Winfield Library Build-A-Flute Workshop

Workshop 88 led a workshop on 7/11/17 for the Winfield Public Library Young Adult Services called Science of Sound. The students built flutes (more like recorders) out of PVC tubing and pieces of wooden dowel. The flutes worked quite well, and the students had a good time.

There’s a LOT of information on the web about PVC flutes, up to and including some “flutomat” pages with interactive spreadsheets for finger hole placement. Who knew?

In preparing for the workshop by making a couple of flutes at home, it quickly became clear that it was often easier to get a flute to sound the first overtone than the fundamental we’d be shooting for. To set the stage for discussing that as the student flutes made their first noises, the presentation started out talking about natural vibration modes, with demos of guitar string harmonics, vibrating strips of metal, and a 15-foot “jumprope” with standing wave loops up to the 4th harmonic.

In discussions at W88 before the class, Rachel pointed out that decorating the flutes would be important to some students. Colorful duct tape, provided by both W88 and the library, proved that suggestion to be quite true, despite the stodgy old teacher never even considering it. Thankfully, we have a community to help rip off blinders!

Those discussions also resulted in scope creeping from the initial plan of just showing that drilling a hole or 2 could change the pitch of the flute. The final class version used a traditional six hole fingering scheme that played fairly well in tune into the second register – a few notes above an octave. Thanks to this flutomat for the hole spacings!

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