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Handpan Drum Buying Guide

Handpan Drum Kaufberatung

Welcome to our comprehensive buying guide for handpans – we want to help you find the right handpan for you by highlighting the crucial criteria: material, sound, quality, service and the right tuning for you.

Choosing the right tuning is particularly important. It's about which scale appeals to you, which notes touch you and which melody you like to enjoy for a longer period of time. Trust your own sense of hearing - watch lots of videos, close your eyes and let yourself be seduced by the magical world of sound of the handpan. The variety of scales is not only evident in manufacturer videos, but also in the inspiring commentary lines of the online videos. You can find out more about this in our section - Your Tuning.

Online videos are a first step to discovering the right scale. Nevertheless, we recommend experiencing the handpan in person, whether in our showroom in Munich or at our partners'. There you will find an impressive selection of lovingly made handpans from our partner workshops - perfect for trying out on site or even for renting. Your path to your personal handpan experience starts here.

Our quick guide - direct access to your beloved handpan


    Handpan material - Nitrided steel or stainless steel

    Most handpans are made of nitrided steel, which is also the classic construction of the original PanArt hang drum. However, stainless steel has its advantages in certain areas and is therefore becoming increasingly popular. In the following list you can easily compare the advantages and disadvantages of the two variants in terms of playing behavior and care.

    Handpans - nitrided steel

    Area of ​​use: Fast percussive playing, versatile, i.e. also suitable for yoga and meditation. The best choice if you want to remain flexible in terms of playing speed

    • Need more care, regular oiling necessary (easy and quick to do with cloth and oil - more information under Care & Transport of the Handpan )
    • Significantly shorter sustain than stainless steel handpans
    • More versatile - fast percussive and slow playing possible
    • Softer or more muted tone color (ceramic-like timbre)

    Handpans - stainless steel

    Area of ​​use: Slow meditative playing / yoga, meditation. The best choice if you play mostly slowly and melodically and you want to minimize the maintenance effort

    • More rust-resistant than nitrided steel (less maintenance required - more information under Care & Transport of the Handpan )
    • Significantly longer sustain than handpans made of nitrided steel
    • Less flexible - at high speeds the sustain can be disruptive
    • Brighter tone

    The individual sound of a handpan (sustain, dynamics, timbre, overtones)

    Each handpan is unique; they are lovingly shaped and crafted by hand. This means that you can produce many different sounds with them; you can discover something new every day, even if you have known the instrument for a while. Dynamics, sustain and timbre are particularly noteworthy in this context.

    At this point we recommend testing the handpan in the shop or at home based on the sound characteristics described. Try it out and first of all find your preferred key to narrow down the large selection of different scales. For more information, see Your Mood .

    Dynamics (volume levels)

    A good handpan has a high dynamic range, which means that it can be played quietly with a full tone, but also loudly. When played lightly, a full tone is clearly produced, and when played strongly and powerfully, the tone does not distort.

    Sustain (duration of a note) - preference and material

    Sustain refers to how long a note resonates after being struck. Too short is not desirable and too long usually disrupts the flow of playing. As a rule, an average sustain is recommended for most players, as this makes the handpan more versatile.

    • Long sustain (stainless steel handpans): For meditative playing, percussive playing possible with limitation in playing speed
    • Medium sustain (nitrided handpans): More versatile, for fast percussive playing, but also suitable for meditations
    • Short sustain (nitrided handpans): For fast percussive playing

    Timbre

    Whether you like one handpan better than another is a very individual decision. Researching the right scale beforehand (for example, using videos, see the section "Your tuning ") and then trying out different tones and, if necessary, different designs is highly recommended before you buy.

    Regarding the timbre, a distinction is made between warm meditative and cold metallic sounds.

    The attack sounds also differ in this respect, but can be influenced by the way you play with a little practice.

    Sound between the fields and on the edge: Taks are used in percussive playing and depend on the material and design of the handpan. Here too, with a little practice of your playing technique, you can create numerous variations.

    Overtones in handpans

    With a well-made handpan, you can also play the overtones, i.e. the fifth and the octave, on a handpan. With a fundamental note of C, you can also play the fifth G and the octave C2 on the same pitch field by isolating the note with your left hand (there is also a one-handed technique for more advanced players) and hitting it on the right. This results in the flanger effect, a delay technique that is very popular on the handpan, with fluctuations in pitch up and down.

    The following video demonstrates how you can access the tones; it is easier shown than described.

    Quality of the handpan

    Is the handpan cleanly made? Your instrument should be uniformly made, which means no sharp edges and no uneven surface structures. Also look at the underside to see if there are any sharp spots or similar at the opening (Gu). In addition, the top and bottom should be cleanly glued so that no glue residue is visible.

    The correct tuning of a handpan

    If you already have a tuner, you can of course test the tuning directly; alternatively, there are also online apps like the Boss Tuning App.

    A slight deviation from the target tone cannot be ruled out due to the handwork, but a well-tuned handpan is still harmonious, and a serious detuning can usually be detected even by a layperson. Trust your hearing, you can also switch off dissonances when listening to music, if possible...

    In this context it should also be mentioned that the overtones (see under the point - Overtones ) are usually easy to play.

    Fine details only become audible when playing with other musicians. If in doubt, you can send us an audio or ask for help in various forums.

    Crosstalk is also an issue, which means that one note causes another to vibrate, for example D# causes D to vibrate, which is obviously not what you want. Here too, trust your hearing first and foremost; if the handpan sounds dissonant to you, it is not the right one for you.

    Find your handpan tuning

    Since this is usually the first step, we have already mentioned it at the top of the page. To briefly clarify some basic terms for beginners at this point. Scale, musical scale and tuning mean the same thing , the chromatic scale runs from C to B (c-cis-d-d-d-ef-fis-g-gis-a-a-is-hc). Handpans are diatonic instruments, which means that they do not have all the tones in the spectrum as mentioned above. This limits you to one area, which makes it all the more important to find the right scale right away.

    There are major keys that sound happier and minor keys that sound more mystical and melancholic, as well as scales that are easier to combine and scales that are harder to combine. The question of whether you want to play with other musicians needs to be answered in advance; in this case, we would recommend that you seek advice.

    We don't want to go into the topic too much at this point. The professionals know it and for beginners it quickly becomes too much in this quick guide.

    Without looking for too much theory, trust your hearing when choosing the tuning you want, which will accompany you on your future path. Listen to as many manufacturer videos as possible and take notes. Whatever key you like, close your eyes and listen to it, you're sure to find one or two videos on YouTube and the like that you'll want to listen to for a long time. Music that resonates strongly with you. There are countless handpan artists online, if you like something, write it down directly or put it in a bookmark. The tunings can usually be found in the comments at the latest, if not in the video description. If possible, write down the exact model or all the notes on the instrument. The scales are named differently by the manufacturers, which can lead to confusion.

    Then it's time to try out the instrument, ideally first in the shop where you can choose and get advice. The points about material, sound, quality and the correct tuning that are described in this buying guide can soon be examined in detail at home by you, the happy owner.

    Vibration frequency 440 or 432Hz

    Most handpans are tuned to 440Hz, which makes them compatible with other instruments such as guitar and piano. 432Hz sounds different,
    It is best to listen to a recording or, even better, to let the instrument work on you directly. 432Hz is used here and there in therapy practice
    used, the effectiveness is, as expected, controversial. We can therefore make no statement about the health aspect. The fact is, it sounds completely different and has its appeal.

    Service - Retuning the Handpan

    Handpans go out of tune after a while and need to be retuned. How often depends on the load and the quality of the handpan. The greatest load is sunlight, or rather intense heat. The load when playing is also relevant, so you should not play with mallets, but only with your fingers. When buying a handpan, it is important that you think about who will tune the handpan again.

    Further information for you on the page Retuning Service

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