Hang, Handpan and Pantam
The instrument ‚Hang‘ was invented by Sabina Schärer and Felix Rohner in 1999 in Bern, Switzerland.
It is inspired by the steel pan which originates from Trinidad and from the Gatham, a percussion instrument from India which is played by hand.
Between 2000 and 2013, Sabina and Felix built hanghang (plural) in the name of their company PANArt Hangbau AG. Over the years, other people tried to imitate the sound of the hang. Since the word hang is a protected expression, they called their instruments handpan or as well pantam. Nowadays there are hundreds of handpan makers worldwide that build handpans with different characteristics and advancements. You can find a map of almost all the handpan makers worldwide here.
Since 2014 we have tried out a lot of different handpan makers and their beautiful creations, seeing the scene growing, improving, ever discovering new possibilities of the instrument.
Here you can see our personal selection of handpan makers around the world that we love on a personal level and for the amazing creations they make:
Soulshine Sounds Handpans
Clemens, Nuremberg, Germany
Clemens Handschuh is a true shaman of sound. While for other makers some steps of making a handpan are just a must-do, it seems that for him every beat of the hammer is like a meditative and transformative process. An approach that one not only hears but also feels. Especially since 2018 his instruments have reached a consistent high quality and every instrument has some magic inside.
Jean-François, Florence, Italy
Jean-François Dorsimont has been a leading maker in the scene for quite a while and his instruments are highly appreciated by top players in the world. We also value his work a lot and are amazed by the precision of his handpans and the sheer love that you feel when touching them.
‘Meraki’ (Greek) means to do something with passion, with absolute devotion, with undivided attention and is hence probably the best name Jean-François could call his creations.
Sergio, Mallorca, Spain
Sergio Huerta Perez, a passionate and gifted handpan maker who lives together with his wife in the middle of nowhere in Mallorca, channels all his love into making his instruments. Touching his instruments, one feels Sergio’s calmness and devotion. Each handpan for itself has little peculiarities that one can implement in one’s playing.
Excellent value for the money!
Yhonathan, Haifa, Israel
Yhonathan Ale-Yahav is a pioneer in terms of handpan making. Some people even say that his ‘Yishama’ are a whole new instrument. In the past years he has become the most popular maker in the scene. And that for a good reason! Due to his huge understanding of handpans and his passionate creativity, Yhonathan pushed the boundaries of handpans to another level and built pantams that had been unimaginable before. High class instruments.
“What is the ‘correct’ name for this instrument?”
Hangdrum, Hang, Handpan, Pantam, Steeldrum, Spacedrum or just UFO? There are too many names of this instrument circulating to be able to name them all.
First of all, ‘Hang’ is a patented name and can only be used for the original inventors from PANArt. It is derived from the Swiss-German word for hand highlighting that you play these instruments with your hands instead of sticks used for steel drums.
Steel drums are whole different instruments. They were invented in Trinidad in the 1930s and are a national instrument there. They are made out of oil barrels and are concave instead of convex.
Names like Spacedrum, Bells, Halo, Disco Armonico, etc. are the names other makers gave their instruments because they couldn’t call them Hang. Because the instrument spread in the internet so fast, most people tend to call them hangdrum, as mentioned in some viral videos.
In the global scene of players and makers, Handpan and Pantam are the two most common names to be used
“How do I get a handpan?”
The list of handpan makers worldwide is getting longer and longer. No matter for which of these makers you decide - try the instrument first before you buy it. Find makers in your area and try to visit them to get a feel. Handpans are very different. If you want to try out several maker’s instruments you can come to one of the handpan festivals, join the community, compare and see what you love most. The handpan that you don’t want to stop playing is probably the best handpan for you - no matter what other people say. Of course you can also join one of our several workshops, try out different handpans and get first hand advice.
If you don’t have the chance to do so, ask other people for their recommendation or follow ours, get a video of the handpan that you are going to buy and show it to others who can judge better than you might be able to.
“How much money should I spend on a handpan?”
The prices of handpans vary a lot depending on the maker, region, reputation of the brand, number of notes and quality. The price of a handpan though does not always reflect the quality of the instrument. Prices usually range between 1000€ and 2000€ for an ‘8-noter’, meaning that you have 8 notes around the central note ‘Ding’. If you want more notes - for example also on the bottom shell - you usually need to spend more money. ‘Younger’ makers tend to ask less for their creations and makers more established in the market tend to ask more. Because the market is still so young, second hand instruments are usually sold for the initial price and not less. Due to speculations and personal value, some people also sell their second hand instruments for more than they once spent.
If you cannot afford a thousand euros, you can go for different instruments that somehow sound similar to handpans. These so called ‘Tongue Drums’ have swinging steel tongues cut into the material, sound a bit softer but have a much longer sustain. Good quality can be obtained spending about 300-400€. Our recommendation for a Tongue Drum is the RAV Vast, made in Russia.
“What handpan scale is right for me?”
There is no general answer to this question. We always say: ‘The handpan that you don’t want to let go out of your hands is the right one for you.’ Maybe it is the scale, maybe the maker or this particular instrument that touched your heart.
If you want to play with other people, a D-Minor handpan (‘Kurd’, ‘Celtic’, ‘Mystic’) could be the one to go for because it is quite a common scale in Western Europe and easy to play along.
In Israel for example, people are more after more spicy arabic scales like ‘Hijaz’ or ‘Harmonic Minor’.
If you already have a playmate, try to get a matching one. The maker of your choice will be helpful and can advise you what’s best to get.
“What material do makers use to build handpans?”
There are plenty of different materials that can be used to make a handpan. The most common steel is a special ferrous alloy called DC04. PANArt uses their own material that they call Pang. A steel that is fully nitrided and has been going through many phases of heating and cooling. Nitrided steel is the most common within the global maker scene because it is easier to work on and it is more stable in the tuning. Some makers also work with stainless steel which offers a higher sustain and is also more rust resistant.
“How does the handpan produce its sound and what makes it so special?”
The sound of the handpan is produced by a vibration of the different membranes/tone fields, worked into the surface of the handpan. The bigger the tone field, the slower is the vibration hence the lower the tone and vice versa. The two steel domes are glued on top of each other and create a Helmholtz resonance body - due to the hole in the bottom shell - that magnifies the sound of the whole instrument. Usually, handpans are tuned to 440 Hz, which is the most common frequency in today’s music although some are tuned to 432 Hz and others freely (like the Free Integral Hang).
Unlike the steel pan, the handpan is generally tuned only to one certain key and every note is accompanied by two overtones - the octave and the fifth. These characteristics make the handpan sound smooth and ‘harmonic’.