What is a handpan?

HandpanDid you ever hear about a handpan? For many people it is something new, reason enough to give it some attention. This article is all about the handpan, what it is and what you can do with it.


The handpan is the musical instrument of the 21st century. It is a beautifully sounding instrument and it has a lot of musical possibilities. It produces a warm sound and that is what makes it so popular. You can encounter the handpan also under the names of hang drum and handpan drum. the basis of this instrument consists of different percussive instruments from all across the world. You can compare the sound with a steeldrum, it sounds the most like one. An intense, warm and mystical sound. All of the notes combined together produce a harmonious whole.

Handpan characteristics

Many handpans know a width of 53 to 60 centimetres and are about 25 to 30 centimetres high. They are made out of steel and have the shape of a UFO.

  • A handpan consists of two spherical shells placed on top of each other made from steel.
  • At the bottom of the handpan you will find a round opening. This opening is needed for the resonance of the notes/tones.
  • On the top shell of the handpan you find the actual notes
  • In the middle of the instrument you will find the lowest note, a base note, and around it you can usually find 6 to 8 other tones. 
  • You can play the instrument with your fingers, knuckles and your flat hand.
This is a very fun instrument if you love playing music, want to start playing music or want to try something completely different. If you have experience or not playing an instrument, it does not matter. It is a new instrument which not many people know yet, and so it is extra fun to try it out. Make sure you start to know what it is and maybe it is something for you to try. Playing the instrument is easy to learn, it is also suitable for children and they can play it together with adults or alone.

Playing the handpan

The instrument, the handpan, is often played by locking it between your legs or simply placing it on your lap. You can also place it on a special stand or on a table. You can make beautiful sounds with this instrument. It is also an instrument that is very simple to play. If you have musical experience or not, everyone can learn. The handpan knows a nice resonance and by playing beautiful melodies it becomes very fun to play. The handpan is a very versatile instrument, it can also be used for music therapy. You can really relax through this music and that is because of the musical possibilities this instrument offers you.

  • Learning how to tap the instrument to produce a sound is easily done.
  • Many handpans are tuned pentatonically and that means that the notes of the pan are coming directly from the pan and are coming from usual major and minor scales. 
  • Each handpan can have a different combination of notes, but they are always combined in such a way that they sound good together, by simply going "up and down" the scale you can create wonderful sounding melodies.

Buying a handpan

The supply of handpans is very scarce. You do not just simply buy one, because it is important that you can feel and test how it suits you. The instruments are scarce, because they are made by hand and it takes a lot of time to build them. There are not so many makers yet and often there is a big waiting list for the makers that are good. Make sure that you invest some time in researching the quality of the instrument and maker before buying one. The differences between makers and the associated costs are quite high.

Costs of a handpan

The costs of a handpan is quite unclear. It depends where you are going to buy it and what the possibilities are at that moment. Because they are scarce you are dependant upon what is offered at that moment or you need to be put on the waiting list which can take a long time. You can buy handpans online, but prices can come to even 7000 or 8000 euros. There are also different people who sell them between 2000 and 5000 euros, but it depends on who built the handpan and your wishes. One of the best makers is Ralf van den Bor and his company is called Ayasa and is located in the Netherlands.

Handpan tips

If you want to start playing the handpan, then it is important to look at what your wishes are.

  • Make sure that you gain sufficient knowledge about the different kinds of handpans
  • Make sure that you know which techniques are used and which materials, these have an influence on the sound and the quality of the instrument.
  • Do you feel touched by the instrument?
  • Does it feel nice in your hands?
  • Buying online is possible, but it is much nicer if you can try the instrument first by really holding it, so you know if it suits you or not.

Handpan tonesystems

You can tune the handpan in many different ways. the handpan that you will find the most is the chromatically tuned pan. You can compare it with the black and white keys of the piano, this is the most common scale with twelve notes. Every one is different and differs in chromatic halves of the tone below and above it. You can also have a diatonically tuned handpan, but these are not so common. You can compare this with the white keys of a piano. This is a scale that descents from the ancient Greeks and knows whole and half tone distances. There is also the pentatonically tuned handpan, these are the black keys of a piano. The handpan consists of a scale of five notes and therefore there are less possibilities. If you really want to make music a chromatically tuned handpan is the best option.




Article written by: roybor
Times read: 2152x
Added: 20-12-2016 11:33
Last modified: 16-01-2017 21:32

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