14 Fun Facts About the Pan Pipe You Might Not Know

Pan pipes are an amazing-sounding instrument. But I was curious to learn more about them than just how they sound. They have a fantastic history steeped in myth and are still popular today.

Pan pipes have lots of interesting facts with everything from how they are made to the myths behind them. They have a history that spans millennia and have gained and lost popularity. I’ve been learning about them and I share some of what I found here.

Panpipe facts

1. How Many Names Does a Pan Pipe Have?

Three. Pan pipes are also called the pan flute or syrinx. (You can see the myth from the name below).

2. The Pipes of A Pan Flute

The standard pan pipes usually have 20 pipes. For learners, you can get pipes of 13 and 15 and for the very experienced you can get pipes up to 30. I’ve even seen one with 44 pipes!

3. The Range Of Notes

  1. It is tuned diatonically (turned to a seven-note scale) If you want to make semitones you have to tilt the pipes towards your lips. (Source)
  2. To play the pipes you have to hold your pipes in both hands and blow across the open end of the pipes against the inner edge.

The range of the C pan flute is C1 to G4.

4. How Are They Made?

Pan pipes are made from bamboo, Bloodwood Cacique (Palisangre) However they can also be made from clay, metal, or wood, and sometimes even plastic/resin.

Some of the more expensive ones have a veneer. A walnut veneer is very popular.

You can get left and right-handed pan pipes. The left anded ones the size of the pipes is reversed.

You can make your own pan flute.

Not all pan pipes are curved with varying length pipes some people make them with the same lengths of bamboos but block them off inside to create different sounds. These are usually found in Greece.

5. The Most Famous Pan Piper

Gheorghe Zamfir is a famous pan piper from Găești Romania that plays pan pipes with more pipes than most people play. His Pipes have 22, 25, 28, and an incredible 30.

Here he is with André Rieu playing the lonely Shepard. It’s quite beautiful. By the age of 64, he had sold an incredible 120 million albums. He is responsible for bringing back the popularity of the pan pipes from forgotten obscurity.

In Romania, they have fiddlers that play the pan pipes professionally these are called lăutari.

6. How Long Have Pan Pipes Been Around?

Pan pipes came from the Cycladic islands, Greece in around 3000-2000 BCE, (Source) Or the early to the middle bronze age. Some sources say they were around even longer than that. So I’m saying more than 6000 years old.

7. Pan Pipe Myth

Pan pipes are steeped in mythology. There is a lot of myth surrounding the creation of panpipes.

You might have noticed the name changes it is called pan flute and pipes. Then there’s the word syrinx. I was curious to know what that meant. Apparently, it means several things, one medical. Also, a solo for a flute was written by Claude Debussy in 1913 and it’s the Greek name for an end-blown reed instrument (Source). This instrument was used by the Greeks.

However, it’s more than that. Syrinx is also the name of the nymph that the god Pan fell in love with. But the feeling wasn’t mutual. Syrinx fled his attentions and begged Zeus to save her. Unfortunately, Pan caught her, and then Zeus turned her to reeds to save her.

Pan was furious and distraught so he smashed the reeds. Then realizing his error and regretting it he kissed the reeds. This was when he discovered that the reeds made sounds. So he gathered up the reeds and made them into an instrument this way his beloved’s name would live forever. This was the Pan flute or pipes. (Source).

You can often see greet statues of the Nymph playing the pan pipes.

Some also think that the panpipes are attributed to Hermes and not Pan.

8. Where Can They Be Found Today?

Panpipes can be found the world over and are used in Greece, the UK, The USA, Russia, Romania, etc. Each country has a different tradition and uses for the pipes.

9. The Cost of Panpipes

The cost of pan pipes varies greatly with a smaller beginner set at about $67. With professional pipes ranging from $150 to $300. Some can go as high as $1000 plus.

10. Is It Hard to Play the Panpipes?

Panpipes need practice like any instrument. However, you can learn to play the panpipes in a few months. Like most instruments, it takes much longer to master. If you want to learn the panpipes it’s best to start with a curved single row flute and one with fewer pipes and work up as you progress. Make sure you have a decent instrument to start with so you know the mistakes are yours and not the flutes.

However, it can be difficult to get started. Some have difficulty in creating a sound, to begin with. I recommend that you get yourself a good teacher or check out YouTube videos

11. What Type of Flute Are They?

The panpipes are an end-blown flute.

12. How Is the Sound Made?

The sound is created by vibration from the air flowing across your pipes as you blow. Your tube length is what creates the higher and lower sounds.

13. How to play the Panpipes

To play the panpipes you have to hold them with both of your hands. Then brink the pipes up to your mouth. You have to make the right embouchure (that is how you form your mouth and lips to play). Then you blow. (source).

14. Types Of Pan Flute

You can get both straight and curved flutes. The curved ones are easier to play however the straight ones are easier to make. The straight ones are more basic than the curved ones and include the traditional South American flutes.

Recent Posts