PVC Musical Headboard Build

5 years old have many things in common. A penchant for poor personal volume control, meth-addict levels of energy, and an OCD like compulsion to make noise. Mine in particular has the “drummer” variant of that condition and so loves to bang on anything and everything. This affliction made manifest is the Blue Man Group, naturally his favorite musical group. So when he needed a new headboard for his bed, we decided to see what we could do let him exercise his inner Blue Man.

Materials were:

  •  4 pieces of  6’  long, 4 inch PVC
  •  4 pieces of 10’ long of 2 inch PVC.
  • 2 & ½ bags of 2 inch 90 degree elbows
  • You’ll eventually need PVC primer and glue as well once you’re ready to lock everything in place.
  • 2 3/8” hole drill bit. (Exterior diameter of 2 inch PVC is 2 3/8)

The math behind the right lengths for the right tones are pretty straight forward – I just followed the recommendation from a PVC instrument instructable by tallman1996 – there he explains:

“I got an equation from nate true that will give you the length of the pipe you need when you plug in the frequency: Tube Length (in) = (13300/(2*Frequency))+(Tube Diameter/2)

For the frequencies of the notes in the range of the piano go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_key_frequencies
My low note was number 16 (C2) in the list on the wikipedia page.”


Drilling the holes through the 4 inch pipe was easy, just lay two parallel lines opposite each other on either side of the pipe and mark your drill holes on either side at equal distances from one end. The 2 3/8 hole bit went through easily but you had to keep it completely perpendicular to the pipe or it would jam. I highly recommend you use a drill with a torque setting so you don’t snap your wrist or have the pipe turn and crack you in the head when it jams. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Also, PVC power / flecks have amazing static cling powers so be aware that it’s rather messy.

Since I was worried about the pipe length hitting the ceiling and didn’t want a spaghetti mess of pipes on it I opted for a C3-C4 whole note scale with an extra C2 at the bottom for a nice low note.

It turned out well, we need to paint and glue the PVC together and drill the elbows to the lower cross member but even with the dry fit they stay together pretty well. With the 90 degree elbow on the end, he could continue to stick pipes on it and change or add notes if he’d like.

Paddles for now are just a pair of old flip-flops that will be modified to have handles. Any dense foam rubber will do.

This was also a great excuse to try out my new GoPro 3 on Time Lapse, so here is a video I did of the build: