My path to the handPan
Years ago I went to see TaikOz play at the state theater. They had a guest percussionist who brought with him a strange and wonderful instrument. I didn't know what it was called or how to find one, and nobody that I spoke to could identify it from my description. All I knew was that I was meant to play it. Years passed and slowly the experience faded from my mind until I had all but forgotten it...
Then, during my yoga teacher training we did a practice to music, and there it was! The hypnotic sounds of this amazing instrument I had fallen in love with. I asked what the music was, and one of my fellow students who happened to be a sound engineer told me it was a Hang (pronounced "Hung".)
The google fires burned long into the night as I researched the shit out of this magical object.
I purchased my first pan from Dave Beery, a Luna Sequoia in F. A great pan to learn on. My second pan was the waples 9 (a D-Minor). My third pan was a Penta C from Tzevaot.
My interest in the handpan stems from its beautiful resonant sound and its simplicity. Literally anyone can play it and have a life affirming experience with it. No musical skill is required to enjoy this instrument. I speak from experience. For me coming to this instrument as a beginner, I found that It propelled me to research musicology and experiment to develop my own unique relationship to this intriguing, entirely elemental instrument. Made of earth, forged in fire, the sound carries on air, played freely like water, resonatingthe ether.
Learning the instrument
I spent some time in a sound studio experimenting with recording phrases and loops, which was most informative and really developed my sense of subtlety and timing. It also offered me the ability to connect with some musicians and share with the community what I was learning. I then purchased a metronome, which i play to regularly to develop my sense of timing and rhythm. Each pan has its own unique musical character.
The Hang is a handmade sound sculpture created by a company called PanArt in Bern, Switzerland. Felix Rohner and Sabina Scharer were making steel pan drums inspired by the Trinidadian steel drum and a conversation with a visitor about making something that could be played with the hands led to the conception of this modified instrument.
It is technically an idiophone, a class of instruments defined by the fact that the whole instrument resonates when struck, such as the singing bowl, wood block or triangle.
In 2013 PanArt stopped making the Hang. Suddenly they became extremely rare and valuable and the only way to acquire an original one is via private sale on sites like eBay.
Since then, companies have sprung up all over the world creating similar instruments, called Handpans. They are basically the same fundamental design, but each maker brings their own unique and delightful set of skills to the crafting and tuning of their instruments.
Because they are all hand made and hand tuned, the production capacity is limited and waiting lists are long, sometimes up to 12 months. The online trade is fraught with scammers offering tantalising bargains and homemade pans that are a great first effort, but lack harmonic resonance instilled by the seasoned hand of a tempered master. It appears to be an alchemists trade, with a knowledge of some elemental magic a prerequisite for success.
There are now more than 80 independent makers currently making handpans around the world. Below are the ones that I have personally dealt with.
TerraTonz, based in the US make really nice instruments with a lot of tonal warmth, resonance and sustain. They generally carry a small range of their signature tunings in case of damage during transport and if they are not needed they can be purchased immediately with the addition of a fair markup.
Meridian, Based in the UK make the most beautifully photographed pans on the internet.
Duncan is a craftsman of the first order. A token deposit will get the ball rolling on one of these masterpieces, and they are well worth the wait.
Tzevaot, another American company, has acquired the patent to make their Handpans using the original PanArt method. They also have a policy of trying to always have some pans in stock, so depending on which tuning you want, they may have one for immediate purchase. Their website is lovely, but not always up to date with whats in stock, so contact them for an accurate account.
Spacedrum in France have an amazing depth and make instruments that have very low bass frequencies. The wait time is 12 months. You have to pay in advance, but the pans seem very reasonably priced.
Innersound in Germany make absolutely pristine perfect instruments that sound so clean its like pure tone. Their wait time is 9 months.
Dave's Island Instruments make a great instrument and the one I purchased from them was in stock. It sounds amazing, and I love the pan, its obvious Dave Beery has talent. I live near the ocean and sadly the Luna range is not nitrided, so rust is a real challenge for this instrument. High maintenance. my recommendation is to get a Gaia, which I understand are nitrided.
Halo. Rumored to be the heir to the throne of the panmakers. While they once had a long waiting list and the chances of acquiring one of these pans was low, they have taken on more tuners, and regularly post flash sales on their website, but you still have to be quick to snap one up, and they are at the top end of the pricing spectrum.
These instruments have not been easy to acquire in Australia. Shipping and import duty is expensive and there's just no guarantee they'll even show up from some makers. There are now a few local makers, myself included and a surprising number of people who play or would love to play one. My experience with my meditation group and yoga courses is that Everyone who hears and sees the handpan says something like "What is this instrument? I love it, where do you get one?"
What I can offer
Handpans are expensive to import into Australia, at around AUD $3500-$5000 each once you take exchange rates and duty into account.
I have a small selection of immediately available pans and am on the waiting list for many more which will arrive over the next 12 months. I am also in negotiations with a supplier to stock pans on a larger scale. If you are interested in purchasing a pan, get in touch here and lets see if one of them chooses you. If you want a specific scale, and I don't have one in stock, I can make one for you.
My motivation is making these instruments available in Australia. If you are interested in using one but don't want to purchase one you might consider one of the other options.
Creativity strikes when creativity strikes. If you want to record something and need a handpan I can facilitate rental of the pans. My aim is to make these instruments available to anyone who wants them for studio recording, live performance, sound journeys or healing.
Rental rates are available on request.
I love to show people this instrument. It's easy and its fun. People always smile when they play it, and I have personally found it very effective as a tool to get into a meditative state by getting in the zone with the instrument.
Anyone wanting to meet and experience the handpan would be able to come to my location in Bronte and experience the pans, try the different tuning options and discover by experience which one resonates with them.
I can offer a one day fundamental level workshop for anyone interested in hiring or purchasing one of these instruments through me.
Training is free with the purchase of a pan and includes:
- Introduction to the instrument and its history
- Basic principles
- Basic technique
- Useful tricks
- Tuning yourself to the instrument
- Letting go in the moment
- Handpan as a meditation tool
- Personal style
- Ongoing exploration
I have also developed an intermediate level handpan training program. It is a 9 week program, one hour a week for 9 weeks.
servicing and support
I provide ongoing service for pans through my network of trusted tuners, and I am working every day to improve my skills as a maker and tuner so that I can offer this service myself.
Long term vision
What started out as a hobby has now become Elemental Handpans. Part school, part library, part showroom, part workshop. Enjoy a detailed look at all we have to offer.
Demonstrations, hang sessions and training videos featuring various pans in and around the studio and Sydney's eastern beaches, Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte.
Here are some of the various seller's videos of the handpans I've purchased or am on the waiting list for that are or will be for sale in the future. See Elemental Handpans website for more videos.