The handpan has a fascinating history that spans several decades, evolving from its roots in the steel pan or steel drum that originated in Trinidad and Tobago.
In this article, we’ll take a look back, exploring the various stages of this instrument’s development and showing where the Lumen Handpan fits into this musical journey.
As ambassadors for the handpan instrument, we are dedicated to bringing the joy of music to musicians, hobbyists, and enthusiasts alike.
What is a Handpan?
A handpan (or hand pan… the debate is still out), in the traditional sense, is a musical instrument that is typically made by hand using a process called “tuning.” It begins with two metal shells, usually made of steel, which are hammered, shaped, and tuned into a convex shape, and then glued together.
The top shell is carefully tuned by hand using a hammer in specific areas to create distinct musical notes that form a scale when played together.
The centre tone field on the top shell is called the “Ding”, and is surrounded by at least seven tone fields that represent the different notes, or keys, in the scale.
The top shell acts as the playing surface for musicians to strike the various tone fields with their hands, creating melodic and harmonious sounds often associated with relaxation and meditation.
The bottom shell serves as a resonating chamber, and there is typically an opening at the center of the bottom side, generally referred to as the “Gu”.
The Gu is also tuned and acts as Helmholtz resonator due to the phenomenon of air resonance in a cavity, similar to the effect created when one blows across the top of a bottle.
The resulting instrument is a unique and beautiful percussion instrument with a melodic and resonant sound, and is where everything began.
The History and Evolution of the Handpan:
The handpan traces its origins back to the steelpan, which emerged in the 1930s in Trinidad and Tobago. Originally crafted from discarded oil barrels, steelpan (or steel pan) instruments provided a melodic range that captivated listeners and became an integral part of the Caribbean music scene.
From this rich musical heritage, the handpan would eventually emerge.
In the early 2000s, Swiss instrument makers named Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer introduced the Hang instrument, a pioneering handpan design, through the Swiss company PANart. Inspired by the steelpan, the Hang featured a unique layout of tone fields, producing enchanting and ethereal sounds.
The Hang quickly gained popularity, capturing the hearts of musicians and enthusiasts worldwide.
The success of the Hang paved the way for further innovations in the world of handpans. Various manufacturers and craftsmen across the globe began experimenting with different designs, scales, and materials, resulting in an array of handpan variations.
One such notable development was the Halo, a handpan manufactured by the American company Pantheon Steel, which showcased exceptional craftsmanship and tonal qualities.
Now, hundreds of manufacturers worldwide are creating and manufacturing handpans for the growing demand of the handpan instrument and sounds.
The Lumen Handpan:
Amidst this rich tapestry of handpan evolution, the Lumen Handpan is one of the latest takes on this relatively young instrument.
Much like how the electric drumset made its introduction to the drumming community in the 1970s, the Lumen Handpan is now available as an electro-acoustic alternative to a traditional handpan.
Our commitment to innovation and the desire to make handpans more accessible led us to develop this extraordinary instrument. The Lumen Handpan has 9 pads on the top surface, with each pad representing a tone field.
The audio that is played when tapping the pads maintains the unique qualities of the original instruments, thanks to the professional sound sampling from our sound partners, Soniccouture.
With a built-in speaker and battery, stereo audio output, midi output, and up to 5 instruments loaded onto the 4Gb onboard memory, the Lumen Handpan can be played on its own or through headphones and speakers.
To take things even further, the Lumen Handpan has full MIDI capabilities with standard MIDI 5-pin (out) and USB (in/out) connectors.
The handpan’s evolution from the steelpan to the Lumen Handpan showcases the instrument’s rich history and the continuous pursuit of innovation.
As ambassadors for the handpan community, we are proud to offer musicians an instrument that combines the best of traditional handpans with the benefit of rich audio output and the flexibility of MIDI.
With the Lumen Handpan, musicians have the power to explore various traditional handpans, change keys and scales, and embark on a musical journey limited only by their imagination, and we are excited to see where the handpan evolves to next.