One-Note Wind Chime

A favorite television series around this office is the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. One music theme keeps playing in my head, “Cylons Were Created”, available for download from, characterized by a single repeated syncopated piano note with short sustain, B above middle-C, 493.88Hz. Although we don’t claim perfect pitch, we do seem to hear that particular note in our head– perhaps this is actually a virus downloaded from the Cylons.

We decided to create a single-note wind chime recreating that note, trying to match the theme as closely as possible.

Scrap 1-inch diameter copper pipe, originally intended for water plumbing, formed the chime. We cut using a jigsaw with metal blade, intentionally cutting the initial length for a lower pitch than the target, and lopping off pieces, converging on the final note. This is fine for a single note, but we probably want a better cutting tool if making a lot of chimes. Our pipe ended up with a length of 34.5cm .

When tuning, remember that wavelenth goes as square root of pipe length, not proportional to length as with stringed instruments. Holes were drilled at 22% of length to support the chime element, as recommended in Wind Chimes– Design and Construction by Bart Hopkin.

Since a single element is used, we elected to use two wind vanes to increase the probability of sounding a note in a gentle breeze. Two stikers are attached to each wind vanes, intended to give two closely spaced hits, imitating the syncopation of the theme. For this first attempt we cut scrap wood free-hand with a jigsaw, to learn what changes we should make in a finished version.

For version 2.0, we will position the strikers further apart, try calculating the period of the striker pendulum to match the musical theme we used for inspiration, experiment with a different diameter pipe for a stronger fundamental frequency, try tuning using a computer graphing pitch instead of by ear, and possibly use better woodworking skills.

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