Instrument-a-Week (1): Membranophone

Posted by on Feb 23, 2014 in Instrument-a-week, Music


Difficulty: 3 of 5


  • plastic tube with a diameter of 20 mm and a length of 30-40 cm (use the so-called PN pipe, which can be purchased in building stores – it is used in construction for installing electrical cables)
  • PPR reducing T-piece 25 cm (a diameter of upper and bottom opening)/20 cm (a diameter of the side opening) – it is used for pluming installation, in Europe it can be purchased in Bauhaus stores
  • a bigger role of isolating tape
  • a balloon
  • scissors
  • electric drill
  • drill bit with a diameter of 7 mm


  1. Place the T-piece near one end of the plastic pipe and mark the spot where the T-piece ends.Membranofon 01, foto Peter Kus
  2. Wrap the isolation tape around the tube at the position of the marked spot: the spot should be at the middle of the tape. Wrap a thick layer of the tape – so high that the T-piece gets stuck onto the tape layer when we put it on the tube (see the 3rd step).Membranofon 02, foto Peter Kus
  3. Push the tube trough the T-piece, with 1 mm of the tube looking over the edge of the T-piece.  Membranofon 03, foto Peter Kus
  4. Cut the balloon, so that we get a small patch, 5 by 5 cm.
  5. Stretch the balloon patch over the T-piece opening where the tube comes through. Attach it with the rest of isolating tape. You have created a membrane on the top of the membranophone. Membranofon 04, foto Peter KusWhen you blow in the side opening, the air will travel in middle space between the tube and the T-piece upwards towards the membrane (it can not travel downwards, because we have sealed the crevice with the isolation tape). The air will than continue over the edge of the tube and down the tube on its inner side. Thereby it will shake the membrane which will start to vibrate and produce the sound.
  6. Drill 5 to 6 holes in the tube at random spots. Because of different factors (the diameter of the tube and the T-piece, the tension of the balloon membrane, the type of balloon and its age, etc.)  the instrument is hard to tune. We will therefore satisfy ourselves with the randomly tuned wind instrument. Membranofon 05, foto Peter KusPlay the membranophone the same way as the (transverse) flute – you hold the tube horizontally and blow sideways into the free opening of the T-piece.


(2) Fruit-box Kalimba
(3) Moped
(4) Cardboard Tubophone
(5) Bird Whistle
(6) Froggy
(7) Water Flute