In this article we unpack the various features of the Lumen Handpan, to discover the instrument’s capabilities and explore how you can now Drum Your Own Way.
The Lumen Handpan was first introduced to the world in 2016 through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, where over 200 people backed the idea:
To create a digital version of the traditional handpan.
Many sleepless nights, months of uncertainty, and several years later, the world’s first electro-acoustic handpan is now officially available for sale on the Lumen Handpan website.
Let’s start at the inspiration:
WHAT IS A TRADITIONAL HANDPAN?
A handpan is a mesmerizing musical instrument played by striking its metal surface with your hands. It has indentations on the top surface that produce varying pitches of enchanting and melodic sounds that resonate from its round, bowl-like shape.
Inspired by the traditional steelpan, the handpan offers a captivating and meditative playing experience. It’s an instrument that invites you to explore rhythmic patterns and melodies.
Lumen Handpan introduces an innovative and unique approach to this timeless instrument by introducing electronics and a digital interface to allow you to play multiple handpans in multiple keys and scales.
WHAT IS A LUMEN HANDPAN?
The Lumen Handpan is a musical percussion instrument in the shape of a traditional handpan, with 9 tapping pads on the playing surface that replicate the playing style and note layout of a handpan.
Professionally recorded samples of original handpan and percussion instruments are included onboard, and the built-in speaker and batteries provide up to 6hrs playtime on a full charge.
You can connect to headphones, mixers, amps, speakers, and other external audio equipment with Stereo outputs and full MIDI functionality that makes the digital handpan compatible with most Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs).
Some of the features include:
– The ability to change between different instruments, scales, and keys
– Professionally sampled handpan and percussion instruments, provided by Soniccouture
– An onboard speaker and battery
– Stereo Audio Output
– MIDI Functionality (In/Out)
– Traditional handpan shape
– A digital interface you control with the touch of a finger
If you’re still here, that means you’re in for the long game, and the finer details of the Lumen Handpan.
Let’s dive in…
WHAT IS “SELF-CONTAINED”?
“Self-contained” means that the Lumen Handpan is a complete and standalone instrument.
It doesn’t require any additional equipment or connections to make music, and everything you need is built right into the instrument itself.
With its onboard speaker and batteries, you can play the electro-acoustic handpan anywhere, without the need for external amplifiers or power sources.
It offers convenience and portability, allowing you to create beautiful sounds and enjoy the instrument’s unique features without any extra hassle. It can also connect to external audio through stereo output and MIDI.
In combination, it’s a great option for musicians who want an all-in-one solution that’s ready to play whenever and wherever.
WHAT IS “ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC”?
“Electro-acoustic” refers to a type of instrument that combines both acoustic and electronic elements.
In the case of the Lumen Handpan, it means that the instrument produces the sounds of a traditional handpan on its own, but also includes electronic components and outputs that enhance its capabilities.
The electro-acoustic features include:
– The ability to change keys, scales, and instruments on the Touch Menu
– Using the Lumen Handpan as a MIDI controller
– Connecting to external headphones and speakers.
CAN I CONNECT TO HEADPHONES?
Yes you can.
The Lumen Handpan has a standard 1/4“ (6.3mm) TRS stereo jack socket, with line-level output.
The Stereo TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve) 1/4″ jack output is a type of connection that allows you to send audio signals to other devices like headphones, mixers, or amplifiers.
It provides a convenient way to transmit audio in stereo, which means you can enjoy a wider and more immersive sound experience.
CAN I CONNECT TO SPEAKERS?
TRS output is versatile and can also be used to connect to devices that require split mono connections, including jack and RCA connections, as often found on speakers.
The TRS stereo audio output is a handy feature that enhances your ability to connect to various types of audio equipment, making it easier to share your music or explore different listening options.
WHAT CABLES DO I NEED?
The Lumen Handpan ships with a power adapter and a MIDI USB cable included.
For the power adaptor, we provide 2 types of plug cables: Type A and Type C.
To connect using the Stereo Output, you will need a standard quarter-inch or 6.3mm stereo TRS jack cable.
This connection is similar to the 3.5mm audio output on most cellphones, but is almost double the size at ¼” to accommodate the jack plug connections as used on many musical instruments.
For the best audio output quality, we recommend using a TRS cable variation that works best for your audio setup.
The TRS socket has a number of useful features:
– You can plug your headphones directly into the Lumen Handpan through the quarter-inch stereo TRS jack connector, for a quieter, solo performance.
– You can use a ¼” stereo TRS jack-to-jack cable to plug into sound cards, mixers, speakers and amps.
– You can use a ¼” stereo TRS jack converter for the smaller 3.5mm headphone jack
– You can use a ¼” stereo TRS jack to split-mono
– You can use a ¼” stereo TRS jack to split RCA
– You can even use a standard guitar/instrument cable for a mono output
In our studio, we’re connecting the Lumen Handpan directly to a Focusrite Scarlett Solo soundcard using a TRS-to-TRS cable.
The Lumen Handpan is plugged into the 2nd Channel on the Scarlett Solo, with the channel setting set to INST.
The Focusrite is recording the input into Ableton Live, where the Lumen is set to the first available audio channel.
This can get technical, as it should.
But more on that in a different article.
WHAT MIDI CABLES DO I NEED?
To connect with the MIDI 5-pin (Out) socket, you will need a standard MIDI 5-pin cable.
To connect with the USB MIDI (In/Out) socket, you can use the USB cable provided or any other standard USB 2.0A to B cable. This is commonly referred to as a USB printer cable.
MIDI, in general, opens up a whole new world of creativity for a musician.
You can pair your digital handpan with your preferred Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), including Ableton Live, Logic, Pro Tools, and FL Studio.
WHAT IS A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)?
A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is like a virtual recording studio that allows you to create, edit, and arrange music using your computer. It’s a powerful tool that brings together various elements of music production in one place.
A DAW is a music production software that provides you with a user-friendly interface to work with audio in a session, arrangement, or timeline view. Examples of DAWs include Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic, FL Studio, and even Apple’s GarageBand.
With a DAW, you have a wide range of tools and effects at your disposal to mix, arrange, and produce your music. You can import MIDI data from the Lumen Handpan and use it to trigger virtual instruments, edit notes, and create melodies. You can also record audio directly from the Lumen Handpan, or any other instrument directly into the DAW.
It’s a fantastic resource for musicians of all levels, offering the opportunity to explore your creativity, refine your compositions, and bring your musical ideas to life.
WHAT IS MIDI?
MIDI is a technology that allows musical instruments and devices to communicate with each other.
MIDI stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.”
In the case of the Lumen Handpan, MIDI functionality means that each of the 9 pads on the instrument can be assigned to represent 9 individual musical channels or sounds.
When you play a pad, it sends a signal to other MIDI-compatible devices, like synthesizers or computers, telling them which notes to play or which sounds to produce. You can control, layer, and modulate different sounds using the 9 pads which are pressure-sensitive with FSR (Force-Sensitive Resistors… But more on that later).
MIDI provides a platform to expand your musical creativity and create unique, multi-layered compositions. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced musician, exploring MIDI on the Lumen Handpan adds a whole new dimension to your musical expression.
In order to use MIDI, the Lumen Handpan has a standard 5-pin MIDI Out and a USB MIDI In/Out to interface with other MIDI devices.
WHAT IS MIDI IN AND WHAT IS MIDI OUT?
MIDI In allows the Lumen Handpan to receive MIDI signals from other devices, while MIDI Out allows the Lumen Handpan to send MIDI signals to other devices.
It’s like a communication channel that enables the Lumen Handpan to understand and interpret instructions from or to MIDI-compatible sources, such as keyboards, computers, or sequencers.
With the standard 5-pin MIDI Out and the USB MIDI In/Out, you can connect it to these external devices and receive/send MIDI signals to create your music… and “Drum Your Own Way”.
WHAT IS AN “FSR” (FORCE-SENSITIVE RESISTOR) PAD?
Force-Sensitive Resistors (FSR) are responsive to the physical pressure being applied to the material and can provide a response according to the varying levels of that pressure.
The Lumen Handpan pads all have pressure-sensitive FSR pads that are further divided into 5 playing zones: one centre, two horizontal, and two vertical zones. Force-Sensitive pads mean you can manipulate the response of the audio by altering the amount of pressure you apply with your fingers while striking the pad.
The FSR is also fully functional and compatible with MIDI, so you can send all these unique playing characteristics to your DAW for performances and recordings.
WHAT IS A PROFESSIONALLY SAMPLED SOUND?
A Sample, in musical terms, is when a sound is recorded for the purpose of being played back in a song or musical piece.
Samples can be of anything that makes a sound, from the neighbour’s dog barking to a concert-pitch baby grand piano striking middle C in a crowded auditorium.
Musicians, hobbyists, loop artists, and even content creators make use of audio sampling in many creative ways.
Professional sound sampling is when you get one of the leading Audio Sampling companies in the world to provide you with studio-grade, meticulously recorded samples of instruments being played.
Our sound partners, Soniccouture, have provided us with professionally recorded sample packs of original handpan and percussion instruments that have been customised for the layout of the Lumen Handpan.
The samples include dynamic, anti-repeat “round-robin” layers to ensure you get the real feel of the original handpan or percussion instrument
When you select one of the instruments on your Lumen Handpan, the audio that is played when you tap the pads is a very close match to the original instrument.
WHY DO YOU KEEP SAYING “DRUM YOUR OWN WAY”?
We are sincerely passionate about music and want to share that passion with the world through an instrument that makes it possible for you to customise the way you play. With complete control of the type of instrument you want to play, you can make changes to your key and scale while you are playing live.
Making quick changes on a regular basis will take some serious practice, impeccable timing, and next-level coordination, but the broader idea is that you can improvise, layer, and adjust your sound as you see fit.
You can play whatever you want, whenever you want.
And so we share the idea that with the Lumen Handpan you can… Drum Your Own Way.