If you are still wondering what instrument to choose, we invite you to look at our blog on how to choose your handpan. In this article, we will go a little more into details to help you find a good quality instrument.
First, it is important for you to go for an instrument that will provide quick learning if you don’t have a good knowledge about music. However, with handpan (hang drum) there are not real mistakes due to the intuitivity of this instrument. Be sure to choose an harmonious handpan with a good tune that can last over time and follow you in your adventures.
To choose a quality handpan, why not start looking at the making of the instrument. Do you want to purchase a handcrafted or industrial instrument ? You can also wonder where is the handpan made. These are details but it can always be interesting for you to know who are the makers. Also make sure to ear the instrument and the scale you have selected through online videos or even better try it directly.
The tuning is the first point. Without a good tuning, it will be difficult to obtain a beautiful sound. If a handpan is not tuned properly it will sound raucous and unpleasing. Each note should be tuned with a fundamental, octave, and compound fifth pitches.
In order to be tunable, the metal have to maintain high compressive in-plane stresses. Tuning these frequencies is made possible by creating several consistent modes of vibration in the note. These vibration are created by careful shaping of the note itself.
Very basic but essential you need to carefully listen the sound made by the handpan. Does it sound clear or metallic? If it sounds too metallic this is not a good point. The metal material should not cover the note you are playing. This is an important and easy criteria to verify. So be sure not hear the metal material too much and to have a pure sound.
The instrument also need to be well balanced. Each note on your handpan should have the same tone, volume, tuning, sustain time and clearness.
What makes a great handpan is the possibility to not only play the notes but also various percussive sounds. When playing, you will gradually improve and learn new technics. Slaps and pitch bends need to sound great in order to cover all the aspect of this instrument. These percussive sounds will enlarge your possibilities and make your sounds more beautiful.
A good handpan must have a good sustain. By sustain, we mean the time the note last after striking it. Of course some handpan sustains are longer than others depending on the maker's preference. Let's say that the sustain must be at least 5 seconds. So if you find a handpan instrument that doesn’t sustain the note and quickly vanishes forget about it. Playing it will be very hard and the combination of the notes won’t be as beautiful.
The dynamic range describes the ratio of the softest sound to the loudest sound in a musical instrument. This is important to vary your style and technic while playing.
If you want to play softly or hardly depending of your music construction this is very important. If the notes differ clearly regarding your style and do not saturate when playing louder this is good. You will then have a good amplitude of dynamics and volume. To make sure the handpan has a good range of dynamics, try to play on it softly and then louder.
The stability of the notes have also to be taken into consideration. Stability is the ability of a note to stay in tune despite outside factors such as heavy strikes, changes of temperature, or just time.
The handpan must have the least “crosstalk” possible, meaning the least interference possible between notes. When playing a note, its vibration must enter as little as possible in resonance with another.
Some of these interactions can be good and some not so much. This could look something like two pitches a half step apart interacting with each other.
So remember, when there is the crosstalk or lots of activation among notes, it is in general not the best handpan choice to do.
On the long run, you don't want your precious instrument to become a scrap of metal. In order to avoid rust and a deterioration of the handpan, most makers are now using corrosion resistant metals. Stainless, nitrited and ember steels are a good way to be ensured that your handpan will go in time. If the handpan you choose is made of raw steel, you will have to carefuly take car of it depending the climate and the sweat.
To identify a good handpan, this one should have each note with the same timbre, consistency, duration of sustain, stability and volume. Some cases are different but to have a general idea this is a good start.