How to Make a HandPan MIDI Controller

With the idea of an electronic-Handpan being hugely popular at time of posting, with both the Oval. and the more recently announced, Lumen - having more than reached their funding targets for their individual crowd-funding campaigns - the following video from Al Martino, is one that we suspect our readers might be very interested in seeing.  

And with the Oval having a retail price of around 600 Euro, and the Lumen expected to be priced at around $800, if you can, with a little elbow-grease, knock up something that is (arguably) more-or-less the same, for the price of little more than some foam rubber, and $20 worth of piezoelectric triggers, that is something that will no doubt make for a tempting alternative…

How to Make a HandPan MIDI Controller

Al Martino himself is a musician, and composer from Capri island, Italy.  And he kindly offers his design for all to make use of free-of-charge.  As has been the discussion with both the Oval, and the Lumen, how similar an experience this device will offer, in comparison to playing a true steel made Handpan. is open to debate.  Though if you’re not put off by the idea of a little D.I.Y., Al Martino’s open-source design certainly seems to be an economical way of finding out for yourself, without having to drop too much cash.

In addition to your self-made electronic Handpan, you’ll need some Hang / Handpan samples.  Al Martino makes mention of having put together a virtual Handpan sample library, that can be downloaded for free - though at time of posting we’re unable to find that, so, perhaps do a search over at his website: HERE Or reach out over at YouTube: HERE.  Alternatively, there are usually Handpan sample libraries for sale over at eBay: HERE.  And Soniccouture offer a “Pan drums” library for sale: HERE.

And you can hear more of Al Martino's "Trigalpan" below...


Could a HandPan be Built from Vibranium?

With the cinematic release of Marvel’s latest superhero offering, Captain America: Civil War, just days away now (at time of posting), that promises an epic face-off between fellow Avengers, and former allies, Captain America, and Iron Man.  It feels like the perfect time to geek-out a little, and toy with a question that we’ve been secretly fantasising over - ever since we stumbled across the following video from Pantheon Steel, back in 2012: 

Could a Handpan be built from Vibranium?  

And perhaps it was just the fact that Kyle Cox of Pantheon Steel is clearly wearing a "Cap" t-shirt, that put the idea in our head, but also, there is something particularly solid, strong, and shield-like, aesthetically speaking, about the Halo instruments of Pantheon...


“Vibranium”, is the legendary, though unfortunately fictional metal, from the Marvel Universe, as found in the iconic star-spangled shield, wielded by Captain America.  A rare metallic substance of extraterrestrial-origin, Vibranium, has the capacity to absorb energy, and store it within the bonds between the molecules that make up the substance.  And you would think that with the Handpan being generally classed as being an “Idiophone”, any musical instrument that creates sound primarily by the instrument as a whole vibrating - that a metal called Vibranium, would make the ideal raw material.

Unfortunately though, we hit a hurdle early, when we learned that pure Vibranium has the ability to absorb sound-waves, in addition to other vibrations.  And that pure Vibranium, is always surrounded by

its own enveloping pocket; of perfect silence. Obviously rendering it completely useless, as a material from which to build musical instruments.

Vibranium / Steel Alloy

While the comic-book geeks of the internet can’t seem to agree on whether Captain America’s shield is constructed from either a Vibranium/Iron alloy, or a Vibranium/steel alloy - they do agree. that the Captain’s iconic shield, is not made from “pure” Vibranium.  And the evidence seems to suggest, that while pure Vibranium might make for a terrible Handpan canvas, the unique alloy from which CA’s shield is constructed, could hold considerably more potential. As can be seen in the following clip from the first Avengers movie...

Even if the mighty Thor, armed with the legendary-hammer, Mjolnir, looks like even he might struggle to be able to tune it.


The final possibility for creating "Super-Handpan", within the Marvel universe, perhaps lies in an artificial man-made variant of Vibranium, known as “Reverbium”.   Reverbium is said to have been created imperfectly - and while Vibranium absorbs vibrations, and energy, Reverbium, does the opposite, “blowing everything away”.  Which could make for some powerful, if highly volatile Handpan, for our super-avenging friends to chill-out with, in between battling alien invasions, advanced AI, each other, and whatever comes next...


Taking Back the Swastika - With CosmosphereDrums

While browsing Etsy yesterday, we had to do a double-take, when we stumbled across the steel tongue drum pictured right.  Adorned boldly with a large swastika, as it is.

The majority of us from the Western-hemisphere at least, most likely associate the well-known symbol with Hitler’s Nazi Party, and the wealth of negative connotations that go hand-in-hand with that particular pairing.  However, the swastika, prior to its misuse by the Nazis in the Second World War, was held as a universal symbol of strength, luck, and other decidedly un-fascist like attitudes, by a variety of peoples, and cultures, the world over. And in recent years, there has been something of a growing movement, to reclaim the swastika.

The swastika has held a place of great importance in India and Asia for thousands of years, and is widely used by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.  The swastika can be seen everywhere across the Indian sub-continent - you’ll find it: sculpted into temples, adorning homes, decorating taxis, and buses, and shops, and etched into the dashboards of the many motor-rickshaws - making it one of the most prevalent symbols that one will see in India.  Though the swastika has also found widespread use outside of India’s shores too.  And is known to have been used in ancient Greek architectural designs, on pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon and Druidic artefacts, on Native American Indian artefacts including those of the Navajo and Hopi, on the badges of Boy Scouts' in Britain from 1911 to 1922, and on the dust-covers of books by Rudyard Kipling and other authors - to name but a few...

Cosmosphere are a range of handmade steel tongue drum made in Russia, by maker, Sergey Glushenkov.  And if you'd like to help in the battle to reclaim the swastika, with the aid of singing-steel - you can find Sergey's CosmosphereDrums for sale at Etsy: HERE


The Illustrated Story of PANArt - And More

In a recent post titled ‘Dr Ellie Mannette - and the HandPan’, we touched on the fact that the history of PANArt, stretches back to long before the birth of the Hang.  And as if in response, to fill in some of the gaps - PANArt this week have offered up all manner of goodies over at their website, that tie in with our aforementioned post. Not least of which is the song, Ellie’s Response, that offers a musical account of the story that we tried to offer a brief insight into, but in the words of Felix Rohner himself, accompanied by both some of PANArt’s newer Pang instruments, and an Invader Pan, made by Ellie Mannette’s brother, Vernon Mannette, played by, David Rohner, Felix, and Sabina’s son - making it a truly generational offering, in more ways than one.

The PANArt Story

The following recent offering from over at PANArt's YouTube channel, does the near impossible, of compressing forty-years of the PANArt story, from 1976, to 2016, into a coffee-break friendly four minutes, and eight seconds.  An illustrated time-line, set to the music of what is presumably the Pangensemble.  The video traces the history of PANArt from their early involvement in the Swiss Steelpan scene, through the birth, and if not death exactly, the retirement of the Hang, onwards until the current day, and the introduction of PANArt’s next generation Pang instruments…

Panbau - Ungarn 1989

While finally, on this tour of insights into the history of PANArt, Felix Rohner shared a private video from back in 1989. That features a young Felix, working on an old barrel he found, while touring Hungary with the Swiss Steelband, The Bernese Oil Company. Offering us a rare video insight, into the pre-Pang days, of one of the Hang-makers…

Visit the official PANArt website: HERE


The HandPan Market - And Reassessing Demand Come 2016

Having recently celebrated having added one hundred names to our list of Handpan makers, now that the party is over, in the cold light of day, we wanted to take a closer look at one of the many consequences, of so many makers suddenly appearing on the scene all at once.

If you read around on the internet about the Hang, one thing you’ll hear of over and over (we mention it all the time), was the “HUGE DEMAND”, with which the Hang was met.  And that’s true, it was.  People went crazy trying to get their hands on one, and even in the later years before PANArt retired the Hang, there were very few established alternatives.

In the early days of the Hang, with the first generation, it is guesstimated that PANArt could have been making around two a day, reducing that number significantly with following generations. So ten letters requesting a Hang arriving in Bern, each, and every day, was a HUGE demand.

But what about when you have one hundred makers, and counting?

Back in 2015 we published a post acknowledging the very visible fall in prices that the instruments of Pantheon Steel were commanding with their monthly eBay auctions.  A fall in prices that was happening across the board, for the majority of brands being sold at open auction.

Back when we began this website, literally anything that was vaguely Hang-shaped that appeared on eBay would sell for many thousands of dollars, even if they sounded like a trash-can lid.  The highest price we ever saw reached for a Handpan at eBay was $15,000.00, for a Halo, but even instruments like the Bali Steel with a retail price of around $1100 at the time, would sell at eBay for prices as high as $4000 - to those not willing to wait out the year or so long que to purchase one directly from the makers.

The most recent Halo offered at auction sold for $4494.  Over ten thousand dollars less than the one that sold just over a year before it.  And a number of Handpan, better in sound than those that used to fly out like hot-cakes, currently sit at eBay unsold.

Education has certainly improved, and there are more websites, and Facebook groups than ever, at which potential pan purchasers can gain advice - but even so, it feels like times now aren’t just "a changing", they’ve changed.  And that from this point onwards, it’s going to be a very different game.

With our "Handpan-making" page being among our most visited, and without meaning to be discouraging, it feels like an important area to examine.  It might be a great time for buyers, but getting into Handpan making is not always the cheapest of business ventures.  There are operations like Bali Steel who seem to function in a fairly rustic environment, but putting together a Pantheon Steel style Handpan super-lab, isn’t cheap.  Six hours ago (at time of posting) Pantheon Steel added three Halo to their online store for sale, and as we check now, all three have vanished, presumably sold.  So that while the "crazy" might have gone out of the Handpan market a little come 2016, demand is still very much there for the more highly regarded instruments.  But, if you’re thinking of getting into Handpan making, tempted by the outdated tales of pans selling for insane amounts just a few years back you might have read around the web (and on this site from earlier times) - before investing your savings into Handpan building tools, and supplies,- you’d better be sure that you’re in it for the love, at least as much as the money - because the days of easy riches, offered up willingly, and by the handful, for anything even remotely Hang-shaped, appear now firmly behind us.


HarmonicSculpture - Celebrating 100 HandPan Makers - April, 2016

Back in the year 2000, PANArt invented the Hang - and the whole world would come to agree that it was good.  But we all wanted one - and there were not enough to go around. Which was a problem...

Fast forward to 2010, the year this website was launched, and we knew of five other Handpan makers, all of whom, at the time, were pretty new to market.  

Five other Handpan makers, and PANArt themselves however, were not nearly enough, to satisfy the demand for this new, and enchanting instrument type, that grew daily.  And mayhem ensued. Of all kinds.  

Over the last six-odd years we have slowly watched our list of known makers grow, with it finally exploding across 2015-2016.  We weren’t expecting it - but over the last twelve months or so, we’ve been adding to our list, maker after maker.  Some days with such frequency, that we’ve had to open up the list, and add another link, mere moments after closing it, from adding the one previous.

Like a Handpan Big-Bang - we never saw it coming.  But we’re glad that it’s here.  And so it is, that yesterday evening, we added our 100th maker to our Handpan makers list.  The HarmonicSculpture.  A Handpan made in Italy, by Matteo Gusmeroli. And to celebrate this landmark moment in Handpan history, we invite you to take a listen below…

It's been a fascinating ride here at HPM.  Like an obsessive Handpan freak, looking down from an observation platform, watching the story of Handpan unfold before us - we've rejoiced, and taken pleasure, in each, and every maker.  

And what the future might hold, for the steel-turtle, that crawled out of the nothingness, among the picturesque slopes of Bern, and reformed the world around it - your guess, is as good as ours...


The Beautiful HandPan Music, of the Beautiful Mumi

A while back we considered doing a “The Women of Handpan” kind of post, highlighting those we considered to be the best female Handpan players out there.  Something about that felt weirdly wrong though - because even if approached with the best of intentions, it still feels a little like saying, ‘this is great Handpan music - for women’.  And while we don’t consider ourselves to be particularly “politically correct” here at HPM, when our Y-chromosome deficient brethren feature such artists as the incredible, Mumi - that kind of gender distinction, for our purposes, loses any and all value - it’s simply beautifully composed Handpan music, that speaks for itself, regardless of how much love the person playing it, may, or may not have, for such things as handbags, shoes, and the movies of Bridget Jones...

We first fell in love with Mumi back in May, 2014, with her YouTube offering, Pygmy Lullaby - and have enjoyed every video performance since.  We were big fans of the handful of videos Mumi put out with Luca Bertelli, under the name of LUMI.  And with the performance embedded above, Winter, being the first of a promised “Four Seasons” project.  We know that at the very least, we have another three instalments to look forward to - presumably, over the coming year.

Mumi and Luca Bertelli - as LUMI

For more Mumi awesomeness, and to await the coming of the next three seasons, you can find Mumi over at Facebook: HERE.  Or subscribe to her YouTube channel: HERE


T-Shirt Spotlight - ReefPan, by Charlatan Crew

A short t-shirt spotlight post, to highlight a recent design from the artists at Charlatan Crew ,titled ‘ReefPan’.

The Charlatan Crew have offered up a number of great Handpan-themed designs in the past, for those who like to wear their love of the pan on their chest.  Including designs featuring: Buddha, Ganesh, and beings from other planets.  But it’s their most recent design, featuring a reef / Handpan amalgamation, complete with cheeky sound-sculpture turtle, and jellyfish, that has really earned our love.

There are now a whole bunch of Handpan t-shirts out there featuring little more than a simplified Handpan pictogram - and while there can be a beauty in simplicity - it’s always more interesting to see a designer who takes the idea, and pushes it that bit further.  

And with summer fast approaching, (at time of posting), this bright, and colourful design, or one of the other Charlatan Crew designs, could be just what the Handpan-musician, in need of spicing up their wardrobe, is looking for.

Find the Charlatan Crew at Facebook: HERE


Busking for Advertising Dollars Online - Making Money with YouTube for Musicians

Hang Massive
While it seems that a good number of Handpan musicians are already familiar with the practice of using Google’s “Adsense” program to make some extra cash from their YouTube performances - if you have not yet explored the option, here’s a short guide to what it’s all about.

“Adsense” is Google’s long established advertising platform, that pairs advertisers, with publishers, taking a cut of the revenue for themselves, for the service they provide.  And when Google bought YouTube back in 2006, you can be sure that increasing the online “real estate” upon which they could place their adverts, was very much at the front of their mind.

A Necessary Evil

While these adverts can be highly-annoying for the viewer - for the modern-day musician, hoping to make a living from their craft, in days of widespread music piracy, at a time where people often consider FREE access to ALL music, at ANY time, to be almost a right -  musicians have been forced to adapt.  And performing for advertising dollars, over on the internet’s most visited video hosting platform, can provide a much needed trickle of income for some, and huge jackpot style wins, for those lucky, gifted, or hard-working enough, to fully capture the hearts and minds of the citizens of the interwebs.

Turning Adsense on at YouTube

While the pathways to certain options change from time-to-time within the YouTube dashboard.  At time of posting - Click on “My Channel” (top-left) > Click on “Video Manager” (Top-center) > Click on “Channel” (mid-left) > And then "enable monetization" - and then follow the instructions from there.

How much can you make using Adsense on your videos at YouTube?

In an article over at Rolling Stones magazine, they cite Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, as being one of the more successful YouTube hits to date - which is estimated to have made somewhere between $800,000 to $2 million in revenue - all from those annoying little adverts.  They then go on to state that ‘Videos festooned with ads make roughly $2 per 1,000 YouTube views’, which gives you some idea, of how much you could already be making, if you already have a sizeable audience, but have yet to turn the adverts on. Or of what sort of level you’ll need to be aiming for - if you are hoping to retire to a private island, on the advertising money made from your music videos.

Hang Massive’s “Once Again”, in Terms of Dollars Earned from Advertising

Hang Massive’s 2011 YouTube release, Once Again, has to date received 16,685,944 views.  And we can see that Hang Massive do have the adverts turned on.  Which means that while we’re not saying that Hang Massive have earned the following amount, if we’ve done the maths right (16,685,944/1000x2), Hang Massive’s video could have earned them around thirty-three thousand dollars, and counting.  Which seems like a reasonable return, for a video that they most likely would have made, and shared, regardless. Though it also has to be said, that (to our knowledge) Hang Massive's Once Again, is thee most watched Handpan video ever (thus far). Meaning that to match that level of success, you are going to need to pull something truly spectacular, out of the bag. But for the rest of us, it can still be a fun way of making a few extra bucks, doing what we love to do anyway.


A Brief History of the Hammer - and Beyond

With every Handpan requiring thousands of hammer blows, in its creation - from the sinking, to the shaping, to the tuning, of the steel - without the humble hammer, there would be no Handpan.

Believed to date back to 2.6 million BC, hammer, during the Stone Age, as you might imagine, were little more than heavy, fortunately formed rocks that were the right shape for gripping, and banging.  And while not ideal, by modern standards, these basic tools are believed to have served mankind relatively well, with little evolution, for the next two million years, or so.

Not until around 30,000 BC, did the hammer’s form change significantly, when some bright spark decided that what the hammer really needed, was a handle.  And so, strips of leather or sinew were used to add wooden or bone handles to the stone heads. An advancement that not only saved a lot of early-day hammer-wielders from the dreaded purple-thumb, by removing the user's hands from the area of impact.  But that also amplified the amount of force that could be delivered to the point of impact.  

During around 3000 BC, the Bronze Age brought with it the ability to shape soft metals. And with heads made of bronze being shaped with an eye, within which a tapered wooden handle could be inserted - we find a hammer that is not so different, from its modern day equivalent.  Though bronze was soft, and it wasn’t until around 1500 BC, with the coming of the Iron Age, that the hammer really became the durable tool, that modern day craftsman are used to.

Over the following centuries, handheld hammers went through thousands of small revisions as blacksmiths shifted weight and balance, and other personal touches.  But largely, the hammer remained unchanged, until the time of the Industrial Revolution - when hammers powered by cams, spring and linkages were created that actually drove the hammer weight down. Increasing again the force applied to the hammer's blow.  Which when combined with automation, would lead to the huge advances in the field of metal-work, that were common of the time.

Later advances in design, from experimentation with materials such as steel, plastic, and fiberglass, advances in the designs of job-specific heads, and the invention in 1950, of the first pneumatic hammer, that was able to drive approximately 40-60 nails a minute, which for our purposes at least, essentially, brings the hammer up-to-date.  Though the hammer’s design, mutates, and evolves continuously still.  With now even hammers, custom designed specifically for the job of constructing, and tuning Handpan, such as those offered by Jimmy’ House of Hammers, having been born to the world, in the wake of the Hang. Building on technology that is millions of years old, to facilitate the construction, of a much more modern-day musical instrument.

And you can watch a video below of Handpan maker, Jan Borren, showing the importance of the hammer, to the Handpan building process...


The Hamgam - A HandPan Made of Wood

The “Hamgam”, is an instrument that it’s difficult to officially welcome into the world of singing-steel that we celebrate here at HPM.  Primarily, because it’s made of wood.  But with its central head, surrounded by a complementary circle of membranes, and with a Gu-like bottom port, all encased neatly within a UFO-shaped structure - it’s not difficult to guess which instrument inspired the Hamgam’s creation (and of course, the name is a bit suggestive too - we must have mistyped it as "Hang-gam" a hundred times within this short post).

Like Pinnochio, all made of wood, the Hamgam will never be a real boy.  Or Handpan.  But utilising the intuitive note layout pioneered by PANArt, using the Hamgam’s seven tunable membranes, as the Hamgam presumably can (more-or-less) - gives it that something extra, over being merely an instrument attempting to rip-off the Hang; in looks alone.

David Kuckhermann demonstrates below...

The creation of Majid Drums, the Hamgam, as mentioned above, features seven tunable surfaces. One area which brings the bass sound, one snare surface, and 5 other drum surfaces that retain the percussion sound. And according to the maker’s website: ‘...the tunability is accomplished by a refined yet simple magnetic system.  And by moving the magnets on the playing surfaces, endless sound variations can be conjured’...

You can find more information on the Hamgam over at ETSY: HERE


Yatao Music - HandPan Mutualism

The guys behind HandPan Tube’s most popular video, for March, 2016, “Prag”, are Yatao - a Handpan duo hailing from Berlin, Germany.

When it comes to Handpan, two, often seems to be the magic number. Handpan duos such as Hang Massive, Anuah, and LUMI, have always been popular.  And Yatao’s recent video offering (below) places them from the start, among the best of the already established performers.

As one viewer commented over at Handpan Tube, “Nice mutualism”.  And when you watch the video, it’s impossible not to get a sense of a strong symbiotic connection between the two.  While the music itself is airy, and uplifting, with just that tinge of melancholy, that the Handpan naturally brings...

Malte and Alex, randomly met in the summer of 2014 at a small festival in Northern Germany. Starting with a spontaneous jam session they soon afterwards decided to make music together on a regular basis.  

'Both totally charmed and fascinated by the instrument Hang are willing to spread their love for music in the world. You will hardly ever encounter us without their instruments because we always want to be ready to play. Trying to create an atmosphere of total relaxation and inspiration in which people can just follow their mind dreams...'

You can find Yatao over at Facebook: HERE, or visit their website: HERE

© HandPans Magazine