the flute by using PVC electrical pipe elbows. They don’t have a regular shape and so the air column will lose its perfectly cylindrical shape, which means an out of tune flute, with out of tune overtones, and for an overtone flute, that’s a shame! For lower overtone flutes, PVC water pipe is used. Since the elbows of water PVC piping are designed to keep a regular internal diameter, they can be used for the body of the flute without altering the tuning. The shape is therefore totally free, using all elbows available; the only constraint is to be able to close the end with your fingers or hand.

20mm diameter

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Here are the different tones and lengths for this diameter (always measured in millimeters, from the beginning of the fipple edge to the end of the flute):

F#

434

A

748

F

461

G#

797

E

494

G

848

D#

524

F#

900

D

554

F

954

C#

592

E

1014

C

627

D#

1072

B

669

D

1133

A#

702

The high tones are playable with this simple shape. For the lowest notes we reach the limit of the human arm. We can always develop a technique to close the end of the flute with the top of the foot, but the simplest is to add an air extension.

16mm diameter

PVC overtone flute in A, 16mm diameter

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The high overtone flutes, although a little shrill, are powerful, fast, and easily heard over an orchestra or a drum band.

A

370

E

505

G#

394

D#

537

G

417

D

561

F#

445

C#

599

F

475

C

631

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25mm diameter

PVC overtone flute in B, 25mm diameter

This diameter gives very interesting flutes, often the most appreciated for tone and balance.

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C

608

F

932

B

647

E

989

A#

691

D#

1053

A

731

D

1119

G#

777

C#

1181

G

827

C

1257

F#

882

B

1339

For the largest of these flutes, you will need air extensions. I also experimented with thinner windows for this diameter, the results are interesting, give it a try! Be careful, it changes the tuning, readjust the lengths.

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The 1mm window is a bit anecdotal, but the others are interesting, you can listen to it on Youtube: DIY flutes, how small can it be?

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32mm diameter One of the flute diameters that I use the most. It gives beautiful bass and high notes that begin to veil and mix several harmonics, while remaining precise and articulated, and as effective in short lengths as in very long flutes, with a lot of exploration possible.

We finally enter the world of water PVC, where the fittings and elbows retain the internal diameter of the pipe, which allows it to be used on the air column part, the body of the flute, giving you an infinity of possible shapes.

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I don't have a table with all the lengths for this diameter, but you will easily find the note you need by starting from the given references, doing some math, or just trying. Here are some examples:

PVC overtone flute in D, 32mm diameter

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PVC overtone flute in G, 32mm diameter

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40mm diameter We enter the register of big, low-pitched flutes, slow to respond, not very virtuosic, with deep sounds and soft harmonics. Starting to get downright bulky.

PVC overtone flute in E, 40mm diameter

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50mm diameter Magnificent bass, ghostly overtones, demands a lot of breath and a big house.

PVC Overtone flute in A, 50mm diameter

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Overtone flutes with holes One hole A single semitone hole makes it possible for the same hand to close this hole with the thumb and play the end with the rest of the hand, therefore leaving the other hand free for another instrument or operation.

C

C#

G

C

C#

E

G

G#

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Bb

C

C#

D

E

F

F#

G

PVC one semitone hole overtone flute in C range

PVC one semitone hole overtone flute in A, 16mm diameter

PVC one semitone hole overtone flute in D, 20mm diameter

PVC one semitone hole overtone flute in G, 25mm diameter

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PVC one semitone hole overtone flute in D, 32mm diameter

PVC one semitone hole overtone flute in E, 40mm diameter

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PVC one semitone hole overtone flute in A, 50mm diameter

Three holes Two models of three-hole flutes. One to play a major diatonic scale, inspired by the Slovak fujara, a second to play a Dorian mode. The smaller of these flutes can be played with one hand, galoubet style, by drilling the third hole in the back of the pipe to play it with your thumb.

D

E

F #

G

D

E

F #

G

A

B

C #

D

E

F #

G

A

PVC three-hole major diatonic overtone flute in D range

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B

C #

D

A

B

C

D

A

B

C

D

E

F#

G

A

B

C

D

E

F#

PVC three-hole dorian mode overtone flute in A range

PVC three-hole dorian mode overtone flute in A, 16mm diameter

PVC three-hole major diatonic overtone flute in D, 20mm diameter

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G

A

PVC three-hole major diatonic overtone flute in G, 25mm diameter

PVC three-hole dorian mode overtone flute in D, 32mm diameter

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PVC three-hole major diatonic overtone flute in G, 32mm diameter

Six holes The six-hole overtone flute can play a full chromatic scale, I call it chromojara (chromatic fujara). It’s one of the flutes I play the most in recording studios and on stage.

G

G#

A

A#

B

C

C#

G

G#

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A

A#

B

C

C#

D

D#

E

F

F#

G

G#

A

A#

B

C

C#

D

D#

E

F

PVC chromojara in G range

PVC six-hole chromojara overtone flute in G, 16mm diameter

PVC six-hole chromojara overtone flute in C, 20mm diameter

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F#

G

PVC six-hole chromojara overtone flute in G, 25mm diameter

PVC six-hole chromojara overtone flute in G, 32mm diameter

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PVC whistles The whistle is an internal duct flute, drilled with 6 holes, traditionally used in Irish folk music. There are many models, low or high, in brass, aluminum, plastic or polymer, the most famous being the soprano version in brass with a plastic head. The whistle plays a diatonic scale over two octaves. We also use a fork fingering to lower the 7th note of the scale, which allows two modes to be played with the same flute.

D

E

F#

G

A

B

C

C#

D

E

F#

tin whistle in D range

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G

A

B

C

C#

D

Tin whistle 16mm diameter The higher pitched tin whistle, also known as penny whistle because of its low price, has a clear and piercing sound.

PVC tin whistle in D, 16mm diameter

NECESSARY MATERIAL

NECESSARY TOOLS

● PVC electric conduit pipe 16mm diameter ● Beech wooden dowel 14mm diameter

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Bench drill Half-round file Tin shears Small metal saw Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner OPTIONAL

● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer ● Heat gun

Block: cut a 14mm diameter wooden dowel piece, 22mm long, at a 45° angle. Sand the cutout area well.

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Ring: cut a piece of 16mm diameter PVC pipe, 22mm long, at a 45° angle, and cut with the shears a strip around 10mm wide. Round off the edges.

Body: cut a piece of 16mm PVC pipe, 317mm long (270mm according to the plan, from the fipple edge to the end of the flute + 5mm opening + 22mm for the block + 20mm extra for tuning) at a 45° angle. Clean both ends. Cutting: make a mark 27mm from the end of the pipe, using the square.

Make 2 marks 7mm apart on the edge of the pipe,

then draw two lines to complete the rectangle by putting the pencil on the metal edge of the square, to be sure to draw straight.

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Cut with shears on both lines, then cut the PVC with the small metal saw, bend the tab several times to weaken the PVC then tear the tab. File finishes to obtain a straight and clean rectangle. Fipple edge: carve the edge with the metal file on the flat side, with an angle around 60° from the horizontal.

Work on the edge across the entire width, moving the file evenly from left to right, until the thickness of the pipe in the middle of the edge is no longer visible.

Then carve inside the pipe to get a fine, straight line without any burrs.

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Assembly: spread the PVC apart with your thumb to push the block in. Add the ring over the block, blow into the hole between the ring and the block. You should now get a sound!

Tuning the body and drilling: gradually shorten the body until you get a correct note, then follow the blueprint to drill and tune the instrument.

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Other tones:

PVC tin whistle in E, 16mm diameter

PVC tin whistle in C, 16mm diameter

PVC tin whistle in B, 16mm diameter Alto whistle 20mm diameter Medium version, still easily playable with the tips of the fingers, unlike the lower versions.

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PVC alto whistle in A, 20mm diameter

PVC alto whistle in F, 20mm diameter

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Low whistle 25mm diameter The low whistle is a bass flute, the playing of this instrument requires some practice to close the holes with the knuckles, and not too small hands for the lower instruments.

PVC low whistle in E, 25mm diameter

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PVC low whistle in D, 25mm diameter

PVC low whistle in C, 25mm diameter

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Double whistles What I like about duct flutes is that you can blow into several instruments at the same time. Here are two models of double whistle, nothing traditional, but they play pretty well! The shape of the air inlet doesn’t matter. For this model my goal was to be able to play easily into a microphone, so I use a 20mm diameter PVC pressure pipe tee, and a mouthpiece with a sleeve washer glued to the end to comfortably accommodate the player’s lips. The pipe is heated with the heat gun and bent to obtain the desired shape, using the belled ends of the pipes to fit over the heads of the whistles.

PVC double tin whistle en E / A, 16mm diameter

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PVC double alto whistle in E / B, 20mm diameter

Other modal whistles Sometimes during an exploration or for the constraints of a new composition, I modify the locations of the holes, and a whole new world of modal music is offered to me. Here are a few.

Modal low whistle PVC 7 holes 25mm diameter in C

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PVC Native American type Flute Native American Flutes are external duct flutes with an air chamber, an inward fipple edge, a one octave range, often a minor pentatonic scale, and a very smooth sound.

Traditional Native American flute

Native American flute fipple - cut

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Simple flutes 25mm diameter My PVC version is a very free adaptation inspired by this instrument. Let's start with an A flute.

PVC Native American style flute in A, 25mm diameter

NECESSARY MATERIAL

NECESSARY TOOLS

● PVC electrical conduit pipe 25mm diameter ● PVC electrical conduit sleeve 25mm diameter ● Beech wooden dowel 22mm diameter

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Bench drill Half-round file Square file Flat file Dremel with abrasive stone tip Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner OPTIONAL

● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer ● Heat gun

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Block: cut a 22mm diameter wooden dowel piece, 20mm long. Sand the cutout area well.

Body: cut a piece of 25mm diameter PVC pipe, 373mm long (327mm according to the plan, from the fipple edge to the end of the flute + 6mm opening + 20mm for the block + 20mm extra for tuning) Clean both ends.

Opening: mark the body at 23mm from one end (20mm block + 3mm center of the opening), drill, use the square file to form the four corners of the square opening, finish it with the flat file.

Air duct: draw the air duct the width of the edge, cut the edges of the duct with a cutter, then carve a flat and regular duct with the dremel and the abrasive stone tip or the circular sander tip.

Fipple edge: carve the edge on the inside using a small flat file, around 30° angle. Once the inside is finished, carve a small edge of about 1mm on the outside.

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Air chamber: cut a piece of 25mm diameter PVC pipe, 150mm long, insert it tightly into a 25mm diameter sleeve, if necessary with a few turns of office tape.

Assembly: push the wooden block to reach the beginning of the opening, if necessary by reinforcing it with office tape for a perfect seal. Push in the sleeve until you reach the beginning of the opening. Blow. Dig the air duct again if needed with the dremel or the file until you get a clear sound.

Tuning the body and drilling: gradually shorten the body until you get a correct note, then follow the blueprint to drill and tune the instrument.

This is one of my most sensitively engineered flutes; spend time on the air duct, and dig very gradually. These flutes being very closed, with a small opening and small diameter holes, the slightest variation can change all the other measurements. You will surely have to adapt 77

the plan to each new flute, but you will quickly get used to it.

Other pitches :

PVC Native American style flute in G, 25mm diameter

20mm diameter

PVC Native American style flute in D, 20mm diameter

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PVC Native American style flute in E, 20mm diameter

32mm diameter

PVC Native American style flute in D, 32mm diameter

79

40mm diameter

PVC Native American style flute in D, 40mm diameter

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Double flutes The double Native American type flute is particularly pleasant to play, and with the airflow being low even with two flutes, it is possible to play long notes or to use circular breathing, I love to do that. For these double flutes, the adjustment is even more delicate than for the single ones, and it will be necessary to adjust each of the flutes in relation to the other. First do the complete assembly (without the flute bodies being perfectly tuned), to check that the two flutes can play their bass notes in a balanced way, and work again on the air ducts if necessary; then tune. When I work on double or triple flutes, I often make 10 flute heads at one time, and I try them out to see which ones go well together. It's tedious but that's what gives me the best results! Good luck, it's worth it!

Double Native American type flute in D, 32mm diameter

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Double Native American type flute in B, 32mm-40mm diameter

For this flute, the higher-pitched one is 32mm diameter, the lower is 40mm diameter. The effect obtained is a little different from other double flutes; the two diameters give the feeling of two more distinct voices. Only for large hands!

Double Native American type flute in E, 20mm diameter This model is a little different. The drone and the one with finger-holes are two separate flutes, and the air inlet is a wooden block drilled with two ducts at right angles (two drillings on each side) pushed into a 20mm diameter pipe allowing the musician to manage the air pressure in the two flutes.

82

Triple flutes With three, it also works, even for circular breathing. I haven’t done the quadruple version for the moment – next edition for sure!

Triple Native American type flute in B, 25mm diameter

83

Triple Native American type flute in B, 32mm diameter

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Membrane clarinet The membrane clarinet is an instrument that does not exist, as a traditional instrument (not to my knowledge anyway). It is a soft reed instrument, whose main exemplars are the car horn and the fog horn. Here is the principle:

Without the membrane the air blown into the opening of the instrument is blocked on one side and exits only through the space between the outer tube and the inner tube, which forms the air column of the instrument.

By adding the membrane the air has no way to escape.

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The air will push the membrane to go into the inner pipe, the only possible exit.

The membrane being elastic is pressed again on the inner pipe, closing it, and the same phenomenon occurs again and again, each open / closed cycle corresponding to a period. The acoustic system is therefore very close to a single reed, with the membrane moving from an open position to a closed position on the end of a pipe, the difference being that the tension of the membrane will significantly change the note obtained; that explains the name ‘soft reed’. It is therefore important to choose the "right" membrane tension, to give a fair balance between the powerful sound and the possibility of nuancing. A membrane that is too tight can only be vibrated with a lot of pressure and can only play hard. A membrane that is too slack will give a much less interesting dull sound. The correct tension will therefore be tight, but not too tight.

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Bass membrane clarinet Bass membrane clarinets are long instruments, allowing you to play bass and powerful sounds easily, without any blowing technique. The building will be the same for all diameters. We will start with a 32mm diameter bass membrane clarinet.

32mm diameter NECESSARY MATERIAL ● ● ● ● ● ●

NECESSARY TOOLS

PVC water pipe 32mm diameter PVC water pipe 40mm diameter PVC tee 40mm diameter PVC reducer 32-40mm diameter PVC sleeve 40mm diameter Vinyl glove

● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Half-round file Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner Scissors OPTIONAL

● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer

Body: we will make a head for the instrument with a sleeve, so that we can then experiment with different lengths. Choose arbitrarily: a 32mm diameter pipe, 300mm long, with a sleeve at one end. Reducer: the 32-40mm reducer is a piece which connects a 32mm diameter pipe in a 40mm diameter sleeve. It will often have a stopper on one end. To be able to thread the reducer onto the 32mm pipe that

87

stopper will have to be removed with a rasp or Dremel.

Tee and pipe: cut a piece of 40mm diameter pipe, 100mm in length. If necessary thicken one side with a few turns of office tape, then glue it into the tee. Glue the reducer onto the other side.

Assembly: once dry, push on the tee so that the edge of the 40mm diameter pipe is at the same level as the 32mm diameter pipe (ideally, let the 32mm diameter pipe protrude by half a millimeter). Mark the location of the tee on the pipe with a pencil, apply glue or a few turns of tape and reassemble.

Sleeve: cut a small slice from a 40mm diameter sleeve to make a washer to save money, but it works with an entire sleeve, and clean it thoroughly.

88

Membrane: cut a square in a vinyl maintenance glove that more than covers the end of the 40mm diameter pipe, to make the membrane.

Assembly: place the membrane on the end of the 40mm diameter pipe without stretching it particularly. Then hold it in place by gently pushing on the sleeve washer.

Adjust the tension of the membrane to get a sound without having to blow too hard. The sound should be like a very loud and a little rusty horn. This is only the head of the instrument. So, it will now have to be lengthened. The length of the body decides the pitch of the note, which will also depend on the type of membrane used and its tension. The tension of the membrane has a big influence on the pitch of the note and on the sound quality; experiment to find the right one! Pipes of all lengths, from 50cm up to 400cm (for basses that sound like a jackhammer) make interesting sounds.

89

Lower pitched membrane clarinets This construction also works with a 40mm or 50mm diameter body, adapting the size of the other parts. You can also experiment with other versions with larger membranes, using large tees and a suitable reducer. For example, this model with a 100mm tee and a 50mm diameter body. For this model I used a thicker membrane, a dish glove.

Bass membrane clarinet 50mm-100mm diameter

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3 note bass membrane clarinet These instruments are too long and wide to drill holes in and play with fingers, but I made a version that allows you to play 3 different notes, which can make an effective bass line.

3 note PVC bass membrane clarinet, 32mm diameter Here is an example of the notes and shape, though anything is possible; the challenge is to keep it an instrument playable by a human being. I added a bell to this instrument at the membrane location; it's an option, but it changes the tone in an interesting way. I replaced the sleeve washer with a male-female elbow and installed a traffic cone bell (see PVC didgeridoo chapter for more information) on the male side of the elbow; the female side is installed like the sleeve washer.

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For the precise tuning of this instrument, it will be necessary to start from the highest note and tune it according to the length between the head and the opening of the tee.

Keep a pipe of a length similar to that of the next note in the other outlet of the tee for tuning, because even with the hole open, the length of the next pipe affects the resulting note. If it's not clear, go back to the chapter about Acoustic of holes!

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Membrane clarinets with finger holes The smaller diameters make it possible to play finger holes with a very expressive sound and a lot of nuance, if the membrane is well adjusted. It is a unique instrument having no traditional equivalent. The only representative of this instrument to my knowledge, that is not a PVC version, is a bamboo instrument sold to tourists in Indonesia. But this is a rather unusual reappropriation, the Indonesian musicians who play this instrument all use PVC versions. This instrument has a one octave range. Fork fingerings have little effect on the pitch of the notes. Although, they do produce wah effects.

E

F#

G

A

B

C#

D

Diatonic natural minor membrane clarinet, in E range

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E

16mm diameter The 16mm diameter is the ideal format for a drilled and easily played instrument. Let's start with the natural minor membrane clarinet in E, drilled with 7 holes, including one for the thumb of the left hand at the back of the pipe (the one drawn in dotted lines).

Diatonic natural minor membrane clarinet in E, 16mm diameter

NECESSARY MATERIAL

NECESSARY TOOLS

● PVC pressure pipe 16mm diameter ● PVC electrical conduit pipe 20mm diameter ● PVC pressure pipe tee 20mm diameter ● PVC electrical conduit sleeve 16mm diameter ● PVC electrical conduit sleeve or belled end 20mm diameter ● Vinyl glove

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Bench drill Half-round file Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner Scissors OPTIONAL

● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer

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Sleeve: I make the heads of these instruments directly on a 16mm diameter electrical conduit sleeve. Start by removing the stops on the inside, either with a file or by rubbing the inside with a large drill bit.

Head: cut a 16mm diameter pressure pipe, 90mm length, push it into the sleeve up to a little more than halfway, glue if necessary (usually I finish driving it in with a hammer, so that no glue is needed)

Tee and pipe: cut a piece of 20mm diameter electrical conduit pipe, 25mm length, thicken one side if necessary with a few turns of office tape, then glue into the tee.

Assembly: make several turns of electrician's tape on the 16mm diameter sleeve until it forms a part that can fit into the 20mm tee. Electrician's tape is thicker and more stable, however it does not slide well against PVC, so finish with a few turns of office tape before putting the pieces together. Do not glue, to keep the possibility of fine tuning the instrument. The edge of the 20mm diameter pipe should be at the same level as the 16mm diameter pipe.

95

Sleeve or belled end: cut a 20mm diameter conduit sleeve washer or a washer from the belled end of a 20mm diameter electrical conduit pipe and clean it thoroughly.

Membrane: cut a square in a vinyl maintenance glove that more than covers the end of the 20mm diameter pipe.

Assembly: place the membrane on the end of the 20mm diameter pipe without stretching it particularly, then hold it in place by gently pushing on the sleeve washer.

Body: cut a piece of 16mm diameter pressure pipe, 385mm length, and assemble it with the head, if necessary with a few turns of office tape to ensure the sealing. For once, there’s no need to cut any longer and then tune the note, because the instrument is tuned with the tension of the membrane. Drill and tune the instrument following the blueprint.

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Here is another model that I often play, of the same diameter; you can of course find many more by taking inspiration from these.

Diatonic natural minor membrane clarinet in D, 16mm diameter

With extension An original form I really like to play, the octave extending membrane clarinet.

Diatonic natural minor membrane clarinet in E with straight octave extension, 16mm diameter

Diatonic natural minor membrane clarinet in E with folded octave extension, 16mm diameter

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The extension is removable and allows you to lower the bass note of the instrument and only this one. This bass sounds surprisingly good!

With drones As this instrument does not have a mouthpiece technique, it is possible to blow several instruments at the same time. So let's not hesitate, here are the plans of the minor natural membrane clarinet in E with A drone.

minor natural membrane clarinet in E with A drone, 16mm diameter

This instrument does not consume that much air, and works very well with circular breathing and rhythmic blowing techniques. The measurement next to the head of each instrument corresponds to the length of the 16mm diameter inner pipe between the membrane and the end.

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The elbows I use are 16mm diameter electrical conduit elbows; in general I do not recommend their use for air columns, but for a drone the imperfect shape is not a problem. The 130mm pipe at the end of the drone is a tuning slide. This is a 20mm diameter electrical conduit pipe; I do a few turns of office tape on the end of the 16mm diameter pipe below and use the 20mm diameter pipe as a slide, which allows the drone to tune on more easily.

Other variations These instruments can be fed with a reserve of air, a balloon, an inflatable swim float, but be careful – that changes the drilling of the instrument! The human blower adjusts the notes of the instrument with air pressure, which the balloon does not, so the high notes of the instrument therefore tend to be lower and need to be drilled closer to be in tune. Another version that I can offer you is the low-tech economic version, made entirely in PVC electrical conduit pipe, which I often use in educational workshops. The drilled instrument sounds a little worse than the PVC pressure pipe version because of the thinness of the pipe wall, but in the workshop I propose 2 holes drilled by placing them at random, which gives a nice instrument to play while justifying its non-tuning.

Low-tech membrane clarinet, 16mm diameter

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NECESSARY MATERIAL

NECESSARY TOOLS

● PVC electrical conduit pipe 16mm diameter ● PVC electrical conduit pipe 20mm diameter ● Vinyl glove

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Bench drill Half-round file Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner Scissors OPTIONAL

● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer

Body: cut a piece of 16mm diameter PVC electrical conduit pipe, 470mm length. Clean it carefully.

Head: cut a piece of 20mm diameter electrical conduit pipe, 100mm length. Drill an 8mm hole in the center.

Assembly: make many turns of office tape around the 16mm diameter pipe so that the 20mm diameter pipe can be threaded and held in place. The edge of the 20mm diameter pipe should be at the same level as the edge of the 16mm diameter pipe.

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Sleeve or belled end: cut a 20mm diameter electrical conduit sleeve washer or a washer from the belled end of a 20mm diameter electrical conduit pipe and clean it thoroughly. Membrane: cut a square in a vinyl maintenance glove that more than covers the end of the 20mm diameter pipe. Assembly: place the membrane on the end of the 20mm diameter pipe without stretching it particularly, then hold it in place by gently pushing on the sleeve washer.

20mm diameter Lower pitched version of the 16mm diameter membrane clarinet. I prefer it with a rather slack membrane, so I made my tunings this way. I haven't explored a lot of models; here’s the natural B minor version. Just adapt the part sizes.

Diatonic natural minor membrane clarinet in B, 20mm diameter

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With extensions An instrument with a double extension, which allows you to change the lowest note, to the lower octave or the even lower 7th, by connecting the different pipes. I'm pretty happy with the design. Here's the plan, make your own version!

Diatonic natural minor membrane clarinet in B, 20mm diameter + double extension in B and C#

I do not detail the membrane clarinet in the drawing, it is the same drilling as in the blueprint just above, minus the thumb hole. On this instrument I made a low tech style head and a pression PVC body; you can choose!

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Side-blown flutes The transverse or side-blown flute is characterized by the shape of its mouthpiece, a hole in the wall of the pipe of the instrument, usually close to a block at the end of the pipe. Mr. Theobald Boehm, creator of the modern side-blown flute, tells us that the centre of the mouthpiece opening should be placed at a distance from the block equal to the diameter of the internal size of the pipe. This distance mainly affects the accuracy of the overtones, so we will apply it for the rest.

The length of the wooden block does not affect the sound, it is only required to be sealed. I will not indicate the size of the block on the blueprints; I use around 20mm length for small diameters, 30mm to 40mm length for larger ones. A word of advice: note its exact length on the block before pushing it into the pipe, you will need this measurement to mark the location of the mouthpiece. Depending on the sound you are looking for, you will need a more or less thick wall at the mouthpiece location. We use this parameter to modify the timbre and the breathiness, to get closer to or away from the orchestral flute.

Modern side-blown flute head

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The shape of the rectangular mouthpiece with rounded corners is, according to Boehm, an optimal shape to present the largest possible edge to the breath of the musician. The mouthpiece openings of traditional side-blown flutes have shapes that mostly vary from round to oval.

Traditional bansuri head

Traditional celtic flute head

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Side-blown plate flutes The PVC plate flute is the one that is the closest to a classical flute; the sound is also close to the Irish flute. It has 6 holes and plays a major diatonic scale. Some fork fingerings are possible; personally I only use the fork fingering to lower the seventh by a semitone.

G

A

B

C

D

E

F

F#

G

A

B

C

D

E

PVC major diatonic side-blown plate flute in G range

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F

F#

G

20mm diameter

PVC major diatonic side-blown plate flute in G, 20mm diameter

NECESSARY MATERIAL

NECESSARY TOOLS

● PVC electric conduit pipe 20mm diameter ● Beech wooden dowel 18mm diameter

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Bench drill Half-round file Tin shears Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner OPTIONAL

● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer ● Heat gun

Block: cut a 18mm diameter wooden dowel piece, 20mm length. Sand the cut faces well.

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Mouthpiece plate: cut a piece of 20mm diameter electrical conduit pipe, 30mm length, and cut it in half lengthwise. Clean and round off the angles. Mark the centre of the plate.

Body: cut a piece of 20mm diameter PVC electrical conduit pipe, 450mm length (392mm according to the plan, from the middle of the mouthpiece opening to the end of the flute + 18mm from the middle of the mouthpiece opening to the beginning of the block + 20mm for the block + 20mm extra for tuning) Clean both ends. Assembly: insert the wooden block into one end of the body tightly. If necessary thicken the block with a few turns of office tape, or if the block is a little too thick force it in with a hammer, or heat the end of the body pipe to push in the block. Heat the mouthpiece plate with a heat gun or curve it by hand so that it sits easily on the body pipe and conforms to its shape. Mark the body pipe 23mm from the end of the blocked side and glue the mouthpiece plate following this mark so that the centre of the mouthpiece opening marked on the plate is 18mm from the beginning of the block. Head: once the gluing is dry, drill a 9mm hole in the centre of the plate, then use the file to get a 9.5mm hole. Dig out the inside of the hole with a deburrer then with a file. Tuning and drilling: gradually shorten the body until

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you get a correct note, then follow the plan for the drilling.

Another pitch in 20mm diameter:

PVC major diatonic plate flute in A, 20mm diameter

25mm diameter You can follow the same instructions as the 20mm diameter flute and adapt the dimensions.

PVC major diatonic side-blown plate flute in Eb, 25mm diameter

PVC major diatonic side-blown plate flute in D, 25mm diameter

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Other tunings It is also possible to imagine other tunings and other ranges. Some examples:

PVC minor pentatonic side-blown plate flute in G, 20mm diameter

PVC minor diatonic side-blown plate flute in F, 25mm diameter

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Double bass flutes We’ve reached the limits of traditional low-tech type flutes; without mechanics it’s difficult to reach very low notes. These very low pitched flutes have only a few notes, but I have two uses for them. I made them for a PVC flute orchestra project with 70 student flautists from conservatories; they are rather easy to play with the palms of both hands, and by combining them we obtain an almost complete range in the low register. In the high register these flutes can play a diatonic scale minus one note. I also use these flutes a lot in my recording studio; I love the bass textures of the side-blown flutes. I also make even deeper-pitched bass ones, around three meters long, with no finger holes, played very close to the microphone; I put these in almost all my tracks. To have the necessary thickness at the mouthpiece location, I glued two pieces of PVC pipe on top of each other by heating them beforehand with a heat gun, then drilled.

F

G

A

F

G

A

C

D

E

F

Double bass PVC side-blown plate flute in F range

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Double bass PVC side-blown plate flute in F, 32mm diameter

Double bass PVC side-blown plate flute in C, 40mm diameter

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PVC bansuris The bansuri flute is a side-blown flute traditionally made of bamboo, from India. The most popular is the bass flute in E, played in classical music from North India. Higher pitched versions are found in southern India. For those who are not used to bass wind instruments and without keys, you will be surprised or even discouraged by the gap between the holes and the need to cover the holes with the inside of the knuckles; some hands will unfortunately not be able to play this flute. For my own part, despite my height (1m95), and perhaps because of my somewhat short fingers, I took a year to reach the last hole of the flute in E.

Hand position on the bass bansuri

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32mm diameter The bass bansuri flute is drilled with 7 holes, six on the top and one below. This hole below has two functions: it’s a tuning hole which allows a better balance of the timbre of the flute, and when playing in a seated position, closing it with the knee gives an additional bass note.

PVC Bansuri in E (lowest note B), 32mm diameter Unlike most diatonic flutes, the custom is that the note defining the key of the bansuri is the fourth note of the instrument (not including the knee hole), not the first. This model is therefore an E flute.

NECESSARY MATERIAL

NECESSARY TOOLS

● PVC water pipe 32mm diameter thin wall ● Curtain rod 28mm diameter

● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Bench drill Half-round file Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner OPTIONAL

● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer ● Heat gun

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Block: cut a 28mm diameter curtain rod piece, 30mm length. Sand the cut faces well.

Body: cut a piece of 32mm diameter PVC water pipe, 762mm length (674mm according to the plan, from the middle of the mouthpiece opening to the end of the flute + 28mm from the middle of the mouthpiece opening to the beginning of the block + 30mm for the block + 30mm extra for tuning) Clean both ends. Head: push the wooden block into one end of the pipe. Measure then drill the mouthpiece opening (mark 58mm from the end of the pipe: 30mm for the block + 28mm internal diameter of the pipe). Always drill smaller than on the blueprint, and work on it with a file and deburrer. Dig out the inside of the hole with a deburrer and then with a file.

Tuning and drilling: gradually shorten the body until you get a correct note, then follow the plan for the drilling.

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Some other tones:

PVC Bansuri in E (lowest note A), 32mm diameter

PVC Bansuri in E (lowest note C), 32mm diameter 25mm diameter For smaller diameters I use PVC pressure pipe, which is thicker than PVC electrical conduit pipe. Some of the higher-pitched bansuris have a tuning hole; on traditional instruments it’s drilled on the side, and I do that for my higher-pitched PVC models (see the diagram below). You can follow the same procedure as above by adjusting the distances. The only difference is that you probably will not find a wood block to fit. I use smaller diameter blocks and thicken them with turns of electrician's tape and then office tape, and finish with glue.

PVC Bansuri in A (lowest note E), 25mm diameter

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20mm diameter Also PVC pressure pipe, with 6 holes.

PVC Bansuri in E (lowest note A), 20mm diameter

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Bicycle pump In terms of manufacturing, we can hardly get simpler, one hole and it's over! Soprano bicycle pump For the building you need a plastic bicycle pump preferably (the metal versions have a wall a little too thin for the mouthpiece), a drill with a 9mm bit, a small half-round file and sandpaper.

Soprano side-blown bicycle pump flute Drill and then work on the hole with a file to give it the desired dimensions; it will also work with a simple round hole, but this shape allows better control of the sound. I often play with breaths and human beatbox, but the instrument can also play flute sounds, and you can use the pump hole for a great tremolo effect!

Bass bicycle pump For this one I got a large model pump, dismantled the foot and connected the pump with a 32mm diameter PVC water pipe elbow, which happens to be the same diameter as the pump. I didn't indicate the lengths of the pipes as they are not so important, it will work a little longer or shorter, the choice is yours! Nice sliding bass, and a beatbox more tuned than the soprano.

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Bass side-blown bicycle pump flute The mouthpiece is similar to the double bass side-blown flute 32mm diameter one, with two layers of PVC pipe glued together for the mouthpiece plate.

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PVC peul-style flutes The flutes in this chapter are inspired by the Fulani flute, also called fula, or Peul flute, from West Africa, traditionally made from a reed called tambin. I call my instruments “peul-style” flutes because although these flutes are very inspired by this instrument, my PVC flutes are different in many ways. In addition, it is always complicated to take an instrument’s name that contains the name of a population, and to apply it to instruments made in Paris by someone who has no connection with this tradition. But it is important for me to cite my sources and not to invent a new name by totally reclaiming the instrument. Another complication is that there are other flutes called peul flutes, because they are played by peul musicians, but very different; the peul flute played by Yacouba Moumouni for example is an end-blown flute drilled with 6 holes.

3-hole diatonic The flute we are going to talk about is a long overtone flute drilled with three holes with a rather unusual shape. As the tambin is conical in shape, the flute is wide at the mouthpiece location and tapers to thinner towards the other end. The mouthpiece is wide, with reinforcements made of beeswax on its sides. The block, made of calabash, is stuck on the end of the flute, in the beeswax.

Traditional 3-hole peul flute

My PVC version of this flute is of course cylindrical, and the mouthpiece is placed at the distance from the block recommended by Boehm for the accuracy of the overtones. Like most of my instruments elsewhere, this is an interpretation of the traditional flute and not a reproduction. I worked on these prototypes with my flautist friends from Burkina Faso, Simon Winsé and Dramane Dembélé, they are adopted by traditional musicians and allow them to play more easily in a band with other musicians playing on Western

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instruments while keeping their own sound and playing technique.

25mm diameter The most used flute is the G major flute, quite long but playable by almost all sized hands. Let's start with that one. The lowest note is a B, the opening of the first hole raises the note by a semitone, the following ones by a tone. The flute is therefore tuned in an E mode, or Phrygian mode, so for the flute in G:

B

C

D

E

B

C

D

E

F#

G

A

B

C

D

E

PVC 3-hole major diatonic peul-style flute in G (lowest note B) range

To find the key of the peul flute, you have to take the lowest note and go down a major third. For example the flute in G: the lowest note is B, go a major third down, the flute is in G Major.

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I make two types of mouthpieces: one with beeswax reinforcements, for a sound closer to the traditional flute, more loaded in harmonics and favoring double sounds, or one with PVC reinforcements, for a clearer sound. Both models are interesting. I give you both, you can try.

PVC 3-hole traditional peul-style flute in G (lowest note B), 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC 3-hole traditional peul-style flute in G (lowest note B), 25mm diameter, with beeswax mouthpiece

NECESSARY MATERIAL

NECESSARY TOOLS

● PVC electric conduit pipe 25mm diameter ● Beech wooden dowel 22mm diameter

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Mitre saw Bench drill Half-round file Tin shears Sandpaper Square Measuring tape Electronic tuner OPTIONAL

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● Benchtop sander ● Deburrer ● Heat gun

Block: cut a 22mm diameter wooden dowel piece, 30mm length, sand the cut faces well.

Body: Cut a piece of 25mm diameter PVC electrical conduit pipe, 727mm length (645mm according to the plan, from the middle of the mouthpiece opening to the end of the flute + 22mm from the middle of the mouthpiece opening to the beginning of the block + 30mm for the block + 30mm extra for tuning) Clean both ends. Head: Push the wooden block into one end of the pipe. Measure, then drill, the mouthpiece opening (mark 52mm from the end of the pipe: 30mm for the block + 22mm internal diameter of the pipe). Always drill smaller than on the blueprint, and work on it with a file and deburrer. Dig out the inside of the hole with a deburrer and then with a file.

Beeswax reinforcements: heat the beeswax to form two balls. Form the reinforcements by kneading the wax, and glue them by pressing and letting them protrude 1mm over the hole.

PVC reinforcements: cut a 25mm diameter PVC pipe washer, 6mm length, cut two pieces, 22mm length, with shears, round all the angles. Heat or bend the two

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pieces to match the shape of the body pipe. Glue them to the sides of the mouthpiece, letting them protrude 1mm over the hole.

Tuning and drilling: Gradually shorten the body until you get a correct note, then follow the plan for the drilling.

Some other pitches :

PVC 3-hole traditional peul-style flute in F (lowest note A), 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC 3-hole traditional peul-style flute in Eb (lowest note G), 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

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I also make models using other tunings and other ranges. Here are some examples, feel free to invent more.

PVC 3-hole diatonic minor peul-style flute in B, 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC 3-hole ethiopian scale peul-style flute in A#, 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

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20mm diameter For the higher-pitched models with the 20mm diameter PVC electric conduit, follow the same process as the 25mm diameter version and adapt the dimensions.

PVC 3-hole traditional peul-style flute in C (lowest note E), 20mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC 3-hole traditional peul-style flute in A# (lowest note D), 20mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

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4-hole pentatonic This model is in fact a peul-style version of a traditional oblique flute from Burkina Faso drilled with 4 holes and playing a minor pentatonic scale, which you will find in the chapter End-blown flutes - 4-hole pentatonic. I share it with you because I love playing this flute! I make two versions, with a major or minor pentatonic scale, the head is the same as the diatonic version, also possible to choose between beeswax and PVC mouthpiece.

25mm diameter

PVC 4-hole major pentatonic peul-style flute in Eb, 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC 4-hole major pentatonic peul-style flute in B, 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

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PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic peul-style flute in E, 25mm diameter, with beeswax mouthpiece

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic peul-style flute in C#, 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic peul-style flute in B, 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

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20mm diameter

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic peul-style flute in A, 20mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic peul-style flute in G, 20mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

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32mm diameter I use thick PVC for these flutes (3mm thick wall). These flutes are quite unique and sound especially good!

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic peul-style flute in Bb, 32mm diameter, with beeswax mouthpiece

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic peul-style flute in G, 32mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

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6-hole diatonic In one of my most recent experiments, a hybrid instrument with a peul-style head and an Indian bansuri body, we got a flute that can play much more rhythmically and aggressively than the bansuri. I will continue to develop this model which corresponds perfectly to my playing! Here are my first prototypes, with 6 playing holes and one tuning hole.

PVC major diatonic peul-style flute in B, 32mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC major diatonic peul-style flute in D, 25mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

PVC major diatonic peul-style flute in A, 20mm diameter, with PVC mouthpiece

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End-blown flutes Oblique flutes, or end-blown flutes, are the simplest flutes to make; any pipe cut almost cleanly can be played like an oblique flute. The difficulty is of course knowing how. Unlike the recorder where the sound is ready-made when you blow into it, here you have to do everything by yourself: shape the air stream, aim it at the edge of the pipe, and block part of the opening with the lips. Roughly like this:

Another technique exists, the dental position, used by Iranian ney players. The edge of the flute is positioned between the upper incisors, and the tongue creates an air path along the palate.

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This technique is extremely difficult to master but produces a unique variety of timbres and registers. It is possible to use both techniques on the same flute without tuning problems.

4 hole pentatonic Flute inspired by West-african side-blown instruments, which inspired my peul-style pentatonic flutes. Here are some versions. I won't detail how this instrument mouthpiece is made; just rub the edge of the pipe with a file or sandpaper to sharpen it, leaving more or less thickness to your liking. That's all!

20mm diameter

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic end-blown flute in D, 20mm diameter

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PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic end-blown flute in G, 20mm diameter

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic end-blown flute in A, 20mm diameter

25mm diameter One thing I love about these flutes is going from 20mm diameter to 25mm diameter but with the same pitches which produce timbres that are very different but, depending on my musical needs, both are interesting!

PVC 4-hole minor pentatonic end-blown flute in D, 25mm diameter

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6-hole diatonic It’s not a kaval or a ney, instruments that I’m not familiar with playing, but while like them in using the end-blown technique, my version is a simple 6 hole flute. It works great for me, so I share it with you. 20mm diameter

PVC 6-hole major diatonic end-blown flute in D, 20mm diameter

PVC 6-hole major diatonic end-blown flute in B, 20mm diameter 25mm diameter

PVC 6-hole major diatonic end-blown flute in C, 25mm diameter 134

6-hole chromatic This is the body of my chromojara with an end-blown mouthpiece. I use this instrument a lot in my recording studio; the chromojara technique has been acquired, so I take advantage of it.

PVC 6-hole chromatic chromojara-style end-blown flute in G, 25mm diameter

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PVC pan flutes The Pan flute is an instrument made up of several pipes plugged at one end. I use PVC electrical conduit pipe, with wooden dowel for the block. Depending on the dowel, you will need to thicken the block with tape or, alternatively, heat the end of the pipe to push in the block tightly. For the traditional bamboo or reed pan flutes, the pipes widen with each note, to maintain a balance in the timbre. With a PVC flute, the diameters being fixed, the balance will be different, but using the same diameter for all the notes also gives a certain homogeneity. Some traditional panpipes, such as the Ecuadorian rondador, also use almost identical diameters for all their notes. I don't know much about this instrument, but I really like playing and recording it. I made some prototypes, some I think are interesting. Here they are.

Major diatonic Pan flute in C, 16mm diameter

C

158

G

102

D

138

A

87

E

122

B

77

F

112

C

72

136

Very simple pan flute, perfect for educational use. The measurement given is always the measurement between the block and the end of the pipe, or the measurement of the air column. I use plastic zip ties to hold the pipes together; you can also glue them, like Eastern European instruments, or try weaving like South American ones.

Minor diatonic Pan flute in D, 20mm and 25mm diameter

C

648

G

209

D

574

A

185

D

283

B

163

E

252

C

152

F

236

D

138

I have used this flute on stage several times. It combines two 25mm diameter bass notes and a 20mm diameter D minor scale.

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Bass Pan flute, 25mm diameter

G#

1656

D#

1130

C#

1234

G#

824

For now I only have these 4 notes for recording studio purposes. The chromatic version is in my wish list, but first I have to learn to play it better. The sound of this kind of pan flutes is one of my favourite things, can't wait to master the playing and use it everywhere!

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PVC pop instrument This is a unique and very useless instrument, probably my worst creation, but the sound is so fun! To play this instrument, you will need

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PVC didgeridoo The didgeridoo is a natural horn, a wind instrument played with lip vibration (as used for the brass family in the western classical world), partially conical in shape, with a wide mouthpiece, traditionally played by Australian aborigines. The didgeridoo is played primarily using the fundamental note of the instrument. The wide and bowl-less mouthpiece allows the musician to play and articulate the harmonics of the sound. The playing technique of the instrument is a mix of circular breathing, rhythms, yellings and overpressures or overtones, with the tuning of the high notes of the instrument depending on its shape. The instrument having been adopted by many musicians from other musical cultures, its playing and making have evolved away from the Aboriginal tradition. The PVC didgeridoo is a free adaptation of this instrument, in its simple form or with some variations.

Mouthpiece I was used to playing instruments with rather wide mouthpieces, so I use a piece of 40mm diameter wide-walled (3-4mm) PVC pipe which I file and deburr to strongly round the inside and a little the outside, mainly for playing comfort. For some didgeridoo players used to thinner mouthpieces, I use one piece of thin-walled 32mm diameter pipe and two 32mm-40mm reducers. I glue one at one end as a mouthpiece to thicken the area and work on the mouthpiece shape with a file and a deburrer to round it. I use the other piece to connect this pipe to the 40mm diameter part of the body of the instrument. In general I keep about ¼ of the length of the instrument in 32mm diameter.

Bell The secret of the sound is in the bell. As explained above, the didgeridoo is not a cylindrical instrument. You can play an unmodified piece of pipe as a didgeridoo, but it will sound like a piece of pipe, not because of its material but because of its perfectly cylindrical shape.

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To break this cylindrical shape, I add a bell at the end. It works with many shapes and materials, but my favorite is the traffic cone. It's visual, light, easy to store, and it sounds great! To choose the right traffic cone: choose a rigid cone, the soft plastic ones will absorb sound instead of diffusing it. The ones I use the most need some rasping to widen the hole on the narrower side until they form a perfect sleeve into which you can push the 40mm diameter pipe or the male part of an elbow. I usually cut off the foot to reduce weight and bulk, and cut different cone lengths to best match the didgeridoo; a longer cone will sound better with a lower instrument.

Straight didgeridoo

PVC straight didgeridoo with traffic cone bell Simple but cumbersome. You can vary the length to change the note of the instrument. The most common didgeridoo is in C #, and is about 1350mm length. You can also try to vary the shape and conicalness of the instrument by connecting sections of several diameters with reducers.

PVC straight didgeridoo with water cooler bottle bell

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PVC straight didgeridoo with 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 63mm diameter pipe and 63mm-100mm diameter reduction pad

Folded didgeridoo

PVC folded didgeridoo with traffic cone bell The best number of elbows versus size ratio, and a shape easy to play on stage.

Can of worms didgeridoo

PVC can of worms didgeridoo with traffic cone bell Needs a lot of elbows, but very compact. Keep the bell removable to be able to store it more easily. The sound of a didgeridoo coming out of this small object is always surprising.

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PVC electrical sheath PVC electrical sheath is something I love. I use it for all kinds of extensions, connected to flutes or membrane clarinets. But used alone it’s a ready-made musical instrument. I imagine you've all blown into a piece of electrical sheath, or twirled that piece over your head to make it sing. Let's see how it sounds.

The electrical sheath is a cylindrical pipe open at both ends, so it has a note depending on its length, and a series of overtones tuned according to the harmonic scale. The rings of its corrugated shape act like multiple fipple edges, so the whistling electrical sheath is the simplest instrument to make in this book: cut a piece, blow. Or suck; it works both ways. In the rest of this chapter, all the pipes drawn are corrugated electrical sheath, but I don't want to draw all the little rings at all, they are drawn without but they are corrugated pipes!

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Whistling pipes Simple whistling pipes Blown electrical sheaths have different timbres depending on their diameter; the 16mm diameter favors high harmonics, larger diameters will sound more medium. For this example, I'm using a 20mm diameter electrical sheath. Approximately 50 centimeters to 2 meters long, the blown electrical sheath has a clear sound and well-defined overtones. From about 3 or 4 meters, the sound begins to get an additional effect, a kind of growl. With very long lengths, around 6 meters, the growl becomes a distinct rhythm and transforms the sound a lot. Around 10 meters, the instrument’s sound begins to become a thudding and requires more breath, but is still interesting. At extreme lengths, such as 20 meters and more, the instrument requires very strong pressure, gives a much more quiet, intimate sound, but played into a microphone the effect is unique. It's up to you to explore these sounds and choose the effects you like the most. The shape of the object remains free; you can use it unrolled or fix it in different shapes with zip ties. For my part, for practical reasons I often end up with a coiled shape.

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Chromatic whistling pipes set The short lengths have a very clear sound, and the possibility of playing the different harmonics rather precisely. The notes are well defined but difficult to hold. I use them a lot for shaky and rough drones, love the effect.

Chromatic whistling pipes set from G to D, 16mm diameter

G

765

B

610

G#

720

C

590

A

680

C#

562

A#

645

D

535

I don’t have the exact scientific explanation, but these short little pipes sound much better curled into this shape than left straight, so shape is important for this instrument. Not for the following ones.

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Whistling christmas ornament, 20mm and 25mm diameter Another acoustic mystery, this instrument plays two whistled notes that move parallel, but not quite, when you blow at one end. What is particularly surprising is the relative independence of the two notes, which nevertheless come from the same air column. The sound is quite magical and unique; the secret is in the central container. You need a long enough pipe that goes into one side, a long enough pipe that comes out of the other, and a sufficiently large container. I’ve made it with a world globe, with a metal cake box, and the one in the drawing is made with a very big Christmas ornament borrowed from a very big Christmas tree.

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Beatbox pan flute Another way to play these electrical sheaths is to blow into them from a distance, with the mouth about 1cm from the opening of the pipe. We get the fundamental note of the pipe with a breathy sound. The longer the pipe is, the more this note gains an extra harmonic sound that varies with the speed of the breath. Difficult to play live, it doesn’t work very well with a microphone on stage, but in a recording studio this sound texture is very rich and can be added into a lot of mixes. I make two models. Small versions, with a few notes chosen according to the key or the mood of the moment, allow me to play instinctively and to freely improvise.

A few small beatbox pan flutes examples, 20mm diameter

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The large chromatic versions, made for recording studio, a complete instrument with a pipe layout similar to the piano keyboard (look closely) so you don't have to search for notes.

3 octave chromatic beatbox pan flute, 20mm diameter

2 octave bass chromatic beatbox pan flute, 20mm diameter

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C

1160

C

582

C

281

C

140

C#

1095

C#

545

C#

263

C#

129

D

1035

D

510

D

250

D

120

D#

980

D#

486

D#

235

D#

113

E

920

E

465

E

225

E

108

F

872

F

435

F

212

F

103

F#

822

F#

400

F#

198

F#

96

G

782

G

385

G

186

G

90

G#

732

G#

360

G#

178

G#

84

A

689

A

336

A

170

A

78

A#

650

A#

312

A#

159

A#

72

B

613

B

297

B

147

B

67

C

63

Like all of the instruments in this book, these lengths are indicative and may vary depending on the type of pipe you are using. To be sure, cut larger and gradually cut, checking the pitch on an electric tuner.

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Extended flutes The extended flutes are an idea that came up by observing flutes in the Quai Branly museum's reserves. A flute caught my eye, a flute with standard playing holes and then a long undrilled extension. I still don't know how this flute actually works, but it made me want to try a flute where the last note is extended by an octave. Thanks to the magic of overtones, the fingering always plays the same note, but the timbre is transformed, the possibilities extended, and this little multi-timbral effect pleases me a lot. I'm still exploring these instruments, but I'm sharing my first prototypes with you.

Extended peul-style flute I made several tests with different types of mouthpieces, for transverse flutes I prefer peul-style flute mouthpieces, it’s easier to reach the different overtones and better for rhythmic playing.

20mm diameter Here is my first model, with an extension of two octaves and two fingerings for low C, one short and one with the extension. A bit strange to play but interesting.

Extended peul-style diatonic 6 holes flute 20mm diameter in C / extension in C

25mm diameter The following flutes have an extension of only one octave, more interesting to play for my taste, the difference is quite noticeable but the instrument is more coherent, less “two in one”.

Extended peul-style major pentatonic 4 holes flute 25mm diameter in Eb / extension in Eb

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40mm diameter A very large diameter, for large hands only.

Extended peul-style major pentatonic 4 holes flute 40mm diameter in F / extension in F

Extended whistle The result is halfway between an overtone flute and a low whistle, I'll have to try other ones, for now I only made this one, with a rather strange mode.

Modal low whistle 7 holes 25mm diameter in C#

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Mixed instruments In this chapter I’ll present my weirdest instruments. I perform a lot on stage, alone with my loop pedal, or in collaboration with other artists, and I often build new instruments for each project. Being a multi-instrumentalist, I often assemble several wind instruments to form a new one with multiple properties, whether it is to quickly switch from one sound to another, to mix several sounds at the same time, or to have all the sounds of a song available to record my loops. It also adds a visual and fun dimension to the instruments! I might find a ranking later, for now I'll share them with you as they come.

Beatbox Peul flute

Beatbox peul flute, 20 and 25mm diameter

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This instrument is composed of a traditional PVC 3-hole A # 20mm Peul-style flute (which you will find in the PVC Peul-style flutes chapter) and 4 pieces of 25mm diameter electrical sheath, fixed with zip ties. I made this instrument for a concert in London in collaboration with Addictive TV Orchestra of Samples, so the chosen scale comes from one of their tracks. I have used it since for several compositions.

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Conclusion I hope that you’ve found useful information in this book for your future constructions, inspiration, and a desire to embark on the endlessness of instrument creation. Over the years I have received countless requests for information, plans, questions about the making, tuning and drilling of woodwind instruments, and I have often answered the same way: to explain it well, I'll have to write a book. This first version is finally complete, but I will continue to create and experiment, so I will continue to write this book every day, and I will publish updates when enough new content is done. You will of course be notified of new publications. Feel free to follow me wherever you can, and send and share your creations with me. If you are creating new versions of the instruments from this book, or others, feel free to send me your plans; it will help me a lot and will feed future publications. I wish you good music, good building and see you soon!

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Thanks First of all thanks to Sandrine Morais, my partner in Musiques de Nulle Part and in life, for her support during all stages of the writing of this book, and for having participated in the production and documentation of a big part of this book’s instruments. Thanks to Andrew Cronshaw for the great work on the english translation of this book. Thanks to Jean-Edouard Chamalet, during a training period in my workshop during part of the writing of this book, for his participation in the realization of some of the instruments presented here. Thanks to the entire CFMI team in Sélestat, and especially Elizabeth Flusser, for my initiation into instrument making and for their support during those two years. Thanks to Benoît Poulain for all the things learned by his side: manufacturing, tools and acoustics. Thanks to Simon Winsé for his introduction to West African flutes. Thanks to Lance Posey, Ryan Curtis Jackson, Dan Paulus, Charlie Bluglass and Jeremy Fitzgerald for your proofreading. Thanks to all these meetings that inspired me, with musicians, scientists, instrument creators : Bart Hopkin, Bernard Baschet, John Scoville, Olivier Marnette, Martine Dudragne, Dominique Naninck, Jean Jeltsch, Joël Gilbert, Winne Clement, Steev Kindwald, Dramane Dembélé, Philippe Cap, Philippe Berne, Max Vandervorst, Axel Lecourt, Charlie Dalin, Nicolas Chedmail, Michel Thouseau, Makuwe Pimkani, André Takoulouman Suitman.

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All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. Nicolas BRAS Association Musiques de Nulle Part December 1, 2020

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