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In this article, we explore the subtle distinctions between two modern instruments that enrich the world of percussion and musical well-being: the handpan and the steel tongue drum.

Born in the 21st century, these percussion instruments share some characteristics but have distinct identities, far from being "twin brothers."

Through an in-depth analysis, we will guide you in choosing between these musical gems, whether you're looking for a hang drum or a tongue drum. We'll highlight the uniqueness of each instrument, helping you decide whether to buy new or used. Discover what makes each hangdrum instrument special with Zena-Drum.

To read: How do I learn to play the Handpan ?

1. Handpan and Tongue Drum are diatonic instruments

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The handpan and tongue drum are captivating percussion instruments known for their diatonic tuning, meaning they don't include all the notes of the chromatic scale. This unique characteristic sets them apart, offering distinct soundscapes.

Both instruments, whether a steel tongue drum or a handpan, provide a soothing musical experience ideal for relaxation and creativity. Let's explore the differences in their scales, complexity, and the best choice for your musical journey.

a. Scale and Tone

The tongue drum and handpan are both diatonic percussion instruments, meaning they don't include all the notes of the chromatic scale. The tongue drum is usually tuned to pentatonic or heptatonic scales, offering five to seven notes per octave, which creates a harmonious and melodious sound ideal for tongue drum music and well-being. This simplicity makes it particularly attractive to beginners.

b. Variety and Complexity

The handpan, on the other hand, can be tuned to hexatonic scales, providing six notes per octave. This additional note offers a slightly richer harmonic experience. The hexatonic scale, though rarer, highlights the diversity and complexity that the handdrum can achieve, appealing to more experienced musicians or composers seeking new sonic textures.

c. Choice According to Musical Profile

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Choosing between a tongue drum and a handpan depends on your personal sound preference and musical experience. The tongue drum, with its fewer notes, encourages a meditative and intuitive approach, perfect for relaxation. In contrast, the handpan offers a broader palette for musical exploration, making it suitable for musicians looking to experiment with more elaborate compositions.

d. Final Considerations

In summary, the selection between these two instruments depends on the desired musical experience, preferred scale, and intended use, whether for relaxation with a handpan 432 hertz, composition with a 440 hertz, or simply to start with a steel pan drum. Ready to explore the enchanting melodies of the handpan?

Discover our collection of diatonic instruments, crafted with passion for a unique musical experience. Explore the captivating sounds of the hang drum and let its harmonious vibrations transport you. Visit our shop today and find the perfect hangdrum instrument for you !

Visit our store today and find the perfect handpan for you !

2. Handpan and Tongue Drum frequency

The handpan can be played at two frequencies: 440Hz and 432Hz. Similarly, the tongue drum can be tuned to these frequencies, though most tank drums are set to 440Hz.

Why does this matter? It impacts your ability to play in an orchestra. In 1885, the Italian government standardized the 440Hz frequency for all orchestras, while the original standard was 435Hz and the French frequency was 432Hz.

If you want to play in a group like Hang Massive, you should choose the 440Hz frequency, which is compatible with both the hand drum instrument and the tongue drum. Explore our handpan for sale at Zena-Drum to find the perfect instrument for your musical needs.

3. Orchestral compatibility and well-being

The tuning frequency of an instrument influences not only its ability to integrate into musical ensembles but also the listening experience in terms of well-being. Here are key points to consider:

  • Orchestral Integration
Choosing the 440Hz frequency ensures compatibility with most modern orchestras and musical ensembles. This is crucial for musicians aspiring to play in groups or integrate into larger compositions.
  • Experience of Relaxation
The 432Hz frequency, often associated with therapeutic and relaxing properties, offers an interesting alternative for those who use their tongue drum mainly for personal well-being or meditation sessions.
  • Personal Choice
The decision between 440Hz and 432Hz will depend on your musical aspirations. Whether you aim for group performance or a focus on well-being, the handpan instrument and tongue drum provide flexible options to meet your needs.

This flexibility makes the hang hang drum and tongue drum particularly suited to various musical contexts, from concerts to meditation circles, and individual well-being practices.

Handpan and Tongue Drum: a symphony of well-being. From solo to orchestra, explore the unexpected harmonies of these magical instruments and let their relaxing vibrations transport you.

Discover our handpan collection at Zena-Drum and find your perfect match.

4. Handpan and Tongue Drum play differently

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The tongue drum features numbered metal tongues from 1 to 7, each corresponding to a note from C to B. You can play it with your hands or mallets. In contrast, the handpan lacks numbering and instead has dimples, each producing a note but without markings. The sound accuracy of a handpan instrument relies heavily on the precise hammering of the metal by the maker. This makes the steel hang drum more complex to create. Discover more about the unique playing styles and craftsmanship at Zena-Drum.

5. Very different heights and weights

Size isn't everything when it comes to the steel tongue drum, a small yet heavy instrument compared to its larger counterpart, the handpan. The tongue drum can weigh up to 8 kilograms, whereas the handpan typically weighs around 5 to 6 kilograms.

This weight difference is due to the thickness of the metal used. The tongue drum requires thicker metal to ensure its sound quality, making it heavier but more durable. A tongue drum can withstand drops without affecting its sound. In contrast, dropping a hang drum can detune it because its sound relies on the precise shape of its dome. Even heat-induced deformations can impact the handpan's note accuracy.

Discover more about the durability and sound quality of these instruments at Zena-Drum.

6. A price difference

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Despite being heavier, the tongue drum is generally less expensive than the handpan. This is because the tongue drum requires less technical skill to manufacture.

The handpan, on the other hand, cannot be machine-made and must be handcrafted by skilled artisans. Shaping the dome of a handpan to achieve accurate notes across an octave typically requires two years of practice.

Therefore, the price of a handpan reflects the technical difficulty involved in its creation. When choosing between these instruments, listen to their melodies and select the one that resonates with you most. Discover your preference with Zena-Drum’s collection.

Want to buy a handpan? Discover our different models and order the one you like best.

7. Comparison table: Handpan vs Tongue Drum

Criteria Handpan Tongue Drum
Musical Scale Hexatonic, Heptatonic Pentatonic, Heptatonic
Complexity Convient aux experts Ideal for beginners
Frequencies 432Hz (relaxation), 440Hz (composition) Mainly 440Hz
Usage Composition, Relaxation Wellness, Meditation
Integration Flexible for solo or ensemble Mainly solo or small groups
Choice for Musical experimentation Intuitive and meditative approach


En conclusion

While the handpan and tongue drum share similar origins and acoustic principles, their differences in scale, complexity, and frequency provide a richness and diversity that cater to a variety of musical and well-being needs.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced musician, seeking relaxation or group integration, choosing between these instruments is about defining your personal journey in the fascinating world of percussion music.

Ready to create your own symphony ? Explore our collection of handpans and steel tongue drums at Zena-Drum, perfect for enchanting solo melodies or relaxing group harmonies. Discover the sound that suits you and dive into a unique musical universe.

Visit our store today and unleash your creativity !



1. Is a tongue drum the same as a handpan ?

No, a tongue drum and a handpan are different instruments. The tongue drum has numbered metal tongues for notes, while the handpan has dimples. Each offers unique sounds and playing techniques, catering to various musical preferences and skill levels.

2. What is another name for a tongue drum ?

Another name for a tongue drum is a steel tongue drum. It’s also sometimes referred to as a tank drum due to its shape and structure. These names highlight its construction and the material used to create its distinctive sound.

3. What is another name for a handpan ?

Another name for a handpan is a hang drum. The term "hang" is often used interchangeably, though "handpan" has become more common in recent years. Both names refer to the same type of hand-played, steel percussion instrument.

4. What is the difference between a handpan and a hang drum?

There is no difference between a handpan and a hang drum; they are the same instrument. The term "hang" was originally used by the instrument's creators, while "handpan" has become a more generic name used by various makers.

5. What are the benefits of playing a tongue drum ?

Playing a tongue drum offers several benefits, including stress relief, improved focus, and enhanced creativity. Its soothing sounds are perfect for relaxation and meditation, making it a great instrument for personal well-being and mindfulness practices.