Handpan 101: An Ultimate Guide For Beginners

handpan buiying guide

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.

Origin

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

handpan and yoga practice

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.

Cost of Handpans

As we mentioned earlier, they are usually expensive. You will find them mostly between $1,500 to $3,000. But the handpan price is secondary to the quality. You should be concerned about manufacturing because you may find some high-priced ones with low quality. In contrast, a cheap handpan may give you a fantastic sound, better than expensive ones.

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:

  1. Size

    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.

  2. Notes

    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.

  3. Sound Quality

    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.

  4. Portability

    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.

Handpan Manufacturers

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. 

  • Different Manufacturers

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.

Conclusion

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

Why are handpans so expensive?

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.

How to play a handpan?

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.

Is learning handpan difficult?

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.

How to do maintenance of the handpan?
  • 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.
How hang drum is different from handpans?

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.

Iana Varshavska
Iana Varshavska
Website administrator

In love with yoga and everything that goes along with it. Iana is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) who has completed the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification by the Yoga Alliance U.S. In addition to that, she is constantly studying and improving her skills in various aspects of yoga philosophy, yoga anatomy, biomechanics, and holodynamics.

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