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Handpan and Hang Drum History

Handpan is a musical instrument that captivates the listener with a strong hypnotic draw and has different vibe and scales of mystery to its tone. This instrument remains elusive in its acquisition and has been described by the Atlantic as a cross between a flying saucer and a caveman tool. It drew its origins from the steel drum family emulating the traditional steel pans of the Caribbean Islands. Initially, the handpan was recognized as the “hang” – a word that means “hand” in Bernese German dialect due to the fact that the instrument was played by hand. In other terms, it can be referred as a term used for a group of unique musical instruments that has resulted from a growing worldwide interest in the Hang.


How did this instrument originate?

The heritage of this instrument originates in Bern, Switzerland where Felix Rohner and Sabina Schårer constructed this multifaceted instrument called Hang. Felix Rohner was the first prominent player of a musical instrument called the Trinidad Steel drum which received its first recognition in Europe in the early 70s. With a clear understanding of steel drum, he and his business partner Sabrina Scharer established PanArt, a company well known for creating dented musical instruments in the year 1990. It was not until the year 2001, when Felix and Sabrina officially introduced Hang in Musikmesse Frankfurt in Germany.

This presentation led to the popularization of the hang drum musical instrument for its mysterious and beautiful tone as well as its unique scales. However, the creators did not mass produce it and as a result it was only available in a limited number each year. This is because they saw the tool as an artistic and imaginative creation and not something that can be easily sold around the world. It was for this reason that different versions began to erupt from Europe and United States by other instrument makers in the year 2007. These models were referred to as the “handpan” and not “hang” as initially recognized. There are now over 100 makers of handpan in the world with varying degrees of objective ad subjective quality.

In order to maintain the originality of this unique instrument, Felix and Sabrina made a policy where potential customers who wanted to purchase the instrument had to present a hand-written letter explaining why they needed the tool. In the year 2013, PanArt stopped making the instrument in order to preserve the value, mystique and elusiveness of this distinctive musical instrument. They said that the Hang belongs to the flow of the gift and is not a tool to be put in a shop window.


What makes the handpan and the hang different?

Hang was created and its inventors trademarked the name Hang and took legal rights over it under PanArt. As a result, handpan became the name of every other instrument makers in the United States, in Europe and any other place in the world. The name “Hang” is only limited to instruments created by PanArt whereas the name “handpan” refers to any other type of hang drum type or steel pan created by instrument makers other than the PanArt.

In addition, the handpan also known as hand drum is made from a 55 gallon industrial drum and can only be played with the help of a panstick. On the other hand, the hangdrum is made from nitrated sheets of steel and it can be played without the help of any other additional items.


Is a hang and hangdrum the same item?

Although “hangdrum” is term commonly used by most people verbally to refer to a hang, the original makers maintain that the title of the musical instrument should be hang in order to maintain their brand of the handpan.


Music played with a hand drum.

This instrument is often described with a mystical sound with intergrated overtones which are known to have a positive effect on body and mind. Many musicians have used this tool in festivals, concerts and events with a variety of other instruments to make electronic music or a laid back chill out music.


How is this tool played?

The quality of the handpan and its ability to entertain the audience and its specialist is a great gift to the musical community. Many people all over the world have tried to understand the mystery behind this instrument as well as to know how to play it. As it continues to gain popularity and resonate with different cultures all over the world, many people are beginning to appreciate its abilities. In order to get the best out of this tool, you need to learn how to hit it the right way. You are required to shut off everything that threatens your peace and through calmness and a gentle touch this magical instrument brings out resonating and captivating sounds. You can only bring the best out of this tool through a gentle, calm and soft touch.

When it comes to creating music and melodies with the handpan, there is no strict rule; you just need to pour your tender soul in what you are playing and you will be amazed to learn how this intuitive instruments interprets the sounds. You do not need a musical training to play this tool.


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