Are you considering buying a handpan? Do you want to know everything regarding its functionality and usage? If yes, you’ve just landed on an ultimate guide that will give the answers to your every question. We will tell you its origin, types, and manufacturers. Also, you will know some of its uses and how to select the perfect one.
Since it is a unique musical instrument, you may be unfamiliar with many aspects. And because you don’t want to waste your money, you probably want to know all about it before placing an order. So keep reading to get every detail of this great musical instrument. Let’s begin!
What is a Handpan?
The handpan musical instrument, also known as Hang, is a steel-based instrument that may look like a UFO. But when you hear its music once, you can’t forget its relaxing and soothing sensations for the ears. The instrument is made from two convex steel plates, round in shape. Both are connected by their boundaries, called the rims. So you get a hollow cavity inside them, with a hole at the bottom.
When you tap or hit the surface, the steel makes a sound that reverberates inside the instrument. The hollow cavity inside amplifies every light tap on the steel surface. Also, its surface has some dents for different tones in different areas, known as notes. Each note is versatile in its effect.
The handpan origin lies in Trinidad’s concave steel drums. Felix Rohner played it first for over 20 years ever since the year 1970. Later, he started the PanArt company in 1990 for instrument production. Sabrina Scharer paid keen interest in the company and became Felix’s business partner. Later, a Swiss steel pan musician, Reto Weber, asked PanArt to make their steel pans playable by hand.
The idea revolutionized the instrument. PanArt flipped the concave steel pan to convex and glued two pans from the rims. They create some grooves on the upper surface and make a hole (called Gu) in the bottom. The company introduced it in 2001 and called it “Hang.” At that time, PanArt was the only manufacturing company. But now, many companies are creating the instrument worldwide.
Types of Handpan
Although you will find it in different sizes, its types are based on the material that the manufacturer uses for making it. Usually, you will find them built in five materials mentioned below:
- Pure Steel
The old-fashioned handpans were made from thick sheets of raw steel. Since pure steel has high resonance and a relaxing sound, many people like their hang in this material. They are also cost-efficient options because the manufacturers don’t treat them with any other material.
But since it is just steel, the surface can quickly get rusty. So, you need to take extraordinary measures for maintenance. Especially those living in humid areas should not get one, as it can rust out within months (unless you take adequate care).
- Nitrided Steel
The nitrided steel handpans were the original ones. When PanArt launched it, they made it from this aesthetic material. As a result, they preserve better and require low maintenance. This type produces a high-frequency sound that makes it suitable for outdoor use.
But still, it requires some maintenance for sustainability. It is liable to catch rust without proper handling. You need to give a little effort to save it. However, musicians living in humid areas can get one, as their environment won’t be bad for the material.
- Stainless Steel
So, if you are fed up with maintenance, there’s another option for you. The stainless steel handpans will require maintenance next to almost none. This type is made with Chromium, Nickle, and iron to sustain rust. Hence, it is exceptional in terms of long-lasting.
However, you need to pay a little extra for the treatment and production. These tend to be expensive. Also, be careful from the quality side as some fraudulent manufacturers may give you low-quality instruments. So, you need to be careful about who you buy from. Anyways, they are great to play everywhere.
- Ember Steel
Lastly, ember steel is a subtype of stainless steel. Again, you won’t need to put extra effort into maintenance. These are slightly cheaper than the stainless options. Also, they have a graver or more ceramic sound than previous ones. This uniqueness has significantly marked its popularity.
It is suitable for both fast and slow-paced music as it sustains the rhythm. Meanwhile, the material also gives you much control over the notes with a deep and fuller sound. Since the ember steel handpans are very sensitive, you only need to strike them slowly. Hard blows may give disturbing loud noises.
Handpan and Yoga
Handpans, due to their mystical notes and sound, are brilliant for yoga and meditation. The instrument has a close relationship with yoga as it brings calmness, inner peace, and ease of mind. With its slow, melancholic yet meditating play in the background, you will find better focus. It also provides excellent assistance to connect the body and mind.
Many yoga classes use handpans for sound therapy and musical healing. It gives the relaxation to brain and centralizes its activity for profound concentration. While listening to it for almost an hour, you can forget your tension, stress, and worry. Instead, you become more welcoming to life with a big smile.
It will be great if you play handpan music in the background while practicing your yoga every morning. But it would be best if you learn and play it by yourself for some time before starting your yoga.
Study of sound properties of the Handpan
Our team uses Hang Drums and sound bowls for meditations, shavasanas and states of introspection. We tested each of the product options shown on the page and came to the conclusion that each instrument is unique and sounds very good in its own way. This is instrument for stress-release and harmony.
In addition to our own experience, we got acquainted with the studies of experts who investigated the sound properties of the Hang.
Source: Physics Today
The extraordinary sound of the hang. An increasingly popular percussion instrument created less than 10 years ago has inspired musicians and physicists alike to explore its sonic properties. Here you can familiarize yourself with the research on the sound properties of Hang.
Source: Eyal Alon, University of York
Analysis and Synthesis of the Handpan Sound. In This report details the design and implementation of an experimental procedure to record, analyse and synthesise the handpan sound. Four instruments from three different makers were used for the analysis, which gives insight into common handpan sound features, the influence of strike position on spectral content, and the origin of beating phenomena in the signature handpan sound. Subjective listening tests were conducted aiming to estimate the minimum number of vibrational modes required to synthesise the handpan sound.
Hang Drums comparison table
In this table, we have collected data on the TOP 5 Hang Drums, which are presented in our article. The table can be scrolled on a smartphone for more convenient use.
|Number of Notes
|Sela Harmony Handpan
|Padded Bag Included, Mallets Included
|Lark Music Handpan
|Hard Case Included, Tuning Hammer
|Meinl Sonic Energy HD3
|Bag and Stand Included
Best Handpan Drums For 2023
Lark Music handpan in D Minor 9 notes
These affordable handpans from Lark Music have availability, good prices, and great sound on their side.
They are well made and have good resonance. Lark Music handpan, like most, is tuned to 440Hz. It is made from intruded steel, so it has less sustain, and since the notes play for a shorter time, it is better for faster, percussion-style play. Nitrided steel is also very low maintenance. In terms of weight, it’s slightly larger than standard, measuring 22.8 inches, and produces a deluxe sound.
Turn to standard D minor with a nine-note configuration, it comes in a dramatic black with a carry case for easy transport.
The Lark Music Steel HandPan is another budget-friendly option for handpan enthusiasts who want to try out this beautiful instrument.
For the given price, this beautiful, black, 9-note hang drum is a great option to consider, especially for those looking to buy an affordable handpan to try it out.
Included Notes: D3, A, Bb, C, D, E, F, G, and A
Size: 23” in diameter, 10″ in height
Includes softbag case
Fair price and good availability
22.8 inch diameter and 10 inches high, one of the larger handpans available
Nitrided steel, low maintenance, shorter sustain
Lark Music Handpans are made in China and only sold through Ocarina Wind website or the Ocarina Wind seller on Amazon
The Acolyte handpan makes brilliant handpans available in 5 scales at a price that won’t make you cry. PLUS, they have NO wait time or lottery to get one of their dazzling instruments. The Acolyte is also available in a mini version, perfect for travel.
The Acolyte is one of our favorite handpans made in the USA, it has magical resonance and looks like a spaceship-inspired work of art. You will not be able to keep your hands off it! Our personal choice is the Dm Celtic scale.
This company also creates the Nirvana handpan, each handcrafted personally and to custom specs by the handsome Head Builder, Terence Jay.
The real deal! The Best handpans, good sustain, magical sound, at an accessible price, made in the USA. What more can you ask for?
Made in the USA in Glendale, California
The Acolyte is a bargain and is available right away
Power coated steel needs minimal care and has longer sustain than nitrited steel
Beautiful resonance, a treat to listen to.
The Acolyte is powder coated, which means there is virtually no maintenance, but you may miss the natural sensation of raw steel, if that’s your thing.
Best handpans for beginners
When choosing a handpan for beginners, it’s important to consider factors such as budget, desired scale, and personal preferences for sound and design.
We have selected two quality options that you can purchase to try them out before investing in a better and more expensive option. Based on our experience, we can confidently say that these two options can cover most of your needs.
GUDADRUM Freezbee Sri Yantra
GudaDrum is an exceptional premium-class percussion musical instrument with an unrivaled handcrafted design, showcasing incredible attention to detail. It is a steel tongue drum featuring clean, warm, and balanced wood overtones, delivering a unique “dry” sound devoid of the distortion and metallic tones often found in cheaper steel drums. The instrument can be easily played with fingers or hammers.
Ideal for outdoor concerts, it weighs only 4 pounds (2.0 kg) and boasts a slim profile, measuring just 3.3 inches (8.5 cm) in thickness. You have the flexibility to play it either with your fingers or hammers. The GudaDrum harmonizes beautifully with other melodic instruments and percussion, including older GUDA models. This makes it an excellent choice for individuals who are just starting to master this type of instrument.
- Enigma scale: A C D E F G A C
- Rope decoration is include
- Materials: Stainless steel.
- Handmade Engraving
- Custom Scale and Design on request
- Diameter 14.7″
The sound is so rich and beautiful
Unique and aesthetically pleasing design
The product is designed for outdoor use, it lightweight and easily portable
AS TEMAN Handpan D Minor
AS TEMAN Handpans are at the more expensive end of the affordable market, but are well worth it if you want something beyond a minimalist design. There are 12 dynamic design options to choose from here.
The 22-inch AS TEMAN Handpan D Minor drums are made from a nitrogen steel material that has received fire heat treatment. The steel has been decorated, and the drum is closed with an attractive braided rope seal. High sound quality lasts for years with AS TEMAN® advanced tuning techniques and craftmanship. World leading unique and trendy designs make handpans more diverse to show one’s personality.
When you buy the two-piece drum, you also get a carry bag, stand, cleaning cloth, and mallet. Basically, everything you need in one convenient package.
We’d suggest getting this as a first handpan to try it out and then investing in a better one if you decide that you love it.
Tuning: D Kurd Minor
Included Notes: A, Bb, C, D, E, F, G, A
Weight: 17.26 lbs.
Excellent budget option.
Great option to start learning to play without spending a lot of money on the instrument.
Goes with stand to place it
Tones aren't as rich or resonant
Novapan Handpans are some of the most immersive and intuitive musical instruments available on the market. The 9 and 12 note stainless steel handpans provide a beautiful, angelic sound that is perfect for any occasion. The D Kurd scale in 9 notes is perfect for beginners, while the E Kurd scale in 9 notes is perfect for those who want a slightly higher tuning.
The slightly higher tuning in E gives this handpan an even more prominent, arguably even more “angelic” sound. The soft cases included with the handpans are perfect for traveling musicians or those who want to keep their instrument safe.
The hard cases sold separately are perfect for those who need extra protection for their handpan. Novapans are available in 440hz tuning and 432hz tuning. The Generation 4s come with a busking microphone and stool. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned musician, Novapan Handpans are a perfect choice.
Loud and bright.
Missing deep, resonant bass note.
Not a huge amount of overtones.
Can get a bit muddy when played fast due to long sustain.
Best handpans for professionals
When selecting a handpan for professional purposes, it is essential to take into account factors such as your preferred scale or scales, tonal characteristics, and your individual playing style.
Furthermore, seeking recommendations from the handpan community and experimenting with various instruments whenever feasible can assist you in making a well-informed decision that aligns with your distinctive preferences and requirements.
Meinl Sonic Energy HD3 Harmonic Art Series D# Handpan
The Sonic Energy HD3 Harmonic Art D# Handpan is also known as the Raga Desya Todi handpan because it’s based on the Indian classical scale by that name. This pan includes the ding tuned to D# and then seven fields tuned to G, A#, C, D, D#, F, G. This particular scale gives a unique and very mystical quality to your playing making this a great handpan to use in a soothing meditative context.
The pan is tuned on the basis of A4/ a’ 440 Hz, which is the standard for popular Western music, and therefore you can use it to play along with a band or small ensemble as well. This pan is made of high-quality German stainless steel, but it is made in China, where the steel is first lathed and then formed, and finally hand tuned. This keeps the price up over $2000.
The ding here sounds pretty decent, and you can get some nice tones by striking the shoulders. The tuned fields are relatively loud, which isn’t surprising because of a unique feature of this handpan series.
Meinl has designed these pans with 2 Gu’s (or bottom sound ports) rather than a single central one. One port is meant to face an audience, while the other faces the player. The tones here are quite a bit on the “pingy” side of things, leading to a brighter sound with lots of attack and a quick decay relative to other pans. The overtones are moderate. Combined, this all makes the Meinl HD3 a good pan for playing with ensembles.
Height: 10” (25.4cm)
Weight: 30 pounds
Included Notes: G, A#, C, D, D#, F, G
Tuned based on 440 Hz, so good for ensemble playing.
Comes with cover and carry bag.
Less ethereal sound with a focus on attack and brightness.
Pearl Awakening Series Euphonic Handpan 9-Note F Minor
Pearl is a legend in drum and percussion building and a big force to be reckoned with. Pearl has created the 9-note Euphoric Handpan in F minor as what they call their “affordable” handpan. I guess they mean in comparison to their own 10-note pan in D minor, since this hang drum still costs about $2000!
The ding is tuned here to F, and this gives it a deliciously deep central tone and a dark and mysterious overall sound. This isn’t the loudest handpan around. In fact, it’s muted compared to the Meinl and the Sela, priced at the same level. But it still sounds very pretty.
With a weight of 14 pounds, it’s one of the heavier handpans on offer. It’s not a huge difference compared to most other handpans, but it may be noticeable if you’re used to carrying a handpan around with you.
It comes with a strong Pearl bag that has been PVC reinforced. So, the handpan may be a bit heavier, but the bag is a lot stronger than most other options.
This is stainless steel, actually covered with a grey lacquer for durability, but I think that must also be what mutes the sound level here. At the same time, you still get some really nice overtones here, and the sustain is just right in my mind. You can play fast without things getting muddy, and there’s a great response from the tone areas and their edges.
The thing that Pearl does very well here is the case design. While all of the hang drums we’ve looked at so far come with soft cases of varying quality, Pearl’s is the first that I think really fits the price of this instrument. It’s a soft padded case as well, but Pearl has reinforced it with PVC to add extra durability to protect your baby.
Overall, this is a nicely tuned instrument with a very pretty sound. It may need to be mic’d in some applications but can fit in beautifully with ensembles and sounds great on its own, too.
Diameter: 22” (55.9cm)
Height: 10” (25.4 cm)
Weight: 14 lbs.
Included Notes: F, C, Ab, Eb, Bb, C, F, Bb, Eb
Nice deep, dark tuning.
Comes with a very good case.
Not terribly loud.
Sela Harmony Handpan – D Kurd
The Sela Harmony Handpan D Kurd is one of the best handpans available on the market. It combines incredible build quality with easy playability.
This handpan has nine tones that fall in the tuning of D. They form a diatonic minor scale, and that makes the pan sound very emotional when you tap around it. You can play some melancholic melodies, but also a few hopeful-sounding ones.
It’s made from stainless steel, and it has a brushed gold finish that looks unique compared to the black handpans that most people are accustomed to. The gold finish almost makes it look royal, which is a nice touch!
It’s corrosion-resistant, ensuring that it will stay durable in many different environments. Stainless steel handpans tend to be the most durable, long-lasting ones, so you can trust that this handpan will last you a lifetime.
The included heavy-duty bag is an excellent addition. The Sela brand tends to make some of the best carry bags around, and this one continues that trend.
While all handpans are very expensive, this one sits on the higher end of the price range. So, be ready for the cost it has. However, it’s not as expensive as the top-end handpans available, making it suitable as the best handpan in all areas.
Tuning: D Kurd
Included Notes: D, A, Bb, C, D, E, F, G, A
Weight: 10 lbs.
Warm, deep bass.
Lots of overtones and moderate level of sustain.
Ding responds well to bends.
Not very loud.
A bit heavy.
How much do handpans cost?
The cost of handpans can vary widely based on factors such as the brand, material, craftsmanship, scale, and additional features.
- Entry-level or Beginner Handpans: These are usually more affordable and can range from $800 to $1500. They might not have as intricate craftsmanship or complex scales as higher-priced options but can still provide a pleasant playing experience.
- Mid-Range Handpans: Handpans in this category can be priced between $1500 and $2500. They often offer a good balance between quality and affordability, with decent craftsmanship and a variety of scale options.
- Professional or High-End Handpans: Handpans with intricate craftsmanship, unique scales, and exceptional sound quality can fall into the higher price range of $2500 to $3000 or more. These are often preferred by experienced players and professional musicians.
|Entry-level or Beginner Handpans
|$800 – $1500
|More affordable options with basic craftsmanship and scales, suitable for beginners.
|$1500 – $2500
|Offer a balance between quality and affordability, featuring decent craftsmanship and a variety of scale options.
|Professional or High-End Handpans
|$2500 – $3000+
|Intricately crafted with unique scales and exceptional sound quality, preferred by experienced players and professionals.
You need to practice a bit. Then, your ears will be able to differentiate between good and poor-quality hang sound which may lead you to the best makers. However, keep in mind you probably need to spend at least $1,000+ for a great built and soothing sound experience.
How to Select a Handpan?
Finding the best handpan for beginners is not an easy task. Since you are new to the instrument, you probably don’t have experience in understanding which has better sound and which one doesn’t. But, we’ve listed some key points that may help you get a suitable one. Keep the factors below in mind before buying:
Understand which size will be better for you because it is directly related to the scale of sound you get. For meditation, low rhythmic and high resonant sounds are the best. So, you may need to look for larger handpans. But if you are a percussive musician who loves to play fast, smaller ones may help.
The size is vital as it should be comfortable and easy to play with. Moreover, it should fulfill your needs and provide the required sound with the best results. So, select the size wisely as it will affect the notes factor.
The notes are what drive handpans. Usually, you will see 8 to 10 notes (excluding the ding), but some people are working with even 20 notes. With each additional one, you get more combinations for composition and versatility in music. However, it also increases the chance of error or cross-talk.
As a beginner, your first concern should be starting simple and small. Get one with a fewer number of notes. Buy a handpan on which you can learn quickly, then move towards more professionalism. Your background musical knowledge may also come into play. Otherwise, we would advise eight note hangs for a start.
The next thing is the sound quality. Listen to various hang sounds to better differentiate between them. As a result, you can pick the best one only by listening to its music. The quality is essential as it can provide you utter peace or disturbance of thoughts. Listen to what sound each type produces. If you physically buy one, test it with your fingers.
You need to determine the right quality of scale. For example, if you want a d minor handpan, you can’t tell it without testing. Does it sound excellent or average? Since d minor is brilliant for yoga, you must ensure you get the right one.
And lastly, portability is also essential, among other factors. You should be able to carry your instrument conveniently. Larger handpans may sound great, but they are hard to carry (especially when you travel with them).
Smaller ones are great for portability due to being lightweight and also fantastic for people with shorter arms. But it may become problematic if larger ones are perfect for giving you the required sound. You need to consider your movements, activities, and convenience before getting your hands on a piece.
When you select the right type and understand how to buy it, the next thing is where to buy it. Since 2001, many manufacturers have been operating worldwide with quality products. Below, we’ll tell you how you can find and contact the best handpan makers. Let’s get into them:
How to find them?
Many new makers are appearing globally from time to time. It makes the selection complicated, as some of them are great, but some offer low quality. To be sure, you need to compare their prices, materials, ordering, and many other factors.
Since you can’t test them all, the best way is to read the reviews. You can see online how people are talking and sharing their experiences. It will help you a lot in the selection. However, the best method will be visiting and testing products yourself.
As we mentioned, many hang manufacturers are operating. We can’t track them all since they are spread across the world. However, we’ve handpicked some best makers that produce fantastic quality and ship globally.
If you are looking for a minor handpan for yoga, Lark Music is the best option. But stainless ones are convenient as they require no maintenance. So, better get them from Sela Harmony. However, if you wish to go international or know the best in your country, you can check the following recommendations.
In the USA, many manufacturers are working and providing high-quality instruments. Some worth mentioning are the Saraz handpan, Isthmus handpan, Tzevaot handpan, and Makai handpan.
Other countries’ makers include Yishama from Israel and Ayasa handpan from the Netherlands. Germany is famous for two makers, the Opsilon and the Meinl handpan.
The handpan is a mystical instrument that symbolizes focus, dedication, rhythm, soulful music, and purity. It is a great relaxing instrument for yoga classes. You can learn and play with it for some time before your practice for calmness. We hope with the help of our guide, you can get the best hang.
Select any of the five materials that suit you best. Remember to consider its size, notes, quality, and portability before purchase. Select a trusted manufacturer across the world and order it carefully. Eventually, you may find brilliant background music for your meditations and yoga.
Frequently Asked Questions
Usually, you pay $1,000+ for a new one (especially $3,000+ for PanArt’s originals). The handpan price is high due to the massive demand compared to supply. These hanpans are not easy to make or in factories for production. Few highly skilled professionals craft them by hand. Hence, they are costlier.
Handpans are fun to play with and provide deep relaxation. YouTube is filled with tutorial videos, and many courses are available on the internet. You can either make it self-paced and practice each video or enroll in a class and learn it directly from professionals.
Learning handpans isn’t hard at all. The first few times may confuse you in understanding the notes. But once you get going, it will be a matter of a few weeks. Many courses are available on the internet that can teach you in 20 hours of lectures.
- You can oil them for protection against rust. However, contact your manufacturer beforehand as some handpans don’t work well when oiled.
- Use a clean cloth to remove any dust, stain, or moisture. Using a microfiber cloth would be the best option.
- You can also use rubbing alcohol for cleaning stubborn stains, grease, or any spill.
- Remember to also clean the insides with a cloth or isopropyl. You can use a blower to dry the inside to limit the chances of rust.
Beginners are often confused about handpan vs. hang drum. The reason is some people call it a hang drum. But its founders, Felix and Sabrina, strongly discourage using the term “drum” with their hang. Later they explained that they didn’t want people to misunderstand their instrument.
People mostly assume something that they need to hit hard or strike with sticks or mallet by the word drums. Instead, the hang is a sensitive instrument not designed for hard-hitting. You can play sound with light strokes of your fingers.