What is the Difference Between the PANArt Hang, and HandPan?

Having had a growing number of people reaching this site asking the question, "what is the difference between Hang, and HandPan?" - I’ve decided to have a go at answering it. And some confusion surrounding this is understandable. Especially for those new to the ‘scene’. Considering that websites like the one you’re reading now (and those similar) seem to draw a pretty strong line of distinction between the two. But why?

Unfortunately however, while the question ‘what is the difference between Hang, and HandPan?’ seems like the sort of question that would have a straightforward black-and-white answer. Arguably, the answer falls very much into shades of grey. But, I shall try my best to answer it anyway.

The Difference(s) Between Hang, and HandPan

If you’re a fan of the television show ‘The Big Bang Theory’, you may be familiar with the following quote from ‘Sheldon’, stating that “...all Jacuzzi, are hot tubs, but not all hot tubs, are Jacuzzi!” And in the same way, we could (arguably - and there will be those who disagree here) say that all Hang are HandPan, but not all HandPan are Hang. With Hang being the original HandPan. And Hang being produced only by PANArt. - This would seem to be the most straightforward answer. However, arguably (and trust me, there are those who will argue very strongly) it is not the all encompassing one.

Some More Factors (Arguments) to Consider:

* Physical structure - The shells that form HandPan can be spun, deep drawn, hand-beaten, cut from steel sheets, or created in the manner of traditional steel pan, using 55 gallon steel drums. Some are nitrided, and/or undergo other complex treatments. Others aren’t, and don’t. Which is why certain HandPan could be said to be more ‘steel pan’ like than ‘Hang-like’. Bearing more resemblance to a convex steel pan, than to a PANArt Hang. Though with this said, many would argue that some of the more sought after HandPan (currently known as the ‘big four’ which in addition to the Hang itself, consists of the Halo, Bells, SPB), are the Hangs equal in every way.

* Tuning Methods - I’m not even going to begin to pretend that I understand the complexities of HandPan tuning. But, it’s clear that the quality of tuning across different makes of HandPan can differ considerably. And that in addition to being affected by the material, and shape, of the physical shell of the HandPan, it is also very much affected by the technique, and skill of the tuner. And that the more highly sought after HandPan, are tuned in a very different way, specific to this new type of instrument, over those tuned more like traditional steel pan.

The Real Reason for the Split

But even taking the above factors into account, the ‘real reason’, for right or for wrong, that Hang are referred to as separate from the growing family of HandPan, is due to PANArt themselves. If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet researching Hang then you’ll know that PANArt don’t much care for the ‘drum’ moniker that is often attached to their creation.  And additionally, they don’t much care for the title of ‘HandPan’ either. Claiming that the name is disrespectful to Trinidad and Tobago (home of traditional steel pan - you can read more about that: HERE). And so, at the time of writing at least (and presumably, as the years pass the Hang will become absorbed within), HandPan enthusiats, out of respect for PANArt, refrain from referring to the Hang as a HandPan. Which is why, on websites like this one, and most other dedicated sites, currently, you’ll see the Hang referred to as a separate entity, kept divided from the rest of its ‘kin’.

HandPan Comparison - The Many Voices of HandPan

First, came the Hang - and "it was good!"  In many ways, and for many people, it was life changing. But unfortunately, there just weren’t enough Hanghang to go around...

Which led to the birth of HandPan.

The Caisa, the Halo, and the Bells, were first to follow in the wake of the global Hang frenzy. Slated by some as merely cheap imitations (“empty inside” - spoke PANArt’s Felix Rohner). Yet they were embraced by others for their own individual qualities, their individual voices, and for being the start of something that was bigger than PANArt, arguably the ‘true’ birth of a new type of instrument. The age of the HandPan.  And boy, how they've grown!

So that now, just a few short years later, a small but growing subculture of HandPan enthusiasts, embracing both Hang, and Hang-inspired instruments alike, exists. And with it, a small, but growing, number of HandPan makers have appeared. To cater to their ever hungry appetites.

From the Russian-made ‘SPB’, through to the even more recent ‘Innersound’, the HandPan family is growing. And while at this point in time it’s still not easy to pick, and choose, as easily as some might like (with many having long waiting lists, or other complicated buying processes), should you have set your heart on a HandPan. But aren’t entirely sure which HandPan would best meet your needs. The video ‘Hang and HandPan Comparison’, created by Colin Foulke, and David Kuckhermann, is a ‘must see’. Demonstrating for your analysis, more HandPan than I could (be bothered to) count. From first gen Hang, through to the Free Integral, and from the Baby Caisa, through to the SunPan. Making it, at time of writing, my favorite HandPan related video on YouTube. And if you haven’t already clicked the play button on the embedded video above, you can go watch it in glorious full-screen mode over at YouTube: HERE.
Or alternatively, you can go visit Colin Foulke, or David Kuckhermann over at their personal websites, to find out what else they've been upto lately (by clicking on their names above).

ZAGDRUM - Hank Drum from France

A few years back, in the days before I’d yet aquired a HandPan, I thought to myself that when the day comes that a Hang, or a Halo graces my lap, it wouldn’t be long before my small collection of steel tongue drum found their way onto ebay, unable to compete as they’d be, with the far more highly prized HandPan. This did not happen. And even though I am now lucky enough to have acquired (with persistence) several HandPan, my Hank / Steel tongue drum have not yet been cast aside, and/or sold off on ebay. In fact, there’s something about the sound of a well-made steel tongue drum that I find so appealing, that there are months, where in my house, my Hank receive far more lap-time, than even my ‘ever highly sought after’ PANArt Hang.

Which brings us to the ‘ZAGDRUM”, the French-made Hank, that is (at time of writing) available in two different styles: The Zagdrum 30 - which are traditional Hank style, being made from recycled propane gas tanks, and the Zagdrum 40 - which is a larger model made from custom shells.

With two years (and growing) of research and development into the creation of Hank funneled into their manufacture, Zagdrum, feature laser cut notes, with up to twelve notes per instrument, and are available in all manner of classic sound-models from: Hijaz, and Melog, through to one of my Halo favorites, Golden Gate.
With tones that sing clear, and bright (see embedded video), if you’re in the market for a great sounding steel tongue drum, the Zagdrum, is certainly worthy of consideration. And you can find more information on the Zagdrum over at their website: HERE.  Or alternatively, you can check out more videos over at their YouTube channel: HERE.

Annual HandPan Gatherings, Meet-Ups, and Festivals

While it’s just not practical for us to list every HandPan gig, or gathering that we come across (as much as we’d like to), with them having been and gone, almost as soon as we get around to writing,and posting about them. If you’re looking to meet up with other like-minded HandPan musicians, or perhaps even get your first taste of HandPan goodness (most players are happy to let those who have yet to experience their first HandPan, and who are respectful to the delicate nature of the instruments, to have a play). You could do worse than checking out, and perhaps buying a ticket to attend, one of the growing number of annually held Hang / HandPan gatherings, meet-up’s, and festivals.


Traditionally held at ‘Mellow Farm’, on the Hampshire-Surrey border alongside the River Wey, HangOut is the UK held Hang / HandPan festival. Into its third year (at time of writing), HangOut features live performances, jams, open mics, and workshops, and is usually held towards the end of September.

More Information
The U.S. held HandPan gathering, Handpangea, brings together Hang, and HandPan lovers from all corners of the globe. Into its second year (at time of writing), Handpangea, is traditionally held at the ‘Laughing Waters Retreat Center’, near Ashville, North Carolina. And in addition to the workshops, jam sessions, and performances, has in the past seen Pantheon Steel (makers of the Halo), run exclusive lotteries, offering Handpangea attendees the chance to win their highly sought after HandPan.

More information
Hang uut
Into its third year (at time of writing) the ‘Hang uut’, is the Netherlands based Hang / HandPan gathering, traditionally held at Wapserveen, Drenthe, in Holland. As with the other gatherings, and festivals, the Hang uut offers workshops, performances, and jamming sessions. Held within the grounds of the ‘Atelier dell ‘Arte’, a beautiful retreat built upon an old Saxon farm

Other HandPan festivals and gatherings include:

* Song of the Forest (Georgia, U.S.)
* Hang'In Azores (Pico Azores)

Spyros Pan - Omega - A Journey in HandPan Sounds

If I were ever to find myself sat cross-legged by the side of a babbling brook, in a peaceful forest setting, at the foot of a mist covered mountain, in some exotic land, with eyes closed in meditation, trying to reach enlightenment. This is the music that (In my opinion) I’d be most likely to reach enlightenment to.

I used to do a lot of drugs, and like every seasoned junkie knows, there are good drugs, and there are bad drugs. Some will merely ‘do the job’, while others will send you soaring. And it’s the same with HandPan music. And sticking with that analogy, ‘Omega’, by ‘Spyros Pan’, is ‘quality gear’. Relaxing, like some kind of high-grade horse tranquiliser (until you stumble into ‘Polyphemus Cave’, that is, which just when you think you’re going to be walking on clouds the whole journey, comes at you like a Great.White shark, and is possibly the most intense HandPan track I’ve yet to hear - loved it). Omega, leads you gently by the hand in one direction, before dragging you a little more harshly in another.

Featuring 14 tracks, Omega, is as polished as it is varied. And features two Pantheon Steel Halo, a BEllArt BElls, possibly Hanghang (though I’m not 100% sure about that) - often played two, or three at a time (in addition to vocals, theremin, and other compositional elements). Recorded at Unreal Studioz, in Athens, Greece (even featuring one track played by ‘Hyades’, the rain nymphs of Greek mythology). Omega is, overall, an incredibly melodic album, especially in comparison to some of the more percussive’ly heavy HandPan albums I’ve listened to recently. And it leaves me with no qualms what-so-ever in labelling Omega, by Spyros Pan, as HandPan music at its most relaxing, and introspective best! I thoroughly enjoyed the listen... And suspect that this album is going to receive regular play time, both at home, and while out and about on my MP3 player, for some time to come.

You can listen to, and purchase Omega, over at the Spyros Pan Bandcamp page: HERE.

And/or visit Spyros Pan over at his website: HERE, or subscribe to his YouTube channel: HERE (for even more HandPan goodness).

Hand Steel Pan - A Trinidad Born 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 (!).

‘Hand Steel Pan’, may not be the most creative of names for a new make of HandPan, but like many a fine thing, it does (to a more or lesser degree) exactly what it says on the tin. Built by ‘Jacopo Marrocchelli’, the Hand Steel Pan is a HandPan that hails from Trinidad, home of the traditional steel pan. And while early attempts would have a hard time passing themselves off as a Hang, or a Halo (other than perhaps in look). The will to persevere, and improve, does seem to be present within the tuner, who has released numerous videos of Hand Steel Pan in various different forms over the last month or so. And who is seemingly sat on the precipice of realising that steel pan tuning technique does not necessarily transfer directly to the HandPan form, successfully, without some modification. Hence why the Hand Steel Pan, which sound nice enough in their own right, do not (yet) sing with the choir of angels that Hanghang are able to release (judging by the video). But these are still early days, and as always, we have high hopes for their future...
There's little else to say about these at time of writing, but we'll try to update as and when new information becomes available. To keep up-to-date with the Hand Steel Pan, your best bet is to subscribe to the makers Facebook page, or YouTube channel.

Where we'll certainly be following with interest.

[UPDATE] There have been some really nice improvements coming out of the Hand Steel Pan camp in recent months (at time of update) - and in addition to keeping up with the latest developments over at facebook (linked to above), you can also check out developments (and other HandPan'ny stuff, over at the HandSteelPan Factory Website: HERE


‘Hang uut’ - The Netherlands Held Hang / HandPan Gathering

While I’ve not as of yet attended myself, if you’re unable, or unwilling to travel to the UK held ‘HangOut’, or to ‘HandPangea’ held in the states. Or just simply live within, or closer to the Netherlands. You may well be interested in a little more information on the ‘Hang uut’. The Hang / HandPan gathering held in Wapserveen, Drenthe, in Holland.

Into its third year (at time of writing), the Hang uut, is a gathering of musicians from across Europe (and possibly beyond) who all share a love for the Hang, and for HandPan in general. That consists of workshops for learning, and exchanging techniques. Performances. And of course, plenty of friendly jamming with fellow HandPan enthusiasts.

Held within the grounds of the ‘Atelier dell ‘Arte’, a beautiful retreat built upon an old Saxon farm. Hang uut, is, at time of writing, a fairly intimate affair, able to accommodate only around twenty players, or so. But as has been seen with both HangOut UK, and HandPangea, slowly, but surely, these things have a habit of growing.

Historically held at some point over the summer months, usually between May, and July (with the 2012 Hang uut being held towards the beginning of June), and over the course of three days. If you’re interested in securing your place, and joining in the fun. You can find more information about the Hang uut: HERE

How NOT to Make a Hang Drum - The Video

Part 1.

Part 2.

If you’re considering trying to build your own Hang, or HandPan, and you haven’t yet watched the following YouTube video, you need to. Because while it won’t necessarily guide you in the ‘right’ direction, it may well offer up a few ideas as to what not to do. And even failing that, it certainly offers up some serious belly laughs. Which may well be just what you need to take your mind of what may seem like an impossible, and frustrating task, for those attempting a DIY build.

How NOT to Build a Hang Drum - What you’ll need:
  • 1 Wok
  • Several hammers inappropriate for the task
  • A quiet place to work
  • A relatively large dose of persistence
  • And a more than generous measure of good humor
So that while Dingo1492 may have unfortunately failed in his quest to build himself a Hang drum, he without doubt succeeded in brightening up my day (and the days of others judging by the comments). And if these videos get seen by the right people, he may even have carved out a career for himself as a YouTube video presenter of some sort.
To watch in full screen, and/or to comment, and pay your respects you can visit Dingo1492 over at his YouTube channel: HERE.
Or alternatively, you might want to check out our how to build a Hang / HandPan tips page: HERE. For those not put-off by Dingo's wok building attempt.

David Kuckhermann - The Path of the Metal Turtle

The sun is out, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen it in this quiet English seaside town. And as such, it felt necessary to turn up the volume, and make musical offering to the Sun Gods, in order to encourage them to Hang around for awhile. But what to play? Luckily, choosing wasn’t a problem, because when an artist, and album, comes recommended by Colin Foulke, as was the case with ‘The Path of the Metal Turtle’, by ‘David Kuckhermann’, you know that you’re in for a treat.

David Kuckhermann is something of a percussive mastermind, skilled in Frame drum, Cajon, Udu, and more recently, Hang, and HandPan. And that percussive background is shiningly evident in his style of HandPan play (in a good way). With controlled hands whirling in perfect rhythm in ways that those of us less skilled, can only at best, use as a yardstick towards which to aim.

Deliciously hypnotic, and mysterious, The Path of the Metal Turtle features six HandPan (Including Hang, Halo, and SPB), across eleven tracks. And while I intended to half-listen to this album while tidying (long-overdue) my apartment, it soon became obvious that this would be impossible, and in some small way, unjust. There was nothing for it but to fluff up a large pile of cushions, lay back my head, close my eyes, and take the journey in its entirety.  Savoring every beat, and resonant tone. Like a man enjoying every morsel of his final meal... 
And when having listened to the album several times through, and having dozed off pleasantly into a blissed-out peaceful, and contented half-sleep.  Led by the lullabies of singing steel under masterful hands - into a near out-of-body experience.  Upon coming to, I was reminded of a line from the movie ‘Fight Club’ - “Babies don’t sleep this well!”  I felt truly refreshed, at peace, and very much in awe!

The Path of the Metal Turtle is a gem - with highlights for me being the exotic-sounding, ‘Paper Marble’, the subtle, yet epic ‘The Sound of Viborg’, and the very familiar sounding ‘Han Solo’. The Path of the Metal Turtle is available for a cheeky free listen, or for purchase if you’re feeling flush over at David Kuckhermann’s BandCamp page: HERE (which is certainly recommended).

Or alternatively, you can visit David over at his website, Framedrums.net: HERE to find out what he’s all about. Or you can check out his recent uber-stylish videos over at his YouTube channel: HERE.
© HandPans Magazine