The handpan, often known as the “hang,” is a convex steel drum that is tuned with many notes and played with the hands. Each handpan is tuned to a specific scale, such as major, minor, harmonic minor, hijaz, mixolydian, and so forth. In terms of sound, the handpan is an overtone-emitting instrument that can produce multiple layers of sound and ethereal effects, and it pairs well with drone instruments. The handpan, originally known as the hang (pronounced “hah-ng”), was invented in 2001 by a small Swiss firm. In a moment, we’ll explain why you shouldn’t call it a “hang drum,” but first:
Origin of the Handpan/Hang
The Trinidad steel drum became a worldwide craze in the 1970s. Felix Rohner had been playing steel pans for twenty years when he created PanArt, a firm dedicated to the manufacturing of these concave instruments, in the 1990s. Soon after, Sabrina Scharer, who would become his long-term business partner, joined PanArt.
Reto Weber, a Swiss jazz and steel pan artist who traveled to India in search of a technique to play the steel drum with his hands, as he had done with the Indian ghatam (clay drum), approached PanArt and asked, “Is it possible to construct a ghatam with notes? The Hang and what would later be known as the Handpan were born out of this.
By flipping an unique hand-hammered metal pan from a concave to a convex position, Felix and Sabrina reinvented the Trinidad steel drum. The instrument’s seven to eight notes were then made extremely sensitive to even the lightest touch, allowing musicians to play it by hand. The instrument’s center note, often known as “The musical scale notes circling the ding and up the sides of the pan are dug into the metal, similar to a conventional Trinidad steel pan, only with an additional dimple in the center of the note.
The tuned convex pan was then glued together with a strong adhesive and a thicker steel resonating chamber with an opening in the centre (known as the resonating chamber) “When the instrument is flipped upside down, it may also be played percussively, creating an artistically fascinating UFO shape.
In their Swiss-German dialect, Felix and Sabrina called the instrument “the Hang (pronounced hah-ng),” which simply means “hand.” They obtained legal ownership of the name “Suspend from PanArt. The Hang was first introduced to the public in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2001, and the instruments quickly gained popularity because to its lovely and mysterious tone and unique scales. The Hang’s popularity began to skyrocket. Felix and Sabrina, on the other hand, viewed the Hang as a work of art, not a commodity, and refused to mass-produce it, producing just a small number each year by hand.
Felix and Sabrina implemented a policy requiring potential Hang purchasers to send a handwritten letter to PanArt explaining why they wanted to buy the instrument. Those who came to the PanArt workshop in Bern, Switzerland, without an invitation were sent home without being welcomed. To the dismay of many, PanArt discontinued making the instrument in 2013 in order to preserve the instrument’s mystique, worth, and elusiveness. As Felix described it, “The Hang isn’t something you’d display in a storefront. It’s a part of the gift’s flow. This is the concept we’d like to get across.
Beginning in 2007, instrument makers in Europe and the United States began producing their own versions of the Hang, however the name was changed due to licensing issues “Hang can only be used with PanArt instruments. As a result, the term “handpan” was coined to describe any sort of “Hang type steel pan” produced by a company other than PanArt.
Because there are still only a few hundred handpan makers in the world, the handpan remains extremely difficult to obtain and pricey in compared to other instruments. Due to the great demand and complexity of creating the instrument, top line producers have waiting lists that can stretch for years. However, flash sales on the websites of various manufactures occur from time to time, and second-hand resale of handpans is widespread.
So why not call it a Hang Drum?
The instrument’s original creators insisted on the name Hang for their brand of hand pan. While the term “hang drum” is often used verbally, in writing, instruments created by Pan Art should be referred to as “hang” and all others as “hand pans.”
RAV Vast (a magnificent sounding metal tongue drum) vs. handpan:
Documentary by PanArt and Hang:
Handpan vs. Hang video comparison:
Slit drums are composed of what?
A hollow percussion instrument known as a slit drum or slit gong. It is not a true drum, but rather an idiophone, which is commonly carved or made from bamboo or wood into a box with one or more slots in the top. The majority of slit drums have one slit, although others have two or three slits (carved in the shape of a “H”). The drum will create two different pitches if the tongues are of different widths or thicknesses. It’s popular throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Long-distance communication has been achieved in Africa using such drums strategically placed for best sound transmission (e.g., along a river or valley).
The ends of a slit drum are closed, creating a resonating chamber for the sound vibrations created when the tongues are struck with a mallet. The sound produced by the tongue is amplified in the resonating chamber and presented through an open port. The instrument will be more efficient and louder if the resonating chamber is the correct size for the pitch being produced by the tongue, which means it has the correct volume of airspace to complete one entire sound wave for that particular pitch.
Vanuatu’s people carved “totem” carvings on the exterior surface of a giant log and hollowed out the middle, leaving only a slit down the front. When tapped on the outside with sticks, this hollowed-out log produces a deep drum-like reverberation.
What is the function of a wooden tongue drum?
The simplest aspect of comprehending a wooden tongue drum is knowing how it got its name. The top layer that produces the sounds is chopped into many slits due to the drum’s unusual shape. These incisions are frequently circular and close together, giving the appearance of tongues protruding from the top of the box.
A wooden tongue box contains no metal pieces, and because each tongue produces a different sound, the music generated by the wooden tongue box is highly unique. The tuning of each tongue is one of the most perplexing components of the wooden tongue box, with several artists arriving at different conclusions.
Steel pan drums are constructed in a variety of ways.
You could imagine yourself resting on a tropical vacation when you think about the steel drum. But did you know that the steel drum arose from poverty and a restriction on drums in the area? The steel drum first appeared in the late 1930s on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where it was used as part of a steel band, a percussion ensemble created by lower-class rebellious teenagers. With these ten entertaining facts below, you may learn more about the steel drum’s intricate history, development, and contemporary form:
- The steel drum is a tuned idiophone that was once fashioned out of an oil drum but is now produced out of high-quality steel. The bottom of an oil drum is pounded into a bowl, then bent and tuned with hammers to generate various resonant surfaces to construct a steel drum, or a pan.
- Steel bands are artistically diverse, although the most prevalent melodic phrasing and rhythmic structure of steel bands are influenced by Calypso music.
- Modern steel bands incorporate vibraphones, cow bells, congas, bongos, triangles, and other percussion instruments, in addition to the original instrumentation of soap boxes, biscuit tins, and dustbins.
- Bass pans, rhythm pans, and tenor pans are the three types of drums.
- After a British colonial ordinance prohibited the use of drums with skin heads, the steel band evolved directly from bamboo stamping tube bands, which supplied carnival music for the poorer classes in Port of Spain.
- “In Trinidad, band conflicts between competing steel bands erupted, complete with street brawls. Membership in a band was quickly regarded as hooliganism, implying a disregard for European conventions by Creoles.
- Steel drum manufacturing is a highly specialized expertise. Competition between rival bands encouraged innovation in tune and design, therefore pans aren’t standardized.
- The first pan is credited to Winston ‘Spree’ Simon of the John John steel band. His band performed Ave Maria and God Save the King in front of a crowd that included the British Governor in 1946.
- The steelpan has been the national instrument of Trinidad & Tobago since 1992. The idea, however, dates back to the 1940s, when the steel band’s musical change was fueled by competition among bands as well as efforts by progressive middle-class persons to promote what they saw as an indigenous art form unfairly condemned by colonial cultural standards.
- The steel band’s popularity has soared. They are now common in both Caribbean diaspora communities and non-Caribbean cultures around the world. While Trinidad and Tobago remains the epicenter, steel band activity has spread to countries such as Sweden, Switzerland, and Japan.
Oberlin steel drum 1 is the featured image. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr, photo by istolethetv.
How long does a steel drum take to make?
Although the metal tube was designed to store oil, shampoo, or ketchup, it has evolved into an instrument capable of conjuring island breezes and a slower pace of life.
And, believe it or not, this change occurs in an old shop in Osage, West Virginia, a town of 395 people.
Mannette Musical Instruments, a world-renowned steelpan drum manufacturer, has its headquarters here.