The SunPan - A German-Made HandPan

(!) This post may now be out of date - but has been left published for archive purposes.  It may still prove to be of interest, but some (or all) details may now be out of date (!).

Built by ‘Marti Gronmayer’, the SunPan is another HandPan built in Germany (arguably the current home of HandPan, at time of writing). And as far as is known the SunPan is very much a ‘cottage industry’ HandPan, with Marti hand-hammering the shells himself, and then tuning them.

Early SunPan deviated somewhat from the traditional HandPan model, featuring bottoms made of some kind of metallic-mesh, but have since acquired the ‘Gu-style’ bottoms common to most other HandPan. Which, combined with improvements in Marti’s skill at tuning, have led to what I personally consider to be an increasingly sweet sounding little HandPan...

Points of note:

* At the time of writing production of your HandPan (should Marti agree to make one for you) is said to be 8-10 weeks, following payment.

* SunPan are not made from Nitrided shells.

* The price of a SunPan at time of writing is between 950-1400 Euro

* It has been stated by ‘Nadine Beger’ (operator of the Caisa-Music website) that recently she has also become involved in the tuning of SunPan. Most HandPan enthusiasts believe that the tuner very much leaves their signature within the steel of the HandPan, so you may wish to be aware of who tuned (or who intends to tune) your SunPan, should you be considering purchase.

* If buying secondhand be aware that earlier SunPan (as is often the case with most HandPan) do not sound as pleasant as those more recently built.

The previous route to ordering a SunPan was via Marti’s YouTube channel: HERE (which may still work for you), or alternatively, the SunPan appears to have been brought into the Caisa stable, and as such, you can enquire and/or place an order via the Caisa-Music website: HERE

Find more information at the makers page: HERE

PANArt 'Hang' (Drum) Price - 2011

Q, How much does a PANArt 'Hang' (drum) cost in 2011?

A, The price of a PANArt Hang in 2011, is (approximately):
Including a natural fibre case.
And, as in previous years, PANArt Hang, in 2011, can only be obtained by those who have received a response to their handwritten letters. In the form of an invitation to visit the hanghaus. To collect their Hanghang,
* To 'apply' for future consideration, send your letters to the following address:
PANArt Hangbau AG
Engehaldenstr. 131
3012 Bern/Switzerland

Handpangea - The North Carolina, HandPan Gathering - 2011

An event similar in nature to the UK based, ‘HangOut’, a festival of the Hang. ‘Handpangea’, is a US based gathering, bringing, like the legendary supercontinent, ‘Pangea’, all of the HanPans, from around the world, together in one place. To create the kind of event, that HandPan enthusiasts dreams are made of. Expect Hang, Halo, Bell’s, Bali Steel Pans, Perhaps a Hang SPB, or two. And perhaps a healthy dose of steel tongue drums mixed in, such as the Zen Tambour.

To be held between the 22nd - 24th, July, 2011, Handpangea, offers the perfect opportunity for fans of these beautiful instruments, to meet up, listen to, and perhaps play, the various different types of HandPan.

However, while it is stated that you don’t necessarily have to own a HandPan, to attend. The 2011 event is limited to fifty places (at time of writing). And it is possible that priority will be given to HandPan owners. Over those just curious.

Handpangea, 2011, will be held at the ‘Laughing Waters Retreat Center’, near Ashville, North Carolina, and is priced at $50 per ticket ($30 for children). The event will feature live performances by the likes of Dante Bucci, and will offer workshops teaching techniques for improving your HandPan playing, and a talk by ‘Kyle Cox, and Jim Dusin’, of Pantheon Steel, explaining exactly how a HandPan is made.

[BONUS] - Pantheon Steel will also be running a lottery at the event, to give two individuals the chance to skip the waiting lists, and purchase some very special Halo.

[EDIT] 2011 has obviously now been and gone.  But with the 2012 Handpangea coming soon (at time of writing), this event shows signs of becoming an annual event.

For more information, visit the Handpangea website: HERE.

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Play 'Otomata' - Compose Hang-Style Meditation Music Online

While, If I'm being honest, I'm not entirely sure (having only just discovered it) whether there's some kind of task, goal, or hidden objective, that I'm supposed to aim to complete, while playing Otomata. There's no denying, that It is strangely addictive. Clicking on cells at random. To create patterns of roving notes. That flow, and collide, around the grid. Creating meditative tunes, that are based upon, and utilise, the popular Hang scale : D A Bb C D E F A C.
Otomata, was created by, 'Batuhan Bozkurt', a Turkish sound artist, computer programmer, and performer. With a passion for programming computers, to create both music, and art.  A generative sequencer, employing a 'cellular automaton' (don't ask me what that is?) type logic, Otomata, allows users to create their own euphoric beats, simply by selecting cells within the grid, setting the direction in which the notes are to travel, and then pressing play. An act, that ultimately, leads to the quick, and easy creation of, some nicely chilled out, Hang-reminscent compositions.
Lots of fun.
Take a break: Go Play.

What Type of Metal is the PANArt Hang (Drum) Made From?

Recently I’ve noticed several visitors reaching this site having typed the following question into their search engine of choice: ‘What type of metal is the PANArt Hang made from?’  And so, like any good webmaster, I’ve decided to answer this question.  For the benefit of those who come searching in the future:

The PANArt Hang is made from ‘nitrided steel’* (of a patented type known as 'Pang')..  And according to the paper: ‘History, Development, and Tuning of the Hang’, published by the Hang’s creators ‘Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer ‘, the steel used has a uniform thickness of ‘0.91-0.95 mm’.

The specific type of steel used in the creation of the Hang is believed to be 'DC04'. 

* Nitriding is a heat treating process that alloys nitrogen onto the surface of a metal to create a hardened surface.

To learn more about the creation of the Hang, you can read the complete paper: HERE.

The SPB - The Russian-Made HandPan

Made in Saint Petersburg, Russia, by ‘Victor Levinson’, and crew, the HandPan most commonly known as the ‘SPB’, is (at time of writing) generally considered to be among the best HandPan being produced. And it has to be said, that SPB, are some very sweet sounding HandPan.

One of the ‘Big Four’, the SPB is a nitrided HandPan comparable in size to the PANArt Hang, and with a sound equally as moving. Yet while PANArt refer to their own creation as being ‘A Gift From God’, Victor Levinson, more humbly, has referred to his own creations from time-to-time as being simply, ‘just a lump of metal’. Something that many fans of his creations might be inclined to disagree with...

Unfortunately though, as with Hang (and many other HandPan) obtaining an SPB is far from easy. Partially due to high demand compared to the amount of instruments being produced. But also due to the fact that even should you be lucky enough to be offered an SPB, a trip to Saint Petersburg is required, to collect the HandPan in person (something that could be considered to be either a pain, or an adventure to be had, depending upon your point of view).

The Price of the SPB has at this time not been made public, and Victor has requested that this remain so for now. And while there is no official waiting list for the SPB, the usual route for messaging Victor is through his YouTube channel: HERE (though evidence suggests not to expect a personal reply any time soon).

Points of Note:

* Victor Levinson himself does not refer to his creation as the SPB, neither does he refer to his creation as being a HandPan. One alternative name for the SPB sometimes used is simply a ‘Victor Levinson Creation’.

* Of all the HandPan makers Victor is arguably the most open in sharing information regarding the creation of his HandPan, offering tips and advice to those attempting their own D.I.Y HandPan from time-to-time, and also allowing visitors to video him at work, and share the videos online for the benefit of others (some great videos can be seen on our ‘How to make a HandPan page’).

Check the makers page for more information: HERE

The Music of the Hang Playing Hedge Monkeys - Vesica Piscis

Consisting of the Hang musicians ‘Danny Cudd’, and ‘Daniel Waples’, the ‘Hang Playing Hedge Monkeys’, formed in 2006, after meeting at a UK music festival.  And with arguably the best name in Hang music, these Hedge Monkeys, are highly skilled in the ways of the Hang.  And influenced by ethnic music from around the world, including Africa, and Australia, the Hang Playing Hedge Monkeys travel the world, expanding their horizons, while producing some pretty damn good Hang music as they go.

‘The hang is a very special musical instrument. It chooses it's owner and not the other way round.’, state the duo, referring at least partially, to the required pilgrimage-like journey to the Hanghaus in Switzerland, for those seeking to purchase a PANArt Hang.

And having found many new admirers following their performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, (among others), the Hang Playing Hedge Monkeys, released their suitably titled album, ‘Vesica Piscis’, (the name given to the particular symmetric lens formed by the intersection of two equal circles - as seen on the album's artwork) that was recorded in India in 2008.  That features tracks such as the soothing and uplifting ‘Come Inside’, and the epic ambient masterpiece, ‘North East South West’.

You can preview and purchase the album Vesica Piscis: HERE.

Or alternatively, go visit the Hang Playing Hedge Monkeys at their website: HERE.

Early Versions of the 1Tone ECLIPSE Steel Tongue Drum

While searching through the thousands of Hang/Hank videos that have been uploaded to YouTube since the PANArt Hang first appeared on the scene back in 2000. I realised that some of the most beautiful looking steel tongue drums displayed online (that I’d noticed before but hadn’t paid as much attention to as I could have) are actually instruments produced by ‘1Tone’. The makers of the ‘1Tone ECLIPSE’.

And while (in my opinion) the sound of these early prototypes, compared to the latest version of the 1Tone ECLIPSE, sounds relatively poor (which is probably how it should be). These early 1Tone steel tongue drums look amazing. And are certainly worth taking a look at if you’re a fan of the ECLIPSE. Especially, as it has been hinted at, that at some point in the future, 1Tone may release a special edition of the ECLIPSE, featuring a customized airbrushed paint-job, reminiscent of these earlier prototypes.
You can check out more of these beautiful looking steel tongue drums over at Anton Koren's YouTube channel: HERE.
Or alternatively, (if you haven't already), check out the latest version (at time of writing) of the: 1Tone ECLIPSE, which might not look quite as pretty, but (in my opinion), is one of the best sounding Hank's on the market.

How to Play the Hang Drum / HandPan - Lesson Zero

The beauty of the Hang, Handpan, and Hank, as an instrument, at least partially lies within the simple, and highly intuitive note-layout designed by the original Hang-makers, PANArt.  Handpan as standard feature a complimentary scale of notes zig-zagging around  a central note.  And by design, playing a "wrong" note on any Handpan that follows this design, is something that is near impossible.

Which is something that, while the Handpan has also proven extremely popular with percussionists, also makes the Handpan the perfect instrument, for those with little to no musical training.

When learning to play the Handpan on day one, there is really only one thing you need to learn, in order to get started in earnest, and that is "The Touch".

The Touch

The best way to get a tone from a Handpan is best described as this:

'Touch it as if you were testing a stove with your finger, checking to see if it is hot'

And this tends to work best with the top-flat-fleshy-underside of your finger.  To begin with at least.

A well-made Handpan requires only a gentle touch to sound a note, and hitting it too hard will not only cause the sound to blare, and squeal, it can also de-tune an instrument.  Leading to potentially costly maintenance charges.

PANArt have long been against people using the "drum" moniker in relation to their instruments, and while the idea behind that sentiment has arguably picked up a moss of the meta-physical as time has gone by.  With the Handpan being an instrument of the "Idiophone" class - an instrument that generates sound through the vibration of the whole - it does make sense not to think of Handpan as drums, despite their excellent percussive qualities, and remember that in place of hitting, and beating, Handpan tend to react best to firm, but gentle, tickles, and caresses.

PANArt have on numerous occasions referred to their creations as being "Mirrors to the soul", and even if you're not of a "spiritual" persuasion, by design, the limited, but complimentary note lay-out lends itself well to intuitive play.  In a way that can be quite personal, and meditative.

As with any instrument, you can and will improve with practise.  In terms of reaching beyond the meditative, and on towards composition.  But few other instruments are able to offer such easy access to musical creativity as does the Handpan right-off-the-bat.  No breathing techniques to learn.  No complicated chord structures.  Get the touch down, which is something that most people do (more-or-less) within an hour, and you should be off and playing.

There is an often quoted mantra within the world of Handpan:

'There is no wrong way to play a Handpan'

And while learning some percussive techniques can arguably add to your game, with the exception of beating on your Handpan like you are angry with it, or prodding at it with your finger tips, we at HPM, remain of the opinion, that now, as from the birth of the Hang, that mantra remains pretty much true.

Pick it up, explore, and play.  It really is that simple.

The Six-Note SpaceDrum - A HandPan for Beginners and Travellers

Like the 'Baby Caisa' (or 'BakPac Caisa') produced by Kaisos Steel Drums.  The makers of the French-made HandPan, the ‘Spacedrum’, also produce a smaller version of their creation, known simply as the ‘Six-Note Spacedrum’. And for those who like to travel, and would like to take their HandPan with them. Or for those new to the world of HandPans, and who are looking for a great starters HandPan. The 6 note Spacedrum, offers a variety of benefits, over some of their larger, and more expensive relatives.

So that while more experienced HandPan musicians might find only having six notes to play with limiting. With its smaller size, the six-note, can easily be packed-up, and taken on your travels with you. And being one of the cheapest HandPans available, at a price of between 542-649 Euros (at time of writing), depending upon your location, the six note Spacedrum could be a great way of finding out whether HandPans are for you, or not, without investing too much money.

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