The Gu’ Band - Showcasing the Pang Instruments of PANArt

We featured the Gu’ Band briefly in a post we published earlier in the year titled, Gamelan, and the Pang Orchestra - which discussed the connection between the instruments/sound-sculptures of PANArt (the Hang makers), and the Gamelan instruments of Indonesia.  

And while PANArt themselves may have moved on somewhat from their original Hang design (which would become the prototype for the entire Handpan instrument-type), it’s natural that most fans of the Handpan should have an at least partial interest in what the parents of the Handpan are up to, and putting out, with each subsequent new addition to the Pang family of sound-sculptures.  And as it turns out, one of the best ways of doing this, is by following the activities of the musical ensemble going by the name of "Gu’ Band".  An outfit that features exclusively the Pang instruments of PANArt.  And primarily the newer Pang instruments, such as the Hang Bal, Hang Gudu, and Gubal...



The unprecedented access that the Gu' Band appear to have to PANArt's complete range of next-generation Pang instruments suggests that PANArt themselves could be involved in some manner with the project.  Or at the very least, have given it their blessing.  And in addition to featuring PANArt's next generation percussive instruments, and the original Hang, the Gu' Band are the only place we've yet to see in use (other than PANArt's own videos) the stringed Pang Sui, Pang Sai, and Pang Sei...



You can hear more from the Gu' Band over at YouTube: HERE.  Or find them at Facebook: HERE

Fixing Broken PANArt Hang (and Other Handpan) - With Blesspan

When towards the end of 2011 PANArt withdrew their previous offer of re-tuning, and maintenance work for their earlier Hang instruments (anything prior to the Free Integral Hang if we remember correctly, though certainly for first, and second generation Hanghang) thousands of Hang owners suddenly found themselves with nowhere to turn, should their Instrument (sound-sculpture) become detuned, or fall foul to some other tragedy.  

And while very few things these days come with any kind of life-time warranty, with the ability to tune Hang, and/or Handpan, being an especially rare skill (particularly at the time), to say it was a godsend, when some of the newer makers began to extend offers to pick-up where PANArt had left off, and provide tuning services for the Handpan’s earliest Swiss incarnations, would be underselling it.  And one of the first to officially offer maintenance work for Hang in need (and other Handpan) was Italian Handpan maker, Tommaso Varriale, of Blesspan.  Who according to the resume on his website, has to date retuned at least thirteen PANArt Hang.  And below you can watch him perform a complete restoration of a first generation PANArt Hang, in Yu Shang Diao tuning...



And while PANArt employee, Micheal Paschko, raised The Ship of Theseus conundrum over at YouTube (now removed) regarding Tommaso’s work - with PANArt no longer offering to re-tune or repair earlier Hang themselves, the argument is essentially moot in this instance.  And of far more use are the videos provided by Tomasso Varriale, of some of his previous work on Hang, to which those in need can listen, and decide for themselves…



You can find more information on the re-tuning services offered by Blesspan: HERE

The MEINL Range of Sonic Energy Harmonic Art Handpan

It has been impossible to move through Handpan-circles this last week without stumbling across talk of German percussion manufacturer and distributor MEINL’s first foray into the Handpan market. Bringing with it renewed talk of the “Yamahang”, a term that has been in use since at least as far back as 2009 (and likely before) to describe the oft-feared-by-many introduction of a mass-produced Handpan, that would with its birth suck all traces of artistic-integrity from the art-form. And force trend-setter types the world over to ditch the now soul-less instrument in numbers - in favour of some other newly discovered and hard to acquire fad.

While for the rest of us, MEINL’s newly introduced range of Handpan represent nothing more than yet another option to be considered under their own merits (or lack thereof depending).

At time of posting MEINL are offering three different sound models / tunings, under the title of “Sonic Energy Harmonic Art Handpan“, each priced at 2.490,00 € (approx $2650), including bag, and protective shell (and you can see how this compares price-wise to a handful of other brands: HERE).

Unfortunately though, there's nothing in the way of audio, or video being offered up by MEINL to demo their new Handpan range over on their site (that we can find). But thanks to YouTube user, borisak, you can at least catch a brief soundcheck of one of the MEINL pans (below).



Arguably more interesting, and relevant to MEINL's newly offered range of Handpan, than the whole YamaHang debate (which has been levied against at least half a dozen other "non-conforming" Handpan operations over the years), is the origin of these particular instruments.  Because while these may be a new offering from MEINL, Colombian Handpan makers, "Harmonic Art", who appear to be producing these on MEINL's behalf, are certainly no new entity to the world of Handpan.

And while some might consider Harmonic Art's own past to be among the most controversial and checkered in Handpan history, their instruments have certainly shown considerable improvement since their earliest days.  And with sound-samples for the MEINL range of Handpan being thin on the ground at time of posting.  Should you be considering purchase - you might do well to take a listen to some of Harmonic Art's own videos (below).  In order to gain a more thorough idea of approximately what it is that you might be spending your money on. And/or possibly even grab yourself a better deal by purchasing directly from the makers (though it's worth pointing out that when purchasing the MEINL range through distributor Thomann you receive a thirty day money back guarantee, and a three year warranty, which may, or may not be offered when purchasing directly)...



What Kind of Handpan Could $800 (or Less) Buy You at eBay? (2016)

Loiter too long in certain Handpan hotspots on the internet, and you will find yourself force-fed such dogma as “Rule number one: NEVER buy on eBay!”.  

Here at HPM, we tend to be of the opinion that any kind of advice that comes in blanket-form, is usually of a very low quality .  If we were Star Wars geeks (and we are a little) we might state that “Only Sith deal in absolutes”.  And being Handpan-Jedi through-and through, we would ourselves instead advise caution, accompanied by an open mind.  And here’s why…

What kind of Handpan Could $800 (or less) buy you at eBay?

In a recent post we established that the average cost of a Handpan when purchased directly from a known/established maker is somewhere around the $2000 mark.  And while as far as we’re concerned, that is a fine and fair price for a quality handmade instrument, it feels fair to say that that price point was set at the highest wave of Handpan-madness - when it was near impossible to get your hands on a decent Handpan of any kind, and instruments by the likes of Pantheon Steel were selling for as much as $15,000.00 at open auction.

Things have changed a little since then though.  And during mid-2016 we announced having added our one hundredth name to our list of Handpan makers.  And while prices have been slowly falling over at eBay (a marketplace we monitor closely), very few of the more established makers have really tested their price-point at open auction following this past years influx of new builders.  And the only one who has in more recent times, found that the prices people were “happy” to pay (even if they might be willing to pay more in a closed sale), had fallen considerably.  

So, with this post, for comparison purposes, first we’ll be sharing a video of a Handpan from the Saraz team that sold recently in way of direct sale via their website for the cost of $2400. And we're singling out Saraz here only due to the fact that as makers they are now about as established as any are, and because we have a known price point for the sale of this particular instrument which was sold recently via flash-sale...



And then next we'll share videos of the last three Handpan that sold via eBay over the last few weeks at under $800 (at a combined cost of $2157 for the three instruments)...

(1) Handpan Hand Steel Drum Q-Handpan *Shaolin* Scale (Sold for $777)...



(2) Handpan by Logam Acoustic ''Agnima" (Sold for $730)...



(3) handpan prototype pantam percussion with heat treatments (Sold for $650)...



Of course, price isn't necessarily the only factor a prospective Handpan purchaser should be considering.  But for some it could be a deciding factor.  And for comparison purposes, hopefully this post demonstrates what kind of instruments do come up for sale for your consideration at auction at the sub-$800 price point, at time of posting. Leaving readers free to decide how much of, and where they choose to spend their money - for themselves.


How Much Does a HandPan Cost? - Average Price (2016)

“How much does a Handpan cost?” is one of those questions that we find people frequently reaching this website researching.  And with there now being well over one hundred known makers at time of posting, it is not a question that can easily be answered in simple terms.  Each Handpan maker charges whatever price they are willing to sell their instruments for, and ultimately, that is the cost of any given Handpan.

However, to give readers a rough idea of how much money they could be looking at spending on the purchase of a Handpan, it’s easy enough to take some known prices and figure out the average.  And so with that in mind, below are the last known prices we could find being charged by a handful of established makers.  Followed by the average cost of a Handpan, based on these prices (in U.S. dollars).

Zephyr: $1479
Harmonic Art: $1700
Spacedrum: $1507
Panstream: $1450
Innersound: $2260
Tzevaot: $2800
Saraz $2400

Average =  $1979

As you can see from the above list of prices the cost of a Handpan can vary considerably. And in real-world scenarios such things as geographic locations, shipping costs, and currency exchange rates are deserving of greater consideration. But based purely on the data above, we can take the average price of a Handpan when purchased directly from a maker to be close to the $2000 mark (at time of posting).

The Echo Sound Sculpture DuBas - Bass Handpan

A number of Handpan makers have experimented with the concept of a “Bass Handpan”, including both Pantheon Steel, and Aura.  And recently it has been the turn of Switzerland-based makers Echo Sound Sculpture to unveil their experiments in this area, with the release of video footage of the ESS “DuBas”...



When it comes to Handpan, essentially, the lower the note, the larger the space required upon the dome for the tone-field.  Which is why the DuBas from ESS in the video above features only three notes (and three Ding-like structures to allow for Ding-singing).  However to make optimum use of the additional surface space available, in this second video (below) ESS have mixed things up by also squeezing three TaK’s in between the tone-fields, for increased sonic-diversity…


Designing an Electronic Handpan Tone-Field - with Lumen

Attempts to produce an electronic version of the Handpan have been appearing on our radar here at HPM since back in 2011, with “Dome Control”, by Sonic Fingers.  And the more recently announced “Oval”.  However, one of the main concerns with these new digital versions of the Handpan, is whether they could in any way replicate the subtle nuances of the Handpan, or would ultimately turn out to be little more than expensive Handpan-shaped MIDI controllers. With one of the main issues in this area being the function and sensitivity of any given electronic Handpans tone-fields.  

In their most simplistic definition, “tone-fields” are often thought of as being the "notes" that make up a Handpans scale,or sound-model.  But in reality, the tone-fields of a well-tuned Handpan are more complex than that, incorporating such things as overtones, and octaves, and harmonics. And with earlier electronic Handpan like the Dome Control being lacking in even basic velocity sensitivity - any real world comparison between digital Handpan, and the real thing, has thus far been bleak (though the Oval also shows promise).


However, recent updates from the team behind the development of the Lumen Electro-Accoustic Handpan, have shown that this is an issue very much at the forefront of their minds. With the announcement of their newly designed sensors. That have been constructed to offer force-measurements across ten different zones (see right). Combined with an intention to use this technology to more closely mimic the complexities of a hand-tuned Handpan.

Unfortunately at time of posting there is still very little in the way of actual audio/video footage of the Lumen out there for consumption. Other than the original video of the prototype (below).



But design updates such as the new sensors, and other recently announced refinements are suggestive of a strong desire to produce an electronic Handpan that offers as close an experience (and perhaps in some ways more than) its steel-made counterpart. And with the first Lumen expected to reach their owners come January, 2017. We don't have too long now to wait, to see if they hit their mark.

You can get the latest on the Lumen over at their Facebook page: HERE

The Handpan Art of SoHung

While traditionally Steel Tongue Drum have made up the flashier looking members of the melodic steel UFO family, with the outward beauty of Handpan being a little more subtle.  As makers from around the world have begun to experiment with, and tweak almost every other aspect of the instrument type, visual appeal too, is a quality that has not been forgotten entirely.  So that whereas the first generation of Hang were fairly simple looking creatures, increasingly the instruments of some makers, are becoming as pleasing to the eyes, as they are to the ears.

That said, It is likely that preference in terms of looks will vary considerably person-to-person, but if you’re a fan of the more highly ornate looking creations, such as the instruments of Vadjraghanta - you might also find pleasing the recent Handpan-art of Russian-makers, SoHung.  



Historically, the painting of Handpan has been discouraged among the Handpan community, due to a belief that paint restricts the vibrations of the Handpan, and dulls the sound.  However when questioned over at Facebook as to how these Handpan are decorated,the answer came that: “This special drawings with inks and polish that allows us to use high temperatures if tuning is needed and also it prevents the pan from scratches and rust.”



For more information and to follow the SoHung Art experiment you can join their Facebook group. Or find them at YouTube.

At-TaK of the UFOs - The Handpan and the Rise of the TaK

When we first discovered the Hang a whiles back now, it seemed to be an instrument in a fairly concrete state of form - eight tone-fields (notes) circling a central ding.  Since then though have come the inpex, booty taps, grace notes, and a number of other maker-explorations big and small.  And recently, one thing we’re seeing more and more of, is the “TaK”. A subtle, yet distinctive addition to the sounds of these UFO-shaped steel instruments.

While we weren't entirely sure which maker first employed the TaK, as we noticed them coming into use around the same time by both Swiss-makers Echo Sound Sculptures, and Italian-makers Vision Instruments.  According to Handpan musician, Adrian Portia, in reference to the mutant-esque Handpan “LoDu” instruments of ESS (see video below): “On my signature model i have introduced what i call TaKs. The TaK is a tuned high pitch note/tone that's placed in designated areas around the surface, designed by me and produced by EchoSoundSculpture they add a new percussive element for the player on this very cool and unique sounding instrument.”...



While in definition the TaK sounds to be similar to the "grace notes" employed by Pantheon Steel on some of their Halo instruments.  While grace-notes are essentially just another tone field squeezed in above-and-between, TaK (just about visible in the center in the video below) are more percussive in tone and nature.  Fairly un-pronounced in appearance, but bringing yet another possible dimension to the sounds of the Handpan, TaK, look to be here to stay...

The Dalai Lama Plays the Handpan

While the title of this post might be a little misleading, with his Holiness the Dalai Lama employing little more than a few cursory taps, and while the video itself (below) might be of a pretty poor quality, we’re sharing it anyway.  Because as far as we’re concerned, a man of the Dalai Lama’s stature being introduced to the Handpan, particularly while during a visit to the city of Bern, the birthplace of the PANArt Hang (and the Handpan instrument by default), is an event of note, for this world of UFO-shaped singing-steel that we celebrate here at HPM...



And as it happens, while this may well be the Dalai Lama’s first introduction to a bona-fide Handpan, it is not his first meeting with a member of the melodic-UFO family.  When back in 2012 the Dalai Lama got to try his hand at playing the Steel Tongue Drum...



As a point of note, over at Facebook - HangBlog author Micheal Paschko has stated that despite the Handpan in question being presented to his Holiness the Dalai Lama as being a Bern made Hang, in the very birthplace of the instrument, “I have discussed this with Felix (one of the Hang-makers)  and Frank (admin of the now defunct Hang-forum) and we are sure: This is not a Hang. Our best guess is: A BElls from Bellart. But I'm not completely sure. Perhaps a handpan from another maker.”.  Which is a little strange.  But regardless of the make, HDL seemed to be visibly impressed with the Handpan, just as he was with the Steel Tongue Drum before it, and so for that, we’re chalking him up as yet another fan of the instrument-type, and (however briefly) member of the Handpan-playing community.  


You can read more about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Bern, and his meeting with the Handpan (and watch a much better quality video that we are unable to embed here) over at bernerzeitung.ch

HandPan Tuning Stand / Rings for Sale from NaturePan

In traditional Steelpan making where pans are typically produced from 55-gallon oil barrels, the body of the barrel itself essentially acts as both the stand, and tuning rings for the creation of the instrument.  But with Handpan being made from specially formed steel domes, most commonly known as “shells”, or alternatively as “raw-forms”, something else is required to hold the steel dome (or steel sheet) firm, for the purposes of sinking, shaping, and tuning (as required).

Tuning rings themselves are usually comprised of a pair of metal rings within which the shell or steel sheet are clamped, utilising bolts to hold the steel firmly in place.  And while Handpan makers of varying levels have created for themselves many ingenious solutions for budget-minded tuning over the years, a stand such as those being offered for sale by NaturePan over at ETSY, that holds the tuning rings in a convenient all-in-one form, that allows for convenient 360 degree movement of the shell, for ease of tuning, obviously has its benefits.

And with NaturePan additionally also offering Handpan shells designed specifically for use with their tuning stand, and custom-made Handpan tuning hammers, if you’re looking to source a one-stop Handpan building solution, you might like to take a browse over at NaturePan’s ETSY store: HERE.

Vibrational Healing Through the Sounds of the HandPan

While here at HPM we often feel a little uncomfortable heading into the realms of things like “Auras”, “Chi”, “Chakras”, and so forth.  Particularly with regards to the Handpan instrument, which, during its earliest years developed a certain kind of mystique around it, that had more than a touch of the ultra-spiritual about it.  Despite preferring to see the Handpan as just a musical instrument, there is something kind of special about it - that even we might describe as being a kind of “healing quality”.



Listen to the lyrics in PANArt’s recent video of the Hang Bal, and the suggestion that this is an instrument that is in some way intended to heal, is hard to overlook.

“If you a smart phone slave, surfing non-stop on a digital wave, if your life has become indeed too virtual, if you are looking for a better ritual, you are maybe ready to deal, with the new PANArt Hang Bal Spiel.  If your hands are tense, your fingers blocked, burned out your spirit, your life somehow shocked - you would like to dance your own dance, you can get it, there is a chance…”

And while the above words may have been intended solely to describe the newer Hang Bal, there has been something about the sounds of the Hang, and the Handpan, that have drawn those in need of a little extra “something” to it from the very beginning.  With PANArt listing in their book Hang: Sound Sculpture: therapists, caretakers for the terminally ill, the sick, the stressed, and the mentally unwell, among the distinct demographics that would frequently write to them in a bid to get their hands on one of their sound-sculptures.  And hands in the air, and cards on the table, there was a little of that in our own initial journey to seek out and play the Hang/Handpan.  

The vibrations of the Hang recorded
 using holographic interferometry.
PANArt themselves refer to the Hang as being a “Mirror to the Soul”, and perhaps therein lies its healing abilities.  The intuitive playing style that requires little in the way of musical training, combined with the instruments emotive, fragile quality of sound, that has been described as being reminiscent of a "Choir of Angels", makes it easy to let whatever is inside, out.  Which can be therapeutic in its own right.  And even putting any metaphysical beliefs that one may, or may not harbour towards the instrument type, with regards to vibrational healing aside, here at HPM, we like to look towards the science of Cymatics for something a little more concrete.  For when we consider that the average human body is roughly made up of 60% water, Cymatics helps to demonstrate in a very visible way how the vibrations of the Handpan’s enveloping sound bath, could provide a kind of sonic massage, at the very least, in a way not clearly visible to the eye.

Ultimately, whether you consider the Handpan to be an instrument with healing attributes, or not,  we leave to you to decide.  But on a personal note, we’ve yet to find anything more soothing, when feeling blue, than to pick-up a Handpan, and give audible form to that which ails us.

“...On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”  - Hunter. S. Thompson.

PANArt’s Hang Bal - Hangin’ Round Ya' Neck

When PANArt retired the Hang back in 2013, it felt like a huge blow.  Many people around at the time were only just beginning to discover the instrument, and then, all of sudden, it was seemingly gone.

As it turns out though, PANArt’s announced retirement of the Hang hasn’t been quite the catastrophe that it felt to be at the time.  Because for a company that stopped making Hang, PANArt continue to produce a whole lot of instruments, that are very "Hang-like" (with recent additions even partially adopting its name).

The Hang Bal

All this week we’ve been considering instruments for possible inclusion in our own imagined Handpan-centric-orchestra.  But when it comes to PANArt, they have always very much had their own orchestra in mind - the orchestra of Pang.  And the recently announced Hang Bal, is the latest addition to that family.

With no more than a passing glance at the Hang Bal, you’d likely find it difficult to find much to separate this newer PANArt-produced instrument from its older sibling.  However, despite its visual similarities, there are strong differences between the original Hang, and its newer incarnation.  

The Hang Bal features a neck strap, and is designed to be played in a standing position - or while “dancing”, which makes for an interesting concept.  But even placing that to the side, the Hang Bal is tuned in a fashion more complimentary to another Hang successor, the Gubal.  And other more recent Pang instruments.  Essentially taking the Hang design (with minor variations - such as its protruding Gubal-esque bottom), and bringing it back into line with the concept of the Pang orchestra.  

And while as with other more recent PANArt instruments, here at HPM, we've not been as instantly enamoured with the Hang Bal, as we were on first discovering the original Hang itself, upon watching the following video from PANArt showing the dance of the Hang Bal in action, and considering the possibilities of the “collective groove” - it’s difficult not to find a certain charm in, and of the idea, and the instrument itself...



Find more information on the Hang Bal over at PANArt's website: HERE

Buy an Evatek HandPan Case from Hardcase Technologies via ETSY

When Handpan players hit up one of the now many and varied online communities in search of recommendations for a decent case to protect their Handpan, one brand is offered up as being the best option, time-and-time again, by those in the know.  And that is the products of Hardcase Technologies.  A company based in Italy, that has been ingrained within the Handpan-world, since near the beginning of the birth of the Instrument type.

While the Handpan cases produced by Hardcase Technologies have undergone a number of evolutionary steps along the way, their current incarnation (at time of posting) is in the form of the Evatek.  And anybody who has followed HCT man Alessio’s journey along the way, enjoying videos of him jumping on, stomping on, flinging, and generally beating the living-daylights out of his cases in any way he can imagine, in a personal quest to design the ultimate Handpan case, will know that this is as much a labour of love, as it is a desire to establish a workable business model.  So you know that despite the many advocates from within the Handpan community who speak very highly of the Evatek range of Handpan cases, arguably the best recommendation worthy of consideration when giving thought to the purchase of an Evatek, is the fact that Alessio himself feels comfortable with its current form.  



Shock resistant in its base form, the Evatek can also be transformed with the purchase of optional Handpan “shields” into a full flight-case.  Is 100% waterproof.  And is available in different sizes to suit different sized Handpan.  In addition to featuring a number of other well thought out design elements that keep the needs of the travelling Handpan player well in mind.  

Porn Stars Vs Singing Steel - Miss Cherry Crush

While in the past here at HPM we’ve adopted Handpan-playing celebrities from more mainstream media, such as Golshifteh Farahani, to our knowledge, Miss Cherry Crush (pictured right), is the first singing-steel performer to have emerged from the racier world of "Adult Entertainment".  

It’s at this point that we should probably suggest that if you’re offended by such things, you might want to hit the back button now.  Because while it would be unfair to write Miss Cherry Crush off purely as a porn star - with her also running a heavily-subscribed to YouTube channel through which she entertains her followers in a variety of means and methods, she does run a nice sideline in used panties, and photos of her sticking things up her own bottom.

Still here?  

OK

Then let’s meet Miss Cherry Crush, performing on her steel tongue drum (an instrument considered by some to be the Handpan’s little brother)...




Hailing from the U.S., Miss Cherry Crush has just short of 130,000 YouTube subscribers (that's nearly twice as many as top Handpan ambassador Daniel Waples).  And while you might expect her fans to be there for one thing only, the comments on the video above have revealed considerable interest in the instrument itself...

"Where did you get the drum? i feel like it's something that could make a persons life 100% better..."

Which just so happens to be a GUDA Drum Freezbee.

And in addition to her "naughtier" activities over on her adult-only site, Miss Cherry Crush also uses YouTube to offer such things as relationship advice, and tips for dealing with anxiety and depression.

You can find Miss Cherry Crush at YouTube: HERE. Or (Warning Adult Content) visit her "other" website mycherrycrush.com: HERE.

The Oktava Mk 12 Microphone - More Handpan Recording Samples

With the Oktava Mk 12 being one of the microphones awarded special commendation by Handpan musician, David Kuckhermann, in his recent Microphone comparison video - with this post we’ll be presenting a little more video footage from over at YouTube, of various Handpan recorded using them.

The following video from George Gain's YouTube channel titled, “Oktava MK-012 Pair TEST” tests a number of singing-steel instruments against a pair of the Mk 12s.  Including Hapi Drum, RAV Drum, and an Overtone Handpan.  While for extra good measure also demos a whole bunch of other instruments too. To provide a solid look into how the Oktava holds up, against pretty much anything that you might choose to throw at it.



While the following videos offer further example of how the Oktava Mk 12 sounds in use by Handpan musicians around the world.

Jean-Matthieu Bourgeot presents his Meraki Kurd9 Handpan recorded using a pair of Oktava MK-012 plugged into a ZOOM H4N




An official video from Ayasa Handpans pits a pair of Oktava against an Ayasa Adiyuga - E Kumo...



While YouTube user, djimbej, demos a Saraz F# Minor 9, again using two Oktava MK012's...



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