Buying a Handpan – Things to consider

In our Handpan Store in Mainz, in our Online Shop or at one of our Workshop partner near you, you have the possibility to try out handpans of different manufacturers, materials and scales, to rent or to buy directly.

Compare and play different handpans in a relaxed atmosphere and take the right instrument directly home - without any waiting time. Last but not least, buying a handpan is an emotional thing. Preferences often emerge only after the first listening and comparison.

You can't decide or you are still unsure? We also offer the following services to help you find your Handpan:

Rent a handpan

If you don't want to buy a Handpan right away, we offer the possibility to rent an instrument of your choice – if you decide to buy the instrument, we will charge 100% of the rental costs with the purchase price. So you have even more peace and time to decide.

Money back guarantee and exchange

We offer all customers a 14-day money back guarantee or the option to exchange your Handpan for another model within 30 days! Because: We want you to be satisfied in the long run after your Handpan purchase!

You should pay attention to this when buying:

Like a piano, all handpans need to be retuned sooner or later.

So when you buy, always make sure that the seller offers a re-tuning service. This often involves time-consuming shipping to the manufacturer and high costs.

That's why we offer this re-tuning service for all handpans purchased from our store!

You can find out everything you need to know about Handpan retuning here.

History of the Hang® and Handpan

The handpan market has changed rapidly in the last 10 years. While there were only about 30-40 handpan manufacturers worldwide in only about 30-40 handpan manufacturers, there are now over 300. This has made the Handpan more accessible and you no longer have to wait years and spend thousands of dollars to own a good Handpan. At PanArt, the inventor of the Hang®, you even had to apply in writing for a Hang® - and not everyone was lucky enough to get one.

Despite the rapid increase in handpan manufacturers, there are great differences in quality and price. As you have probably already noticed, almost all handpans are the same in terms of external shape - but not in sound!

Usually handpans from Europe are more expensive than from Asia. Among Asian manufacturers, in addition to many poorly tuned Handpan, there are now also some manufacturers who can keep up well with European quality standards. However, it should not be forgotten that a Handpan occasionally needs to be repaired or retuned, similar to a piano. This can become more costly if there is no re-tuning service available locally and the handpans have to be shipped back and forth (via customs) to Asia.

What are the main quality differences in a handpan or what distinguishes a good handpan?

  • The most important quality feature of a Handpan is that the notes are well tuned and, if handled properly, the Handpan will last for at least 2-3 years and not go out of tune.
  • In addition to the fundamental, each note has 2 other harmonics tuned to it, the fifth and octave. Thus, a tone field consists of 3 notes.
  • There is no crosstalk between notes, i.e. the notes are well "isolated" from each other and one note does not activate the adjacent note. This is to be distinguished from "sympathetic crosstalk", where, for example, a note from a lower octave (e.g. C3) activates the same note in a higher octave (e.g. C4). The sympathetic crosstalk can be perceived as pleasant, while others find it annoying. Sound is a matter of taste!
  • Each note on the outer circle should sound the same no matter where you strike it (except in the middle on the "dimple").
  • The top and bottom of a handpan must be glued together: some manufacturers use a quick-setting glue that can come off faster than an adhesive that takes several days to dry.

What distinguishes a good handpan from a very good handpan?

  • Tone color: Depending on the manufacturing process and tuning procedure, some handpan manufacturers differ significantly in tone color from others. The origin of the Hang® or the Handpan comes from the Steel Drums. Steel drums sound very metallic. Therefore, it has become accepted in the handpan scene that a good handpan should not sound metallic, but warm and soft. And, of course, it is an art to create a non-metallic sound from metal! However, sound is subjective and if you like the metallic sound, there is of course nothing against it.
  • Dynamics: The sound fields of a handpan should already sound good and clean when played VERY lightly or quietly. When playing harder, the sound fields should not "overdrive" or start to "scream". A very good handpan will give you the widest possible range of dynamics to play very softly and also louder.
  • Balance between notes: All notes of a handpan should be "balanced", i.e. attack dynamics, timbre, sustain and sound volume are equally harmonious for all notes.

Handpans price differences?

  • As with almost all instruments and products, there are well-known and unknown manufacturers. And even with handpans, there are well-known "brand name" manufacturers that are overpriced and often not in good tune - the handpans are usually purchased cheaply and then resold expensively with a well-known brand label.
  • Number of notes: The more notes a handpan has, the more expensive it is (from the same manufacturer). A handpan with many notes is more difficult to balance, avoid crosstalk and other annoying interferences - that's why there are only a few manufacturers who build good handpan mutants or handpans with many bottom notes.
  • With some Handpan manufacturers, stainless steel handpans are more expensive than nitrided handpans because stainless steel is harder to work with.
  • A handpan with very low notes is more expensive than one that is tuned higher. Lower notes have to be tuned longer, because the tone fields are larger.
  • Most manufacturers build on a material thickness of 1.0mm, only a few build on 1.2mm. The thicker material is harder to machine and therefore usually more expensive. The sound of 1.2mm is less rich in overtones, most feel the sound is softer with 1.0mm steel.

Unfortunately, the service of many Handpanis not reflected in the price - because many online stores and music stores often do not offer a retuning service, should your Handpan go out of tune or need repair.

Structure of the Handpan

handpan-fachbegriffe

The basic shape of the Handpan is based on the Hang®. It consists of two circular metal shells, which are joined together. The top consists of a central tone field, called "Ding" (the lowest tone in the center) and usually 7-10 oval tone fields on the outer circle. On most instruments, the "ding" is curved outward/upward and the center of the remaining tone fields the "dimple" inward. In the center of the bottom is the "Gu (hole)" from which the sound comes out.

Die Noten im Außenkreis sind im Zick Zack angeordnet
Die Noten im Außenkreis sind im Zick Zack angeordnet
handpan-skala

Unlike the piano, where all notes are available, on the handpan you are limited to a few notes. While Hang® by PANArt was built with 8 or 9 notes, there are now also manufacturers who accommodate over 20 (!) notes on a handpan. With a handpan, the notes are not arranged chromatically like a piano, i.e. one semitone step follows the next, but skip several octaves. How many and which notes are obstructed is determined by the scales.

You can find out everything you need to know about handpan scales here.

The choice of steel

Nitrided steel

Nitrided handpans are better suited for percussive, fast playing, e.g. for drummers, djembe or cajon players. They do not resonate as long and are duller in sound. When playing faster, the notes are more clearly separated or the notes do not "mix" so much, because the sound dies away more quickly after being struck.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel handpans are built by only a few manufacturers worldwide. Compared to nitrided steel, stainless steel resonates much longer(sustain), is fuller in sound and more sensitive in touch. For beginners, stainless steel handpans are also easier to play. More and more often they are also used in sound therapy and yoga! Stainless steel is an innovation in handpans, the Original Hang® were built using only nitrided steel.

Frequency: 440 Hz and 432 Hz

Almost all handpans are tuned to 440Hz.

So if you decide to use a handpan in 432Hz, you will most likely not be able to play together with others. That is a fact! The same applies to other instruments, such as piano or instruments that you cannot tune yourself - a handpan in 432Hz is not compatible with them. Handpans in 432Hz are therefore a niche, but if you still decide to buy a handpan in 432Hz, we can advise you by phone.

Handpan Scales & Sheet Music

With Handpans, there are countless scales, which makes the Handpan purchase so difficult or complex. Each handpan is limited to a certain number of notes, which are "selected" by the manufacturer from all possible notes - accordingly, there are exponentially many possibilities for creating new scales. We delve a little deeper into the topic of handpan scales on this page:

If you're thinking about buying a handpan and you like a video on YouTube, it's always best to write down the name and notes of the scale.

Handpan formats

mini-vs-normal

Minis vs. Normal

Most handpans are made with a diameter of 53 - 56cm, a mini measures about 46 - 48cm. Due to your smaller size, for example, even children can comfortably reach all the notes. In addition, a Mini is perfect as a travel handpan due to its small volume.

mutant

Mutants

Handpans that have additional notes between the outer edge of the notes and the thing are called "mutants".

bottom-notes

Bottom Notes

Bottom notes are additional notes on the bottom of the handpan. With these handpans, it is important to pay attention to proper storage so as not to damage the notes.

The correct use of your handpan

When handling the instrument you should consider a few points:

Avoid heat

It is IMPORTANT to protect the handpan from direct sunlight, i.e. do not leave the handpans in the sun and certainly do not play them, as they can become out of tune (the "pans" get very hot!). If the Handpan does heat up, be sure to let it cool down to room temperature before playing.

Finger only

Do not play with mallets or other objects on the handpan! Only with the fingers!

Ideally, wash your hands before playing, because dirt and sweat are harmful to the instrument and can lead to rust.

Avoid wetness (does not apply to stainless steel Handpans)

Protect the Handpan from moisture and high humidity! I.e. do not store e.g. in the damp cellar; caution also when camping with the morning dew - on so some Handpan festivals there were already so some bad surprises. If your instrument does get wet, wipe it dry immediately with a cloth and store it in a dry place so that the residual moisture from inaccessible areas can evaporate.

No jewelry

Remove rings, watches and other jewelry on hands for play to avoid scratches.

Bags only for transport

Do not store the instrument permanently in a bag or backpack, but only use it for transport, otherwise there is a risk of rust. Steel must breathe.

Maintain

Depending on the manufacturer or material, the handpan must be oiled to protect it from rust.

Alignment

Never place the handpan on the floor with the playing surface (notes) facing down.

Sound

Since handpans are made of steel, the sound may change depending on the temperature. When cold, the metal contracts and the tones become higher; when hot, the metal expands and the tones become duller.

Transport and protection of your instrument

When buying a handpan, you should also find a suitable "transport means" for your handpan. Hard and soft cases are suitable for this purpose. As the name suggests, your instrument is better protected from impacts in a hard case than in a soft case. The soft case has the advantage of being cheaper, lighter and more comfortable to carry. When making your decision, you should consider how often you will be on tour with your instrument and what "conditions or stresses" it will be exposed to. When hiking, a soft case is much more comfortable, on the plane as hand luggage or in a crowded subway, a hard case would be more suitable due to the better protection.

handpan-transport
handpan-pflege

The right care

Almost all handpans and steel tongue drums need regular maintenance to protect them from rust. Most manufacturers recommend Phoenix Handpan oil, coconut oil or even baby oil. You can find out which care product is most suitable from the manufacturer or from us.

As a rule, you should rub the top and bottom of your instrument with a care product and a microfiber cloth every 2-4 weeks. We also recommend wiping the instrument with the same microfiber cloth after each playing to remove sweat and dirt.

Retuning of your handpan

Just like a piano or guitar, all handpans need to be retuned sooner or later. The only question is: how often does a handpan need to be retuned? This essentially depends on the load to which the Handpan is subjected. The biggest stress is direct sunlight but of course how hard you play it.

Handpans purchased at Sound Sculpture Handpan Shop can be retuned directly with us and do not need to be returned to the respective manufacturer. This often saves you time and also unnecessary shipping costs. Of course, your warranty remains intact!

handpan-nachstimmen

Best to try on the spot what is right for you

We advise you in all questions around the topic Handpan and Steel Tongue Drums. In our sound lab in Mainz you have the possibility to test and buy different instruments - without waiting time. We carry a wide range of different manufacturers and scales (tunings) and accessories.