What is a Handpan?
Handpan is one of the names commonly used to describe an instrument which in simple terms is formed of two metal shells bonded together, one with a port/hole in it and the other with a selection of tuned dents which can be placed in the lap and played with the hands.
At circa 20 years old, this instrument is still in its infancy and thus simple conventions such as what it is to be called are still not set in stone. Other names which are synonymous with Handpan include - Pantam, Cupola and Sound Sculpture.
Is there a difference between a Handpan and a PANArt Hang?
Yes. The answer to this question differs from person to person. The opinon expressed here is solely our view at Meridian Handpans:
The PANArt Hang was the innovation of Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer. First produced in 2001, the Hang was the first of its kind and, along with the steel pans of Trinidad it has become an inspiration for all that followed.
'Handpan' is a category of instrument, not a brand unto itself. Whereas, 'Hang' or 'Hang Drum' is a name specifically given by PANArt to one member of the family of instruments they produce. This 'Hang' name is exclusive to PANArt and not to be confused with, or used as a name for any other insturment which has drawn inspiration from the PANArt Hang since its creation.
Are all Handpans the same?
As mentioned above, within the Handpan category there is a wide variety of instruments. Every maker has their own methods and their own opinion on what makes the perfect instrument.
It is strongly advised to do lots of research before purchasing a handpan. There are many forums and online groups who are very happy to educate and support new players searching for their first instrument.
Is a Handpan a drum?
The original inspiration for all Handpans came from the steelpans of Trinidad and the PANArt Hang, which was often called 'Hang Drum' by enthusiasts and players, despite the creators, PANArt never using this term or encouraging its use by others.
Handpans are a combined percussive and melodic instrument which should be played with the hands only. The term 'drum' must be used carefully, as it appears to encourage some new players to adopt playing styles which are not well suited to the instrument.
Whilst undeniably partially percussive in nature, Handpans respond best to a gentle touch and will remain in good tuning and condition for much longer when played and cared for correctly.
What are the origins of the Handpan?
As mentioned above, all Handpans are creations inspired by the steel pans of Trinidad and the PANArt Hang, created by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer in 2001. Since then, PANArt have decreased production of the Hang in order to also focusing their efforts on other members of their instrument family.
Over time, a number of instrument makers have appeared to take inspiration from PANArt's work and continue the research and development of the Handpan instrument. There are now at least 100 distinct brands of handpan across the globe, each with their own unique characteristics.