The interplay of dynamics, sustain, timbre and overtones
Every handpan at Handpan.World is lovingly handcrafted and shaped by our instrument makers. Every handpan has its own character and characteristics, just like us humans. And each of us has a different world of sound.
In the following we describe the various sound and playing characteristics that you can look out for when looking for the right handpan. Dynamics, sustain and timbre are particularly noteworthy in this context.
Dynamics (volume levels)
A good handpan has a high dynamic range, which means it can be played softly with a full tone, but also loudly. With light playing, a full tone is already clearly audible, which at the same time does not overdrive with strong and powerful playing.
We divide our instruments into three levels.
- little variability
- middle band spectrum
- very dynamic
Sustain: How long a note is held - preference and material
Sustain refers to how long a note reverberates after it is struck. Too short is undesirable and too long usually disrupts the flow of the game. As a rule, an average sustain is recommended for most players, as the handpan is then more versatile.
- Long sustain (stainless steel handpans): For meditative playing, percussive playing possible with limitations in playing speed
- Medium Sustain (Nitrated Handpans): More versatile, for fast percussive play, but also suitable for meditation
- Short Sustain (Nitrated Handpans): For fast percussive play
Whether you like one handpan better than the other is entirely individual. Researching the right scale in advance, for example on our YouTube channel , and then trying out different types of tones and types is highly recommended before making a purchase.
With regard to the timbre, a distinction is made between warm, meditative and cold metallic sounds.
The impact noises also differ in this respect, but can be influenced by the playing style 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, you can create numerous variations with a little practice of your playing technique.
Overtones in handpans
With a well-made handpan, the overtones can also be played on a handpan, i.e. the fifth and the octave. With a root C you can still play the fifth G and the octave C2 on the same field by isolating the note with your left hand (there is also a one-handed technique for more advanced players) and striking it with the right hand. This results in the flanging effect, very popular on the handpan, a delay technique that involves fluctuations in pitch up and down.
An important distinction to overtones is the so-called crosstalk, which means that one tone stimulates one or more other tones to vibrate. For example, D# resonates with D, which sounds dissonant and is therefore undesirable. Trust your hearing here too and exchange ideas with others if a handpan sounds strange to you.
Back to the overtones, the following video clearly demonstrates how you can specifically address these tones. What initially makes a complicated impression is easy to learn in reality. With a good handpan, the overtones are usually easy to play.
The correct tuning of a handpan
If you already have a tuner, you can of course test the tuning directly. Alternatively, there are online apps for your browser or smartphone, such as the Boss Tuning App.
In principle, a slight deviation from the exact, ideal target tone due to manual work cannot be ruled out. Nevertheless, a well-tuned handpan is consistent in itself. Experience has shown that an upset is easily noticeable, even for laypeople. Trust your hearing.
Subtleties are even more audible in the interplay with other musicians. If in doubt, you can send us an audio recording and we will help you with your assessment. Various forums also offer contact points here.