Alien Drum by 8Dio - Virtual ‘Hang Drum’ Instrument

If you’re into producing electronic music, Hang/HandPan, cool-looking Alien stuff, or preferably all three, you’ll most likely find ‘Alien Drum’, by 8Dio, of interest.  8Dio is the company founded by Academy Award winning, ‘Troels Folmann and Tawnia Knox’, and 8Dio’s range of high quality ‘virtual instruments’, have been featured within such Hollywood Blockbusters as: Avatar, Transformers 3, and the Dark Knight Trilogy, in addition to the music of: Massive Attack, Daftpunk, and Britney Spears.

Alien Drum, or rather Alien Drum mark 2 (‘The New Alien Drum’ - as featured in the embedded video), is a virtual ‘Hang Drum’ instrument, featuring the sounds of the PANArt Hang. Offering up a ton of samples across multiple playing techniques (palm, slap, hand brushing, etc.), all recorded at an average of 15 velocity layers, with 10 round robin repetitions per layer/note. Throw in a multitude of effects, and patches, all controlled via a pretty funky looking Alien themed user-interface, and what we have is a pretty effective (and certainly cost effective) mechanism for adding the heavenly sounds of the Hang to your compositions, without having to fork out an arm and a leg for a genuine PANArt Hang.

For more information, watch the embedded video, and/or head over to the 8Dio website HERE to make purchase.

* The Virtual Hang / Hang samples being offered for free (at time of writing) by 'Dark Arps', found HERE, may also prove of interest.

How to Make the Ultimate Pantheon Steel Halo Album / CD - For FREE

If you’ve fallen in love with the sound of the Pantheon Steel Halo, or more to the point, the many sounds of the many and varied Pantheon Steel Halo sound models, and would like the ability to be able to listen to some great Halo music at your leisure (and preferably for free), at time of writing, there is a way to do just that.

Tuned by Kyle Cox, Pantheon Steel Halo are among the most revered and sought after of HandPan.  But in addition to being a master tuner, Kyle Cox is also an incredibly talented HandPan player.

The main drawback with purchasing the average HandPan album (if you consider it to be an issue) is that the majority of players, will own at best only a small handful of these rare instruments, meaning that finding any individual album that can show off the vast number of HandPan scales, and flavours, now available, all in one place, is virtually impossible.  However, with Kyle Cox being both a highly gifted player, and a highly skilled maker, in this, he is somewhat at an advantage.  And with the majority of Halo sound models, both past, and present, having sound samples that exceed simple scale runs, uploaded on the Pantheon Steel website, we too can take advantage of Kyle’s rare position.

With literally dozens of Halo samples in MP3 format available on the Pantheon Steel website, and with the majority (if not all) being beautifully crafted compositions in their own right, each showcasing a different sound model, it is very easy to download these MP3 tracks, and craft what we like to think of; as the ‘Ultimate Pantheon Steel Halo Album/CD’.

Downloading is simple, when you click on the MP3 link next to each sound model it takes you to a page featuring a small audio player.  In order to download the sample you simply need to right click your mouse on the little audio player, choose ‘save as’ (may display ‘save video as’ or something similar), check ‘save as type’ is set to .mp3, hit ‘save’, and you're done.

Repeat the above for all, or simply for your chosen tracks, and you have now got for free, some of the best Halo music (and arguably HandPan music, period) online, to listen to as and when, and wherever you choose.  Enjoy. :)

Listen to (and download) the Halo sound model tracks: HERE

Hang - Sound Sculpture - The Book/CD (and First Thoughts on the PANArt Gubal).

Note - This post contains nothing more than the individual thoughts, opinions, and tastes of HandPans Magazine.  Yours may well differ, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s a good thing... (* the music in the background of the attached brief unboxing video is unfortunately not from the accompanying Gubal CD, due to copyright).

So today (10/07/2013), like many others, after a week or so wait, we received the much anticipated volume (and accompanying Gubal CD), titled, ‘Hang - Sound Sculpture’.  For the purposes of this post, we’re going to treat the book and the CD as separate entities, and discuss them individually, as to our mind, each serves a very different purpose.

The Book

Like many, when we first learned of this book being offered by PANArt, we were both surprised (the PANArt domain had been inactive for around ten years previous), intensely curious, and also a little put-out, both by what initially seemed like a fairly expensive price for what was advertised as a 44 page volume, and also by the fact that PANArt had decided that charging $ was the best way to announce the coming of their new creation, the ‘Gubal’, when the information, and sound samples could have been uploaded to the net for free, giving those with the means to purchase the package being offered by PANArt, and those without, the opportunity to enjoy the coming of the Gubal equally.

With this said though, and treating the CD, and the book as two separate entities, the book itself is a very nice looking volume, aesthetically pleasing, though as was already known prior to purchase, not particularly substantial, in number of pages.  However, what you do find within those pages, should prove to be interesting enough to justify the price, for anyone with more than a passing fascination with what makes PANArt tick, and their path from pan, to the Hang, and now to the Gubal.  

Hang - Sound Sculpture, is essentially what we expected it to be, a keepsake to celebrate twenty years of PANArt, with a strong focus on the Hang years, the developments that led to the creation of the Hang, and rare glimpses of how PANArt perceived the global rise of the Hang, from the inside looking out (the exact opposite of what you’ll usually find littered around the internet, including on this website).  And we’d like to hope, that this PANArt released volume will go some way towards helping those who have found PANArt’s ways confusing (including ourselves - this website was essentially started out of annoyance at PANArt, due to being unable to obtain a Hang, leading us to explore alternatives) to understand why they operate in the ways that they've chosen to.

We don’t want to give too much away concerning the actual contents of the book, but overall we very much enjoyed the read.  We’re not likely to convert to becoming what are sometimes known as ‘PANArt Purists’ any-time soon.  But there is no arguing with the fact that none of us would be here if it weren't for PANArt, and this little purple book is something of a treasure.  Those who were hoping for any solid information on the Gubal will find these pages somewhat lacking - despite the accompanying CD, for that is not really its purpose.  And there were several passages that didn't entirely ring true, with what we have either experienced personally, or have read about on-line, in particular the sentence, ‘we decided not to waste ourselves in quarrels with counterfeiters...’, when it is known that at least one lengthy legal battle took place.  And the open sharing of information by PANArt discussed in the chapter titled, ‘Resonance in the world’, appears to be more of a historical reference, with PANArt seemingly being far more guarded in recent years (we were ourselves contacted and accused of giving away Hang-making secrets in this post).  With that said though, in this instance, we can happily endure a little ‘history to the victors’, considering PANArt’s huge contribution to the art. And would strongly recommend the purchase (as mentioned above) to anybody with more than a passing interest in all things Hang, and HandPan.  And it has been stated that while the price may initially seem fairly high for such a small volume, prices in Switzerland are high in general, and the price of PANArt’s book is said to be comparable with the cost of a standard audio CD purchased there, which makes the price of CHF 39.00 (roughly forty odd dollars) seem far more reasonable for such an insightful, and well-written little gem.

How long this book will be available from PANArt, we do not know, but at the time of writing, you can purchase your copy: HERE.

The Gubal CD - First Thoughts on the Sound of the Gubal

If you don't know what the 'Gubal' is, the Gubal is a new instrument being offered by PANArt from 2013 (more info).

The CD that accompanies the book is an eight track offering, made up primarily of solo Gubal performances, but also containing several duets, both double Gubal, and with instruments such as a soprano saxophone.

When I first stumbled across the design patents for the Gubal, and got a first look at what presumably the Gubal looks like (at the time of writing we still can’t be totally sure), I wondered whether the instrument was different enough, structurally, from the Hang, other than a bit protruding here, and a bit added there, to be classed as a completely new and separate instrument, rather than simply Hang Mk.5.  Listening to the sounds of the Gubal though, it’s clear that this is a very different beast.  Within the book, the Gubal is described as having its roots in the ‘groove’, and the closing chapter is titled, ‘Lets Dance!’ Both of which seem to be very fitting.

For a while now PANArt have appeared to be moving more and more away from the concept of an ‘instrument’, with the Hang.  Preferring for the Hang to be considered as a ‘sound sculpture’, and in many ways a ‘meditative device’, and a mirror to the soul of the player.  The Gubal, on the other hand, to our mind, appears to be something of a U-Turn in this regard, with its dominating rhythmic flow, and strong Ghatam-like percussive qualities. And if we’re understanding correctly, a return to more conventional tuning, to make the Gubal compatible with other instruments. Could be seen as a small step back towards where earlier generation of Hanghang left off (prior to the Free Integral Hang).

The sound of the Gubal is interesting, and even on the solo tracks it does sound like there is a lot going on, in the sense that it sounds like there is more than a single instrument being played at once.  It’s a pretty sexy, exotic sounding instrument.  However, prior to falling in love with the Hang, and HandPan in turn, I was not personally, particularly ‘into’ percussion.  And my early thoughts on the sound (for what they’re worth) is that the Gubal is not going to be an instrument that I would personally be interested in obtaining.  The choir of Angels has been replaced with something different, not necessarily worse, or better, just different. And I suspect that Hang/HandPan players with a percussive background, will be drooling over the idea of getting their hands on one of these Hang/Ghatam hybrids.  And credit where credit is due, you have to give full props to PANArt for continuing to push their art, in new and exciting ways.  And as always, we can’t wait to hear more, knowing that, as in many ways it was with the Hang, the sound of the Gubal may only reveal its true beauty, once they have found their way into the hands of players who explore, master, and push the boundaries of what the Gubal is capable of, beyond even PANArt's own vision for the instrument...

Once again, the book/CD can be purchased: HERE, if you'd like the opportunity to get an early listen to the PANArt Gubal yourself, to make up your own mind.

[Update] You can now watch a video of the PANArt Gubal being played by its makers themselves: HERE

Sungeun Jin - A Stadium HandPan K-POP Extravaganza

If any HandPan player could stand up proudly and say, in a Frank Sinatra esque fashion, “I did it my way!”, ‘ Sungeun Jin’, could certainly count himself among them.  As the Korean HandPan virtuoso who, whether wittingly, or unwittingly, has to date, very much gone against the grain in terms of what 95% of the players around at time of writing are putting out there...

Seemingly, you’re not likely to find a babbling brook, or a picturesque forest glade in sight at a Sungeun Jin performance, where instead, you are far more likely to find yourself dazzled with laser beam light shows, and wowed with a HandPan setup almost able to rival the legendary drum kits of Terry Bozzio, and the big kit drummers of his like.  And for some, this move from spiritual, and serene, to epic stadium rock HandPan extravaganza, could be seen as quite refreshing.

Often found performing on a set-up of four-plus HandPan (primarily BEllArt BElls at time of writing) Sungeun appears to be making some fairly big waves in his home country of Korea, where he has been seen performing live on HandPan at the likes of Samsung promotional events, and other swag-looking occasions. And Sungeun Jin has stated that ‘I guess, I am the first Handpan player, and I really want people who lived in Korea to know how beautiful the sound of HandPan...’

Notable for his covers, Sungeun counts among his repertoire the theme song from Mission Impossible, as well as Yesterday, by the Beatles.  And in many ways, the Sungeun Jin show as a whole has a sort of K-POP flavour running throughout it.  And with that said, Sungeun can certainly play, performing on four pans simultaneously, and fluidly, something that is no easy feat for any of the world's most talented, and experienced of players. And Sungeun can truly make them sing.
Here at HPM, we like the guy, and always look forward to catching his latest videos over at YouTube.  You can check out his channel: HERE.  Or alternatively, Sungeun has set up a Korean Hang/HandPan blog (and growing community - as far as we can tell), which you can check out: HERE


Electric HandPan - The Genesis Symphonette

In our last post discussing the ‘Mother Hang’, the first Hang prototype, we took a look at where ultimately all HandPan had come from.  In this post, we’re going the opposite way, and taking a look at a more recent development in the HandPan’s evolution -  ‘The Electric HandPan’.

Fitted with a pickup or microphone installed somewhere within the HandPan’s chamber, this variant of the Symphonette HandPan from Dave’s Island Instruments is believed to be the very first Electric HandPan (or electro-acoustic HandPan).  And whether the idea of an electric HandPan is something that you’re into, or not, there’s no denying that it does open up new options for experimentation.  And potentially, for buskers, performers, and recording artists, a more convenient way of capturing, and/or projecting the sound of these delicate-natured instruments.

>> Another video of the electric Symphonette <<

The Symphonette HandPan from Dave Beery have received growing praise from within the HandPan community, and in addition to the electric HandPan that inspired this post, It has recently been noted that Dave is now experimenting with nitrided shells - a development that is usually proof of an increased commitment to producing higher quality instruments of the type generally more favoured.  At the time of writing there are very few (possibly only the one) electro-acoustic Symphonette(s) in the wild, and as such there is not much audio/video upon which to judge the appeal of this development.  And we’re additionally not currently aware of any electric pans that have been produced by other makers (though we’d be surprised if others had not experimented in this area).  So, with that in mind, we’ll do our best to update this page as and when other electric HandPan appear on the market.  But for now, for more information on the electric Symphonette, you can seek out prices and availability via Dave’s Island Instruments: HERE.
© HandPans Magazine