The time has come, you plunge into the adventure! You want to buy your first handpan, but you don't know which one yet and why at all 😋.
We'll help you find your favorite without compromising your wallet. First, we'll help you choose a handpan based on certain criteria, then we'll help you determine the quality of a handpan, and finally we'll teach you some useful vocabulary to get you started. So, here we go!
1) How to choose a handpan?
Choosing a Handpan
The nice thing about handpans is that they are usually built on a diatonic scale, which makes it possible to make good music even without any previous musical knowledge. Or at least it's easy to play a melody without two notes next to each other sounding terribly bad.
> FIRST OF ALL: WHAT IS A SCALE?
The scale itself, any scale, is like a series of steps. A series of notes in a consecutive order. Both major and minor scales usually consist of eight notes. For this reason, the oldest and most popular handpans are eight-note variations.
The eight notes are arranged on the handpan in ascending or descending order, so you can play from left to right as you go up or down the scale. The purpose of the scale is to allow you to build melodies and harmonies as you build your melody or song.
> WHICH IS THE MOST POPULAR SCALE FOR HANDPANS?
The D minor scale is currently the most popular. In fact, this is the first scale that is positively identified by most people who are looking for tangible knowledge about scales for a handpan, and they choose it immediately. Therefore, we recommend this series to you without hesitation!
Many of the oldest and most viewed videos on YouTube are handpans in D minor, which in itself promotes the desire for more knowledge.
Other than that, there are other popular scales that you will often find:
- AmaRa (minor),
- Integral (minor),
- Kurd (minor),
- Pygmy (minor),
- Magic Voyage (minor).
> THE "MAJOR" SCALE
The major scale gives you a sense of happiness and upliftment through music. This is often the most desirable scale for a new handpan player. You want to make happy music first before experimenting with darker sounds and feelings.
> THE "MINOR" SCALE
If you choose a minor scale, you have the perfect handpan for melancholy. Perhaps you want to evoke pensiveness with your melodies. Or maybe you have some melancholy that you want to share with others. A minor scale will give you plenty of coverage in this regard.
How many notes do you want?
Have you taken the time to carefully choose your scale by listening to several hand pans? Now we come to choosing the number of notes on your musical instrument. The number of notes is what determines the scope of the melodic universe you are in with your handpan.
Important: There are different ways to count the number of notes on a handpan. For example, some vendors (like us) write "9 notes" to indicate handpans with 8 notes + the ding (the middle note). Others do not include this middle note and instead write 8 + 1.
HANDPAN WITH 9 OR FEWER NOTES
There are many handpans today with few notes (less than 9 if you count the thing). Remember that few notes does not mean you are quickly limited in the number of notes you can make. In fact, there are many ways to make different sounds with a single note.
For this reason, in our experience, we strongly advise you to buy a handpan with 9 notes. This will help you learn your new instrument quickly. Remember that the handpan is an intuitive instrument that can be played and improvised without any prior knowledge!
HANDPAN WITH 10 OR MORE NOTES
This option is for those who want to discover a broader musical horizon. You will be able to play many melodies while learning more and more techniques. In general, we recommend this option to those who have already played and learned handpan. If you are an advanced or expert player, you should do it!.
The choice of frequency: 432 hertz or 440?
Okay, we're getting a little technical here, but it's very relevant. Most instruments are tuned to 440 Hz, but many handpan players like or would like to tune to 432 Hz. The handpan is a very spiritual instrument. When playing it, you can feel like you are one with nature. There is a belief that 432hz tuning has healing properties. It can calm and connect intrinsically with the vibrations of life and nature.
Nevertheless, we do not advise beginners to buy a handpan with a frequency of 432 Hz. While this frequency has few drawbacks, it will prevent you from playing with other musicians whose instruments are tuned to 440 hertz.
Listen and listen to your preferences
Our tips should serve as a guide for you. That said, you should base your choice primarily on how the different handpans feel. So take the time to listen to YouTube, Facebook groups, or our soundtracks (which you can find on our website) for the handpans that feel best to you.
Playing a handpan should give you a deep sense of well-being, a feeling of relaxation and meditation. Each instrument is unique, just like you. So don't neglect your preferences compared to the advice you find on the Internet.
2) Which is the best handpan?
The best hang drum for beginners is one that will lead you to quick learning success and doesn't require any knowledge of sheet music. It should be easy to handle, harmonious to listen to, and perfectly tuned, but it should also last a long time and accompany you throughout the learning process.
Best Handpan for Beginners
For this reason, many beginners choose our 9-note D minor handpan, a perfect choice if you want to learn to play handpan quickly.
How can you determine the quality of a handpan?
The quality of a handpan is not always easy to hear, but it's also not always easy to feel when you're beginning this new art. When ordering online, be sure to rely on the seller who makes your instrument. Prefer websites with soundtracks. Otherwise, go to a store, then you can better see the condition of the handpan they put in front of you.
1) THE TUNING
We have mentioned the tuning first because it is undoubtedly the most important detail when you choose this percussion instrument. Without a good tuning, it will be difficult to obtain a beautiful sound. Usually, two harmonics (the octave and the fifth) are tuned within the same note. Of course, it is difficult for you as a beginner to judge whether a handpan is tuned correctly. Therefore, we recommend that you seek the advice of an expert!
2) THE MANUFACTURE
The manufacturing of the instrument is also one of the most important points. Ask yourself the following question: how is the instrument I want to buy made? Is it handcrafted or industrially made? Another question is also where it was made. Many people do not trust craftsmen outside the EU, perhaps because of fear of the incompetence of foreign craftsmen, but this is not a criterion you should consider. If the craftsman does his job well, then it does not matter where he is located, he deserves trust. Of course, if you order a Chinese, American or Russian handpan, pay attention to the customs fees and import sales tax. You might be surprised!
3) THE PRICE
The price can actually give you an indication of the quality of your instrument. But beware: a poor quality handpan can also sell for 1500€ or 2000€. So don't be fooled by this alone!
Be sure to read: What does a handpan cost?
Vocabulary you should learn before you begin
Of course, when you talk about community, passion, and an instrument, you have to include the appropriate vocabulary. First of all, you should know that a handpan can have many different names: Hang, Hang Drum, Pantam, Hangpan, Hangpad, Sound Sculpture, Hangpan Drum, Cupola, etc.
All synonyms that include the term "hang" come from the work of the company PANArt (creator of the first instrument), which patented this name and wished that it not be used to define instruments of this family.
Some expressions to know:
- Ding = middle tone of the instrument
- Dimple = depression located in the middle of the different notes.
- Gu = Hole located under the handpan and used to amplify and produce the bass.
- Shoulder tones = The highest harmonics that are tuned and adjusted first compared to the middle tone; they are played at the edge of the note.
- Bottom notes = The set of notes located on the bottom shell.
- Maker / Tuner = The manufacturer who makes the handpan.
3) Is it difficult to play the handpan?
No. The Handpan has the peculiarity that it can be played improvisationally. It is an intuitive instrument that can be played with both hands and mallets. You should always try to keep a certain rhythm in order to create a harmonic melody. Of course, you can speed up or slow down the beats depending on your preference.
If you are wondering how to learn handpan, we strongly recommend you to look around the Internet. You can find a lot of free explanatory videos, but also numerous blog posts and advice in Facebook groups or forums. A large community has formed around Handpan, so it will be easy for you to learn this instrument at your own pace by following the advice of experts.
As you may have noticed, choosing your first handpan is a serious task. Not only do you have to base it on your sound preferences, but you also have to pay attention to various criteria such as the quality, the number of notes or the scale.
You are not in a hurry, so take your time - that's the best advice we can give you to conclude this article 😃.