Resource 6: Musical pipes

Background information / subject knowledge for teacher

The panpipe is called enkwanzi or oburere, which means little flutes. They are made from elephant grass or bamboo.

They are called stopped flutes because the nodes of the grass block the passage of air through the flute and determine pitch. The Ambu flutes are called stopped flutes for the same reason.

The flutes are arranged from lowest to the highest notes and then laced with a string. The open rim at the top is cut at right angles to the tube and the musician blows across the hole, as one is able to do with a bottle.

The melodic possibilities produced by the panpipe and by sets of flutes perhaps influenced the development of flutes with finger holes such as the Teso tribe flute and notched flutes.

Making and playing your own pipes

Pipe ensembles are special music groups because each person plays only one note. However, put together, often in very complicated ways, this creates wonderful music.

Pipes can be made from reeds (in rural areas) or metal (in urban areas). Pipe length can vary from 20 cm to over 1 m, producing a range of high and low notes.

You can make your own pipes by using plastic piping such as electrical conduit, cutting plastic fax-paper pipes, or irrigation piping (12–15 mm diameter). Make pipes of different lengths so that you have different notes.

To play the pipes:

  1. Place the open side of the instrument level, against the lower lip.
  2. Hold the pipe between your fingers, the index and thumb.
  3. Relax your other fingers around the middle of the instrument.
  4. Begin to blow softly across the hole until a note is produced.
  5. Experiment with closing the bottom of the pipe with your hand.

You could also use different sized bottles and blow across the tops to produce sounds.

Resource 5: Pupil praise songs