PVC + Bamboo Flutes, Bassoons, and other Instruments in Taipei

I went to Taiwan Luthier’s workshop on Saturday.

I had a hare-brained idea to make a PVC saxophone, based on this awesome video.

The design we used is actually more of a contrabass flute, or bassoon with a sax reed…

I bought a Sax mouthpiece and reed from Faith Bee, in Minquan W Road. It’s a clean and well kept store, down an alley, 5-7 minutes walk from the MRT. The manager was very helpful and knowledgeable. He sold me a C + T mouthpiece and a D’Addario 2 reed.

I went to TL Luthier’s workshop in South Taipei. Coming from Danshui, you can almost feel a different weather system in South Taipei. I felt it in Xindian too, more humid and tropical.

TL used a lathe to make a tight fit for the sax mouthpiece. If I had tried to do that with a drill, myself, it would’ve been an incompetent hipster nightmare. But he did it in 10 minutes. There was no air leakage whatsoever.

Then we used his drill to punch 6 holes in the PVC body.

I paid TL for the machine shop time. Well worth it, as I would’ve messed around for hours on my own, without his guidance and hardware knowledge.

When I tried to play the thing, however, I sounded godawful. My fault for being clueless about saxes. I put my mouth too far back, and made a geese-honk sound. then I put my mouth too far forward, and made a pig squeal noise. TL said I sounded like Lisa out of the Simpsons. We decided it must be the reed.

After watching a few videos, I took it home, and actually got a deep, sweet, bluesy sound out of it. I’m going to keep trying, as I think PVC instruments have a lot of potential. There are some really impressive videos on youtube.

TL’s shop is in South Taipei, on the far south of the Huilong line. Worth visiting if you need anything done. I’ve rarely met anyone that knows about both hardware and music.

More updates later… as I learn more about this art.


What confused me most was where to put the holes. I figured there must be a formula.

I finally searched for “flute hole size calculator”, and found plenty of results.

Google Search For Flute Hole Size Calculator

This looks like a good calculator:

After buying the sax mouthpiece, later models are going to be pretty inexpensive. PVC pipes are no more than 250TWD.


But why pvc? Just buy a sax.

Using a 3D printer you could print all the pieces and glue them together.

It’s a durable, basically disposable instrument. Cheap. Conversation starter. Gives similar cachet as taking a typewriter to a cafe to write your novel…


Even a cheap sax is quite expensive. I think he told me that it would have cost about 70,000nt for a mid range one.

I mean they’re not exactly simple with lots of mechanism and stuff. It’s basically made by rolling brass sheets into a tube, brazing them together, and then spin them on a metal spinning lathe, and then bending it to the right shape. The cork, buttons, etc. must be air tight.

There is this used one… no idea if it’s any good (according to the description). A beginner one made out of plastic is about 4000nt.

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I’m a saxophonist I know saxes. Those Yamaha student saxes are a bargain here c. 15k. Very nice saxes. Taiwan has a ridiculous amount of saxes being bought and sold due to the many old men who love playing nakasi music in the park. :sweat_smile:

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How about a trombone instead? We have one lying around if you are interested.

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2nd hand instruments can be found pretty cheap in Taipei. I bought violins and a cello for my kid and also have gotten into brass instruments. The general phobia of 2nd hand goods often extends to music, so you can really get some great deals. Check facebook, shopee, pctrade, and carousell. It’s also possible to get instruments repaired reasonably. I have an instrument in with KHS now (KHS makes Jupiter). There are also lots of boutique stores around, at least in Taipei. For sax, you could try Mauriat, Yamaha, and KHS. (Prices vary.)

PVC is apparently a growth field in instruments, but most folk say you’d do better buying a conventional instrument used.

This man knows.

Can’t tell if bear is trolling or not.

bear can you lend me 71 grand?

Really? I will have to think about that… thanks for the idea…

Can you buzz?

Still not sure if I should try trumpet or sax…

If you want a highly packable wind instrument, keep it up with those beans!

I mean, harmonica :grinning:

Do you know the altered scale?

Id be sincerely interested if a real sax player can get a sound out of the second model. Im going to take it to Faith Bee in a few weeks.

I don’t have 15 grand right now, and I have a big thing for DIY instruments.

Do I have a to give a big adagio for strings speech about how this bucket drumming vid is amazing, and could change a kid’s life…


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Already got a harp. Can chug and train a little. I am sincerely worried about the aluminium in the stainless steel. Im trying to stay away from that stuff.

Have you seen the Tom Walbank vids? Mindblowing.

He takes it to the absolute extreme, but stays bluesy.

I am not most folk.

I am HHC

Interestingly, once you have the reed, mouthpiece and ligature, everything comes off the shelf in B and Q or a suidian. Parts cost something like 200TWD.

Ancient instrument makers never had PVC to hand, so we don’t know what they would have done with it.

And there’s the fact that 15 grand is still prohibitive for maybe half of kids/families out there, but 2500 isn’t. Not planning on selling these things, just doing an experiment.

With no sax mouthpiece, I figure I can make a PVC bassoon for 500TWD.

The sax player in the OP vid is a really good player. Very cool and smooth tone. There’s only a tiny hint of PVC cheapness in the song he played. A tiny little bit if you listen hard. That could be fixed with EQ, a good mic, or a cloth on a mic, to dampen the slightly trebly PVC.


I might even dump the sax mouthpiece, and build a bassoon next time. All I really want to do is play God Bless the Child.



Can you work glass in your current set up?

I want to make a glass slide out of a Sunmai bottle.

It just needs 2 inches chopped from the top… and maybe rounded a little.

Let me know.

I have to watch this vid at some time. Takes you through the whole PVC contrabass building process.

He plays it around 36:30. Sounds good.

Got to be better tone than a commercial beginner’s model. JMO.

Pro tip, use the @ to send a notification that a user has been tagged…

@Taiwan_Luthiers is the second name in the list that pops up as soon as i enter the @ symbol…