Mathius Shadow-Sky plays his slide-PVC-SAX [Warsaw, 1988. photo: Andrzej Tyszko]


Most of the time, you create your own musical instrument, because at start you don't have money to buy one, or because it doesn't exist. In case of PVC-SAX it was both. I created the PVC-SAX for a composition I needed to play with my orchestra Ono Lulu filharmonia: to get a natural glissando with a sax sound. Rather than to ask a luthier (instrument maker) to build the Slide-Sax, I found pvc tube (the bamboo of Western Society), the fastest, the cheapest and, the easiest way to build a slide-sax instrument. The PVC-SAX is a wind instrument with two pvc sliding tubes and a saxophone mouthpiece. The slide has three functions, to get sliding sounds with a sax sound (nearest to clarinet sound because of the non conical tube), to position the fundamental lowest pitch, and to transform the scale of the instrument. The high richness of the spectrum allows large timbre modulations (mouthpiece #6). It is easy to create new scales by piercing the tube. The pvc-sax is cheap to build and you can create a PVC-SAX-CONSORT from the contrabass to the piccolo PVC-SAX.

The PVC-SAX is free of copyright, and you can build your own one. We just ask that you send at Le Centre De La Bombe a picture of yourself playing and a CD audio of your PVC-SAX playing. We hope in this way to generate a big family of PVC-SAX players, and why not to create the PVC-SAX-CONSORT I dreamed since 1986. Have a fun time! Let us know at the center of the bomb. If somebody has the project to organize a PVC-SAX-CONSORT with several PVC-SAX players, I will be happy to be the first composer to write and conduct music for the orchestra: that will be a marvelous gift! mathius shadow-sky personal contact.



La Commedia del Suono of ONO LULU filharmonia:
• CD track 02. "1rst movement: tchèka tchèka où où, scene 1: qui est qui? (who is who?)," and
CD track 12. "the second anonymous: l'acte sexuel (the sexual act)."

4 Songs 4 Karioka the Divine:
• "Dépression Sexuelle de la Mouche Male"

Knots System in Miami:
• "Knot 3 page 9"


_There is 2 kind of pvc-sax:
04. A. One with sliding tube and 5 holes (one hand plays the slider, the other plays 5 pitch-hole)
04. B. The other with fixed sliding tube and 10 holes: you fix the slider position (fundamental lower pitch) and you play 10 pitch-hole with two hands.

    ___________________we have 5 fingers for each hand, therefore we can get at the very least, 10 pitches!

listen: One Day Human Kind Was Born:
.the 10-hole PVC-SAX SOLO played by Mathius Shadow-Sky, recorded in 1986.
[dOwnload mp3]




HOW TO BUILD 5 pitch-hole Tenor SLIDE PVC-SAX-A-COULISSE (smooth-neck-pvc-sax)?


• 2 pvc (vinyl polychlorure) tube 22mm and 18mm diameter (for tenor sax mouthpiece). These 2 usual electrical pvc tube slide one inside the other, and are sold in hardware store in length of 2500mm. We can find it also in building site, because electrician through them out under 1000mm of length.
• Sax or clarinet mouthpiece. The pvc tube length and diameter depend of the mouthpiece's register: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, or bass. Go to get the pvc tube with your mouthpiece to get the nearest diameter for your mouthpiece.
• sand paper
• small hacksaw, to cut the pvc tube.
• small drill, or gimlet to make pitch-hole.
• smooth scotch tape

inside tube length: 840 mm (770 mm for fixed slide PVC-SAX)
outside tube length: 840 mm (510 mm for fixed slide PVC-SAX)

Building procedure:

01. Cut, with hacksaw, two segments of 840mm (33 inches app.) of the 18mm and 22mm diameter tube. Other lengths are possible too, it depends of your mouthpiece: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone or bass. Personally I have a tenor mouthpiece.

02. Put one inside the other and test the sliding: if the tube fall, you can use smooth scotch tape to surround the smaller tube at its tip (opposite side of mouthpiece) to not fall down.

03. Slice thinly the top of the smaller tube and bevel with sand paper, to push and fit and fix into the sax mouthpiece. (if the tube is too small to be fixed inside mouthpiece, stick a cork in leaf around the tube, or use scotch tape.)

04. HOLE : 2 method : A. one random but convenient, B. the second, with measurement and accuracy.

04.A. Mark the position of your 5 fingers on the tube, nearest the mouthpiece, and then make a hole at each mark. That's it! Play then your finger mark scale.
Notice that larger hole sound different than thinner one. (personnally I used from 4mm to 10 mm hole.)
With larger hole, the pitch is more stable but with thinner hole, there is more sound flexibility. At the same place on the tube, larger hole sound higher and smaller hole sound lower.
Notice that you can mute a hole with scotch tape, and pierce an other one. You can have in this case more than 5 holes: to choose which scale you will play today!
You can have much more, thinner holes than larger holes on tube, but with larger hole you can play with "half position", it means that you mute just half of the hole to get half higher or lower pitch.

To be continued...


Helpful mail from users:

2012/5/17 from Alex Arnold


My name is Alex and I'm interested in building the slide saxophone. Currently I play alto sax and am just curious. I have built instruments before like a tenor recorder. I don't understand some of the instructions. For example, when drilling the holes, are you saying that I should just drill randomly and then figure out how to make it sound in tune by using the slide? That is just one thing I was confused about. I would appreciate if you could make diagrams and more exact measurements. Thank you in advance for whatever you can do.


2012/5/19 from Mathius Shadow-Sky

Hello Alex,
Thank you for your interest, I suppose you were visiting this page:
You can drill randomly AND you can calculate the positions of each hole according to the chosen scale. If you are familiar by building tenor recorder, the principle of piercing holes in the tube is not far. The adjustment has to be between the scale you choose to play and the ergonomic of your hand. The ratio for the 12 tone tempered scale is : 2 root of 12 = 1.05946. Like for strings instruments where you divide the length of the string, here you divide the length of the tube by this ratio (and divide the result by the same ratio, and again and again to the end) or an other one (check my research with non-octavian scales at and the particular tuning of my guitar Or if you want to use the harmonic location : divide the tube by 2 (octave), 3 (5th), 4 (4th), 5 (3rd) etc., and then locate the positions playable by your fingers. The advantage of the slider of the PVC sax, is that it changes the pitch and the ratio of the scale. It is why I am dreaming to make music with a consort of at least 8 musicians playing different PVC-slide-sax for scales mutations. Also in this case to get precise pitch by its piercing depends of many parameters: like the position of the mouthpiece (the distance needed of the tube to put it you do include in your calculation), the diameter of the tube, the air escaping between the two tube sliding (you can put a fat oil to avoid it), the degree of covering the hole with your finger, the opening of the mouthpiece etc. The rôle of the musician is to "adjust" each pitch to the harmonic context by its different accesses: its brain with mouth and fingers. Due to the enormous possibilities of drilling different scales on the PVC-slide-sax: it is a full time work. And now I do not have time to do it (but it should be done according to my scales research I was talking supra).
Hope I answer to your questions. Take me aware.
I am curious Alex where are you located?
Mathius Shadow-Sky


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the book of Mathius Shadow-Sky
the albums of Mathius Shadow-Sky for free download
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the biography of Mathius Shadow-Sky
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