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Dive into the workings of the handpan (also known as a hang drum), a steel percussion instrument renowned for its celestial tones and wellness benefits. Whether you're a handpan for beginner or an experienced player, understanding its tuning, from G Minor to Ionian, Aeolian, or Mixolydian scales, is essential.

Explore the enchanting world of this musical marvel with Zena-Drum and uncover how it harmonizes beauty and well-being.

Discover why the hand drum instrument captivates musicians worldwide.

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Zena-Drum offers a premium selection of handpans, ranging from 9 to 17 notes. This article reveals the magic behind each note and scale, guiding you towards an informed choice, whether you're looking for a new steel handpan or a used one.

To read: Where to buy a good handpan ?

1. The handpan is a diatonic instrument

The handpan is a musical instrument described as "diatonic," meaning it does not include all the notes of the chromatic scale.

However, it still offers wide scales. The diatonic scale can be either pentatonic or heptatonic.

This means it can consist of five notes per octave or seven notes per octave. The challenge that all beginners face when wanting to buy a handpan is understanding how the instrument they want to buy is tuned.

For handpans tuned to G Minor, the melodic notes are typically as follows:

  • The ascending scale: D, E, F, G, A, B flat, C sharp.
  • The descending scale: D, C, B flat, A, G, F, E, D.

The standard interval for handpans tuned to G Minor is the fifth. They are often referred to as D Celtic Minor. 

2. From pentatonic to heptatonic

The technical vocabulary and the realities involved don't stop there. Since diatonic instruments include only part of the chromatic scale, Steel hang drum makers choose which notes of the scale to incorporate in each instrument.

To help you understand the ranges and their names, we suggest the following table:
scale, pentatonic, gamme heptatonic, handpan

Source : https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Pentatonic-and-heptatonic-scales-included-tones-are-indicated-by-red-dots-The-five_fig4_40484321

In addition to the pentatonic and heptatonic scales, the Handpan can also include a hexatonic scale, i.e. a six-note scale in a single octave. But let's stop here for the difficulties.
What you need to know is the scale your hang drum is tuned to. The manufacturer usually provides this information, like Zena-Drum with its handpans in G Minor, which allow for more melancholic sounds, making them well-suited for music therapy.

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3. Note distribution on a handpan

Rather than giving a long explanation, here is the note layout of a 10-note (9+1) handpan in G Minor, sold by Zena-Drum:

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Each dent, called a dimple, corresponds to a note. The central note, the ding, is often the lowest note and the one to which the instrument is tuned, here in G Minor.

The repetition of the notes A, D and C does not mean that these notes are identical. On the contrary, they are in two different octaves.

4. What is 8+1 or 9+1 notation ?

As the development of Handpans is very recent, no precise numbering of notes has been established by the hang industry. In other words, some manufacturers count all the notes and write the number 10 if the handpan has 10 notes, or the number 9 if it has 9.

In the video below, enjoy the melodies with a 9-note handpan tuned in D minor.


Others separate the notes on the dimples from the main note on the Ding, which is the upper part of the steel hang drum. They therefore note 8+1 for a 9-note hang drum, or 9+1 for a ten-note handpan.

So there's no difference between a 10-notes handpan and a 9+1-note handpan, apart from the way the manufacturer numbers the number of notes on his instrument.

To Read: How much does a handpan cost ?

5. Understanding how the Handpan works

Element Description
Construction Two hemispherical steel shells welded together with tuned zones for each note.
Material Made mainly of steel, with variations such as nitrided steel for tone and stainless steel for durability.
Play Can be played with the hands or special mallets, with no need for prior musical knowledge.
Maintenance Regular cleaning with specific oils to protect against rust and maintain sound quality.
Difference with Hang Drum The 'hang drum' is the name given to the first instruments of this type by PANArt, while 'handpan' refers to similar instruments made by others.


Curious to master the secrets of the hang instrument ? Dive deeper into our guides on Zena-Drum to understand its workings and choose your ideal musical companion. Visit our complete collection here !

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Through the rhythms of the handpan drum steel, we discover a universe where technique and emotion dance together. This instrument, simple in appearance, opens the door to endless exploration, where each note resonates with a part of our being. By learning its workings, we do more than master an instrument; we embrace an adventure that enriches the soul. The hanging drum invites us to play, feel, and ultimately, live music in its purest form.

Ready to explore the captivating world of the hung drum ? Discover our exclusive collection and find the perfect instrument to start your musical adventure today.


1. How does the handpan drum work ?

The handpan drum works by striking its dimples with your hands or fingers. Each dimple is tuned to a specific note, creating a harmonious sound. The handpan's design allows for rich, resonant tones, making it a unique and expressive hand drum instrument.

2. What is the science behind the handpan ?

The science behind the handpan involves precise tuning of its steel surface. Each dimple is carefully hammered to create specific vibrations, producing different notes. The shape and material of the handpan allow for complex overtones and a rich, resonant sound, perfect for creating hang instrument music.

3. 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. "Hang" was the original name given by its creators, while "handpan" is a more generic term used by various makers. Both refer to the same steel percussion instrument.

4. How is the hang drum played ?

The hang drum is played by striking its dimples with your hands or fingers. The technique involves light, controlled touches to produce melodic and percussive sounds. This handpan instrument allows for expressive playing, combining rhythm and melody seamlessly.

5. Can a tongue drum be used for meditation ?

Yes, a tongue drum is excellent for meditation. Its soothing and melodic tones promote relaxation and mindfulness. The tongue drum's gentle, resonant sounds make it ideal for creating a peaceful atmosphere, enhancing your meditation practice and overall well-being.