The ultimate guide to Handpan.


A handpan is made of steel, it is played by hand and it produces a unique and sensational sound. It belongs to the class with a steelpan, but the latter is played using a pair of straight sticks stuck together with rubber.

The handpan has two cylindrical steel domes fitted together, creating this resonant chamber with a UFO spaceship shape. Besides the brief description, making this instrument takes great skill and craftsmanship.

Handpan History

Handpan was first developed in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1940s. As a steel instrument, it is a relative of the steel drum but it is played by hand. However, they are distinctive in sound, and you can identify them the first time you hear their sound anywhere.

The PANArt company in Bern, Switzerland, was the original producer of the instrument in 2001. It was known as Hang which means Hand, explaining how the instrument will be played. As its production grew, it became popular in 2007, and more manufacturers joined in beating the limited market supply. 

More people also picked up the journey to explore the new chapter by producing tuned steel known as singing steel. Although it has a short history, its popularity has increased to date. 

How a Handpan works

Many people refer to the handpan as a sound sculpture because it is partially a piece of art and an instrument. Music played on a handpan has a unique effect, and its resonant quality can haunt you even from afar. Its tones are pretty relaxing, and its playing style is intuitive, making it a getaway instrument. It is accessible to anyone, and it is versatile enough to rise to any challenge and inspire accomplished musicians. 

The sound of a handpan is not unique, but it will intrigue you even the first time you hear its sound. Because it is played by Hand, the sound it produces sounds like raindrops, and playing one note activates multiple overtones giving the instrument its magical layered sound. 

Some describe it as a tranquilizer in class meditation because its sounds are relaxing. While others find it a relaxer, others find its sounds haunting and mysterious. However, others find the sound joyful. Also, its different styles captivate the creation of a range of tones.

Like other instruments, a handpan has a unique element as its sound is different for every individual. The tool is tuned to one musical scale. Thus, there is no fear of wrong tuning or hitting wrong notes. 

Therefore, learning how to play the handpan for musicians or non-musicians is the same experience. The steel instrument transcends all genders, ages, and cultures, and anyone can play it.

HandPan Terminology


 It is made from two metal half-shells glued together to form a hollow chamber, and it is played by Hand. They are all tuned to one set of centrally organized notes, and it is played by gently tapping the tone fields. Its sound tones are dreamy and mysterious. And some people classify it as tranquil.


A trademark that inspired the handpan community, and it translates to Hand. PANArt has first manufactured in 2000, by a company that manufactures instruments based in Switzerland.

Hang drum:

A variant of Hang that is played by striking like traditional drums. Therefore, it should be avoided because a handpan is delicate, and if a handpan is hit, it can be damaged and not produce its sweet sound.


A synonym for handpan, a term that came about at the same time as Hang. It gained popularity when an Israeli distributor of the Hang began to use the word due to pronunciation differences, and it stuck.


A melodic percussion handpan created by a French company. It is a trademarked product, and most players refer to it as a Space drum for its entry into the market.

Tongue drum:

Made from a hollow tank with two tongue-shaped cut incisions. When the tongue shapes are hit, they produce bell sounds. They are made from steel, but their predecessors were made from wood. 

Although tongue and hand drum creators refer to both instruments as handpans, none of them is because the art behind making the latter is different. Also, both handpans and tongue drums are made of steel and have a common shape( pod-like). They, too, have like note layouts and nothing else in common.

Electric handpan:

As the name suggests, it is an electronic percussion instrument that mimics handpan sounds. They are not Electric handpans but programs that permit users to explore with pre-recorded sounds.

Sound sculptures:

Refers to any art form that produces sound, handpan instruments included. They vary in shape and scale depending on the manufacturer.


A handpan is described by size and the material it is made from, and several notes. However, how it is played is the same; by Hand and it produces the same melodic sound. 

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Andrew is a professional writer with 7+ Years of experience. His style and uniqueness inspire and educate readers throughout the world.

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