How HandPan Got Their Name - The Naming of a New Musical Instrument Type

Prior to becoming interested in the ‘hang drum’, as I originally knew it to be called (before learning that its makers were not keen on the attached ‘drum’ moniker). I’d never really given a whole lot of thought as to how exactly, things came by their names. A trumpet, is a trumpet, a tiger, a tiger, and a toaster, is, just a toaster. And the fact that at some point in the past the naming of these animals, or objects, may have been a serious cause of contention, had never really crossed my mind. These things simply were. And are.


The name ‘HandPan’ was already sufficiently in-use, and seemingly accepted, when I first named, and began this website, that I didn't think to question it. And it wasn’t until many months later, that I would learn that the term HandPan, as a descriptive name for the now growing group of ‘Hang-inspired instruments’, had initially met with loud objections. Though mainly from the known PANArt ‘purists’, but also from PANArt themselves, with Felix Rohner (Hang maker) publicly stating (by proxy) that the “Hang is not a HandPan”. And condemning the name, as causing offence to the steel pan makers of Trinidad, and Tobago.

Where did the name HandPan come from?

It is believed that the title was first coined by Kyle Cox of Pantheon Steel (makers of the Halo), back in 2007. And was Intended both as a mark of respect towards the Trinidadians (counter to Felix Rohner's beliefs), and also as a term through which to describe the Hang-inspired instruments he was creating to potential customers, without having to use the name Hang. (With PANArt having already requested that any mention of their trade-marked name be removed from the Pantheon Steel website).

Following the use of the term HandPan by Kyle Cox, the name was taken up by the website ‘’, who titled within their forums a sub-forum, labeled ‘Other HandPan Developments’. And from there, the name HandPan began to take hold, and spread.

* Back in 2009, the moderators of attempted to put a stop to the name ‘HandPan’, resulting in a twelve page debate titled ‘What is a HandPan?’* in which a few tired arguments were repeated over, and over, by a few, while the majority agreed that the name HandPan was indeed the most suitable.

At the time, as an argument against the name, it was posted that typing the term ‘HandPan’ into Google produced only 35 results, showing that the name HandPan was not yet used by the majority. However, on typing ‘HandPan’ into Google today, just over two years later (at time of writing), we see that Google now returns 28,500 results. Proving that while the name of this new musical genus may not yet still be conclusive (although it probably is), use of the label HandPan is spreading, and with the alternatives put forward by the opposition being such mouthfuls as ‘harmonically tuned sheet steel instruments’, I for one, couldn’t be happier. ;)

* You can grab yourself a little slice of HandPan history, and travel back through time to 2009, to read the naming of the HandPan debates for yourself: HERE
© HandPans Magazine