The Ultimate Guide to Handpans: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Your Own | Chakra Galaxy

The Ultimate Guide to Handpans: Everything You Need to Know

Are you looking for a very unique and sensational instrument to play? Well, we believe so, since you've stumbled upon this ultimate guide to handpans! First and foremost, welcome to Chakra Galaxy. We offer premium Yoga apparel, merchandise, and more. This time, we would like to introduce this gorgeous musical instrument that we too, fell head over heels in love with. Well, who wouldn't? Handpans are absolutely one of the most sensorial instruments and to this day, people are under its' glorious music spell. In this ultimate guide and we will answer your most urgent and important questions about from: What a handpan is, What its origins are, Where it came from, How to play it, How to choose one, What kinds are out there, Why you should buy one, Why it is loved by everyone who hears one, How to choose one, Where to buy one, and so much more questions with WHAT, HOW, WHY, and of course, WHERE! Let's explore the mesmerizing world of handpans together.

 

On Its Roots, Origins and History...

Welcome! Before going deep into handpans, let's see what a handpan really is. A handpan is a musical instrument made of steel and is played with the hands. They are classified as a subset of the steelpan-which is almost the same as the handpan but is played using a pair of straight sticks tipped with rubber to strike the steelpan. The handpan is somehow shaped like a UFO shapeship. It is basically two cylindrical steel domes fitted together to create a resonant sound chamber. When you think about it, this is just a simple explanation but it actually takes great skill and craftsmanship to build such a beautiful instrument.

It can trace its origins to the steel pan instruments developed in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1940s. It is part of the steel family of instruments and could be conidered as a cousin to the steel drum. Handpans have a very distinctive sound that instantly makes you think you're on an island.

Early on, the original concept of the handpan was developed by the PANArt company in Bern, Switzerland in 2001 and was called a "Hang®". "Hang®" translates  to "hand" which technically explains that the instrument will be played by hands rather than traditional mallets. With this, the "Hang®" was born.

The term, "Handpan" became more popular in 2007 as there grew more manufacturers because of the limited supply. Other people began exploring this new chapter of tuned steel and creating their own singing steel instruments. Its history may be short, but for sure, its popularity is growing rapidly. 

Quite a story, am I right?

 

What is a handpan? Is it for me?

The Ultimate Guide to Handpans: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Your Own

The handpan is truly often referred to as a "sound sculpture" since it is part art and part instrument. Music played on a handpan has an affective, resonant quality that some say sounds ethereal or even haunting. It's relaxing tones and intuitive playing style make it a gateway instrument, accessible to anyone but versatile and complex enough to challenge and inspire even the most accomplished musicians. Now that that's been explained, let's dig in deeper...

 

What does a handpan sound like?

The Ultimate Guide to Handpans: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Your Own

A handpan sounds like nothing else you’ve ever heard before. Unlike the steel-drum which is played with mallets, the handpan is played by hand. As a result, it produces softer sounds, almost like raindrops... Playing a single note activates several overtones (typically, the octave and the fifth of the note). These overtones give handpans a magical and rich layered sound. 

Some would describe it as tranquil or even relaxing like a meditation. Some would say it sounds mysterious, others might even think of the sound as haunting, and yet there are plenty of people who would call the sound joyful. The different styles of handpans are also designed to create a variety of sounds in a specific tonal range.

Much like other instruments, there is a personal element to the sound that resonates differently with each individual. Each handpan is tuned to a single musical scale so there are no wrong notes and no fear of doing it wrong. So, anyone can learn how to play handpans: musicians and non-musicians alike! The handpan is an intuitive experience which transcends genders, ages, cultures and languages. It is used by hobbyists, performers, music therapists, cancer patients, educators and students. Of course, you can play too!

 

How are handpans made exactly?

Each handpan is specially handcrafted and unique. You may even see hammer marks from its artisanal making process across the beautiful instrument.

The elliptical shapes apparent on the top half of the instrument are tone fields. They are worked into the upper shell using a series of hammer blows so that each tone field produces the sound of a note. The work of a handpan tuner is to take a rough-hewn tone field and very precisely manipulate the metal to bring three distinct frequencies into alignment. Perfect alignment among the frequencies produces a good-sounding note. The relationship among the frequencies on a given pan may differ, but in general each note resonates with a fundamental tone, an octave, and a fifth.

 

What are handpans made of? What materials can be used?

Much like how different guitars can be made from different woods, handpans can be made from different material. Also, take note that they are hand-made, so it is also up to the handpan maker which material to use.

Each type of steel has its own unique qualities that make it distinct. There are effectively 4 different handpan materials, all with their own benefits.

Raw Steel

The Ultimate Guide to Handpans: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Your Own
  • PROS: Untreated steel, so generally the most cost-effective.
  • CONS: Prone to rust, so need the most care/maintenance; Susceptible to stability/tuning issues over time.

Steel-coated

The Ultimate Guide to Handpans: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Your Own
  • PROS: Weigh less than others, so easier to handle and travel with; Cost-effective
  • CONS: Susceptible to rust if surface is damaged; Generally less responsive and lacking dynamic range.

Nitrided Steel (The most popular choice)

  • PROS: Treated steel, so rust resistant. Less sustain so better for percussive players.
  • CONS: Requires maintenance/rust prevention treatment; Not the best choice for those who play slowly/melodically.

Stainless Steel 

  • PROS: Exceptionally rust resistant (including surface damage); Longest sustain so great for melodic, slower players.
  • CONS: Harder to work with, so can vary in quality/stability, depending on the maker. 

With this, there is not one true winner of these materials, each is distinct and certain handpans and scales will sound best on each. Ultimately, it’s all down to personal preference. The best material for you depends on what kind of player you are, the environment you live in and whether or not you want to spend time on maintenance and care. 

 

Why are these music instruments so expensive?

First of all, handpans are tuned by hand (with the help of a hammer) and take several weeks to make. Because they are carefully handcrafted, handpans are expensive musical instruments. The price of a quality handpan ranges between $1,000 to $3,500 and tends to hold its value.

Here are a few reasons why:

Making Handpans Take Time

According to handpan makers, building a handpan from start to finish can take up to 2 to 3 months. There are indeed many steps involved in building a handpan such as: shaping the shells, sending to an industrial third-party for nitriding, pressing the notes, rough-tuning the instrument, applying various heat treatments, gluing the shells together, polishing, fine-tuning the handpan, once, twice, three times... until it’s cured and becomes ready to sell. 

Supply & Demand Theory

Second, the demand for handpans still outweighs the supply. If you remember your Economics classes, supply and demand regulate prices. If you could buy a handpan in any music store, well, the price of a handpan would probably be pretty low. But since there are only a handful of people making good handpans and a lot of people want to buy a handpan, the price for a handpan would be quite high.

Other Fees...

It's also important to note that when you're purchasing a handpan, additional costs may incur. To ensure that your instrument arrives to you safely, there will be shipping costs added to the price of your handpan. Depending on where the maker is located geographically, there may be sales taxes too. And finally, if you're buying a handpan internationally, you may be responsible for any custom duties at the border. Yes, a good handpan costs a lot of money but isn't the saying true that "love doesn't count the cost"?

 

How to choose your very own handpan?

Choosing a Handpan really relies on your own bias. But ultimately this is a big question, and there is no simple and easy answer too. But don't you worry, with a few considerations and some research, you can make the right decision for you. Here are five tips to help you.


  • Trust your ears: Listen to as many handpan videos and performances as you can.
  • Trust your head: What makes a good handpan? It’s all about sound quality. 
  • Trust your fingers: If possible, it’s always better to try before you buy. 
  • Trust your needs: When it comes to picking a scale, there are so many to choose from! You can do several things to narrow down the field.
  • Trust your instincts: Ultimately, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. You'll find some more tips once you finish this guide!

 

Handpan Terminology, Types, & More...

The Ultimate Guide to Handpans: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Your Own

Handpan – a musical instrument made from two metal half-shells that are glued together to form a resonant hollow chamber. Handpans are played by gently tapping the tone fields with your fingers. The resulting music is characterized by dreamy and hypnotic sounds. 

HangⓇ – a trademarked term for the instrument that inspired much of the handpan community. 

Hang drum – a non-trademarked variation of HangⓇ that should be avoided, mostly because it implies that handpans can be struck like traditional drums, which could compromise the instrument’s delicate tuning.

Pantam – a generic term synonymous with handpan. The term pantam originated in the early days of the HangⓇ when an Israeli distributor began using the term instead of HangⓇ due to language-based pronunciation difficulties.

SpacedrumⓇ – a melodic metal percussion handpan created and manufactured by the French company Metal Sounds. 

Tongue drum – a hollow tank with cut tongue-shaped incisions. When the tongues are hit or struck with a mallet, a bell-like sound is produced. Many tongue drum builders refer to their instruments as both handpans and hang drums, they are actually neither.

Electric handpan – an electronic percussion instrument meant to mimic the sounds produced by handpans. Electric handpans are not actually handpans but rather electronic programs that allow users to experiment and practice with pre-recorded sound combinations and scales.

Sound sculptures – a generic root term for any art form, including handpan instruments, that produces sound. Sound sculptures vary in size and scale. 

P.S. The actual type of handpan is often dictated by its size, composition material, number of notes, and scale.

 

Where can I buy my very own Handpan online?

The main ways to buy a handpan are: either signing up on a maker's wait list, purchasing a handpan through a flash sale or buying an instrument on-site at a handpan event. 

But you are in great luck, because we offer authentic handpan instruments right here!

 

 

Magical Handpans with Sound Healing that Chakra Galaxy Offers...

Stainless Steel 9 Note Handpan in D Minor for Professionals


    This gorgeous D Minor Pro is superior to other handpans in range of sound quality and clarity. Each of the 9 notes has a beautiful resonant, bright sound with great sustain. Handmade out of high-quality stainless steel which makes it rustproof and does not require on-going maintenance with oils or waxes. Suitable for both beginners and professional musicians. The Handpan has notes within two-octave ranges from D3 to D5 and is tuned to the traditional D minor pentatonic scale.

    This Handpan allows for a wide range of playing styles and has a ton of dynamic range. It is also possible to use the other surfaces of the instrument to make percussive harmonics,  snares, and hi-hat like sounds.

    Distinguishing Specs:
    • Number of notes: 9
    • Scale: D Minor: (D3), A3, C4, D4, F4, G4, A4, C5 & D5

     

     

    Raw Steel 9 Note Handpan in D Minor (Large Diameter)

      This beautiful 9 note handpan in D minor is very easy to play and has a vast possibility of sounds. Great for handpan beginners! The instrument has notes within two-octave ranges from D3 to D5 and is tuned to the traditional D minor pentatonic scale. All 9 notes of the handpan have a beautiful resonant sound with plenty of sustain due to the instruments' larger diameter.

      In comparison to the early handpans, this handpan is a bit bigger, with a diameter of 57cm. This means the notes are a little more spread out and because of this, the larger diameter creates a deeper bass note sound with slightly more sustain.

      Distinguishing Specs:

      • Number of notes: 9
      • Scale: D Minor: (D3), A3, C4, D4, F4, G4, A4, C5 & D5

       

       

      Raw Steel 8 Note Handpan in F Minor (Large Diameter)

        Each of the 8 notes have a beautiful resonant sound with plenty of sustain due to the instruments larger diameter. Same as the 9 Note Handpan in D Minor, this has a larger diameter which means the notes are more spread out and creates a longer sustain. This 8 note handpan is tuned in the F Minor Akebono scale. The Akebono scale is a musical scale commonly used in traditional Japanese music.

        It is also possible to use the other surfaces of the instrument to make percussive harmonics, such as snares and hi-hat like sounds.

        Distinguishing Specs:

        • Number of notes: 8
        • Scale: F Minor: (F3), A#3, C4, C4#, F4, F#4, A#4 & C5

         

         

        Raw Steel 9 Note Handpan in G Minor (Standard Diameter)

          The 9 note handpan in G Minor has both a mysterious and sweet sound with all 9 notes having a beautiful resonance. It is also possible to use the other surfaces of the instrument to make percussive harmonics, such as snares and hi-hat like sounds. The instrument is the same size as our 7 Note in G Minor and 9 Note in A Minor handpans and is smaller than the larger D Minor and F Minor pans which have slightly more sustain / reverberance.

          Distinguishing Specs:

          • Number of notes: 9
          • Scale: G Minor: (G3), D4, D#4, F#4, G4, A4, A#4, C5 & D5

           

           

          Raw Steel 9 Note Handpan in A Minor (Standard Diameter)

            The 9 note handpan in A Minor has a beautiful bright and resonant sound. The A Minor scale allows for a great deal of melodic possibilities and is a very easy scale to play and create with. It is also possible to use the other surfaces of the instrument to make percussive harmonics, such as snares and hi-hat like sounds. The instrument is the same size as our 7 Note in G Minor and 9 Note in G Minor handpans and is smaller than the larger D Minor and F Minor pans which have slightly more sustain / reverberance.

            Distinguishing Specs:

            • Number of notes: 9
            • Scale: A Minor: (A3), D4, E4, F4, G4, A4, A#4, C5 & D5

             

             

            Raw Steel 7 Note Handpan in G Minor (Standard Diameter)

              The 7 note handpan is the most affordable handpan we have available. The instrument is tuned to an altered Phrygian scale in G minor. Although the Phrygian scale is greek in origin, the scale resembles that of an Egyptian sound.

              It is also possible to use the other surfaces of the instrument to make percussive harmonics, such as snares and hi-hat like sounds.

              Distinguishing Specs:

              • Number of notes: 7
              • Scale: G Minor: (G3), C4, C#4, E4, F4, G4 & G#4

               

               

              Well, that's about it. Whenever you are ready to buy your own, remember to keep in mind these tips and information! Don't forget that we offer Gorgeous Authentic Handpans here too! Join us for a yoga and handpan session, together, let us experience the magic healing powers of the handpan. 

               

               


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