You have just met, around a street corner, a musician who played a magical instrument. It was as if his hands were dancing on the instrument! It’s a handpan! You are won over, captivated, and now you’ve decided that you must buy one!
New to handpans? Start here.
What is a handpan? A handpan is a handcrafted musical instrument invented in the 21st century. It looks like an inside-out steel drum, a turtle shell, a wok or a UFO. Part art and part instrument, the handpan is often referred to as a "sound sculpture". Each handpan is completely unique, bearing the hammer marks of its artisanal making process. Peaceful and relaxing, the handpan is particularly well-suited for music therapy and meditation
How does a handpan work? A handpan consists of two bowls of steel glued together and tuned into a diatonic musical scale. The top shell of the handpan has a center note (referred to as "ding" by the inventors) which can be either dented outward (it would be called "apex") or inward ("inpex"). The "tone fields" are the notes of the scale (we also call them "dimples"). They are located all around the center note and played up and down in a zig-zag pattern. The bottom shell of the handpan has a hole (called "Gu"). This opening activates a deep bass note.
What does a handpan sound like? Unlike the steel-drum which is played with mallets (often as part of a loud orchestra) the handpan is played by hand. As a result, it produces soft buttery sounds, almost like raindrops... The handpan is a powerful therapeutic tool to help reduce stress and improve overall mood. 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.
Who can play the handpan? Anyone! You don't need to be classically trained or to know music theory to play the handpan. Musicians and non-musicians alike can start creating their own music within minutes. The simplicity of handpans is remarkable. The handpan transcends genders, ages, cultures and languages. It is used by hobbyists, performers, music therapists, cancer patients, educators and students. You can play too!