What is a hang?
The hang, hang drum, handpan or tam drum is an idiophone percussion musical instrument. This means that its sound is produced by the vibration of its own body when it is struck, in this case with the hands. It differs from membranophone percussion (drums, timpani, etc.) in that it does not have a membrane (drumhead) to generate the sound. In addition, the hang falls under the classification of a melodic instrument since it can produce musical notes and scales when struck, like a xylophone.
Now, this is such a complete instrument that it produces not only a specific musical note, but a three-note chord. For example, the C major chord is made up of the C-E-E-G triad. When you strike the surface of the hang that produces the C sound, you will actually hear the C chord but in the form of overtones.
History and evolution
The first impression we have of this metal percussion instrument is that it originated or is inspired by the Asian continent. But nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, its predecessor is the steelpan, steeldrum or metal drums of Trinidad and Tobago, created in the early to mid-20th century.
It was Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer who shaped the first hang drum. This happened in 1999 in the province of Bern, Switzerland, when they created the first of these instruments for their company PANArt, based on the trinitense steelpan. The name “hang” means “hand” in the Bernese dialect.
Evolution of the hang or handpan
- First generation: it lasted for four years and its main characteristic was that it was able to provide a large number of musical scales. This made it very similar in sound to the steelpan and so they decided to make some modifications.
- Second generation: emerged in 2005 and its main feature was a lower sound. For this reason, it was called low hang and various materials such as steel, copper and brass were also experimented with, in addition to the characteristic bronze of the first generation.
- Third generation: this was called integral hang, in which the multiple scales were abandoned to adopt only the D minor scale. This represented the end of the generations created by the PANArt company, but the beginning of a deeper evolution guided by other companies.
- Fourth generation: we call fourth generation the series of instruments manufactured following the basics of the original hang drum. However, these vary in shape because, due to patent reasons, the same morphological design could no longer be used. This fourth generation began to include reeds instead of moles to recognize the location of musical notes. The shape of the instrument changed from an inverted dish to an oblate spheroid known as a steel tongue drum. This name change was also due to intellectual property rights.
- Fifth generation: the most recent of all. It has experimented with multiple forms of reeds, as well as with various types of natural scales: major, minor, diatonic, chromatic, pentatonic, Asian, Arabic and many more.
This is an instrument fundamentally made of metal. We can find it in stainless steel, bronze, copper, monel, among other varieties of these same materials, but with different alloy mixtures.
They have an oblate or oblong spheroid shape. There are also traditional flying saucer designs. The tonal areas also have different shapes, such as polka dots or tongues of different lengths.
At present, the hand drum only covers a single musical scale and in one octave. However, there are options in all major and minor scales, you just can't have them all in one hang. It is also found in diatonic and chromatic scales, as well as in the harmonic and melodic scales of the theoretical minor and major scales.
Colors and aesthetics
The colors that a hand pan can present in are almost countless, as well as the aesthetic engravings or carvings.
How to play the hang
As the shape and tuning of this instrument has evolved, so has the way it is played. For example, it was initially created to be played with bare hands, but in the second decade of the 21st century, wooden and felt-tipped mallets began to be used.
- Bare hand: this is the traditional way of doing it and with which the cleanest sound is achieved in the instrument. The main characteristic of this sound is the clarity and cleanliness of the harmonics. It is also the best way to take advantage of the sound by friction or “rubbing” of the palm of the hand on the surface of the instrument.
- Hand with glove: this is a fairly recent way of playing the handpan, which achieves less resonance in the harmonics and a more nasal sound. Friction with the palm of the hand also acquires less sonority, but this way of playing is quite popular among feng shui practitioners.
- With mallet: represents the most recent way of playing the hang drum and is used to achieve a more percussive sound. In addition, this shape achieves greater volume but to the detriment of naturalness. Wooden, cork and felt-tipped mallets can be used, offering different nuances of sound.
Bare hand techniques
- Thumb strike: This is the most widespread. A blow with the proximal phalanx is used. The joint between the metacarpal and the proximal phalanx is also usually tapped to achieve greater volume.
- Fingernail tapping: this is a form used to make rain-drip type harmonics with little volume. It is widely used as it offers a beautiful harmonic grace.
- Slap: in this technique, the phalanges of the index, middle, ring and little fingers are used. The stroke can be with all fingers at the same time or also in the form of tempo subdivisions, such as triplets (three strokes within the time of two quarter notes) by dropping the ring, middle and index fingers simultaneously. It is also used in the form of a quatrain (four beats within the time of three quarter notes) by dropping the little finger, ring finger, middle finger and index finger. These subdivisions are also used with the nail punch.
- Clot: this is a technique in which two notes are played at the same time to create a dissonant sound. The way to achieve it in the handpan is by a blow with the phalanges of the middle finger and the tenar eminence of the palm. Both blows are with the same hand.
- Friction or rubbing: this is a difficult technique to achieve because initially only the rubbing is heard but not the harmonics. To achieve the latter, it is necessary to dedicate a good amount of time to practice.
- Percussion: only strikes without producing harmonics or musical notes. It is a way to achieve a rhythmic but atonal percussive self-accompaniment.
- Coscorrón: is another way of producing harmonics and percussion accompaniment.
Most of these techniques can be achieved with mallets, except for rubbing and percussive accompaniment. This is because, with mallets, harmonics will always be produced, However, the most advisable way to play this instrument is with bare hands, since with them the greatest variety of possible sound variations can be achieved.
The best hang interpreters
- Sam Maher: Australian musician specializing in percussion instruments. He stands out for his creativity with the hang drum or hand pan.
- Kabeção: his real name is Carlos Rodrigues and he is a multi-instrumentalist musician who stands out for creating complex harmonies and enveloping rhythms.
- Yuki Koshimoto: hand drum virtuoso who has taken her music overflowing with spirituality and peace all over the world.
- Reo Matsumoto: has consolidated the use of this instrument within the mystic musical culture of Japan, as well as combining it masterfully with beatboxing and diphonic singing performed by himself.
- Manu Delago: percussion expert from Austria who has developed an exceptional compositional ability on the hang drum. He is by far the most scholarly and prolific developer of musical harmony with this instrument.
- David Kuckhermann: the only handpan composer to have been nominated for a Grammy Award. It competed in the 61st edition (2019) in the Best New Age Album category.
The best Handpan on the market:
- Asian Sound HAPI Drum Mini D-Akebono
- Asian Sound HAPI Drum D-Moll Pentatonic
- Thomann Nataraj tongue 16″ E-Pygmy
- Liquid Light Acoustics Perseus “Polaris”/Thomann Ed
- Metal Sounds Zenko Drum ZEN01 ionian
- Terre Handpan Moon Hijaz D
- RAV Vast RAV Pan D Major
The best handpans on the market
Asian Sound HAPI Drum Mini D-Akebono
Excellent construction quality.
It's not tuned exactly at 440 bpm.
- Materials: antique copper.
- Sound: 7 out of 10.
- Measurements: 20.5 cm in diameter and 13.97 cm deep.
- Weight: 1.7 kg.
HAPI has become one of the most reliable companies in the handpan market and this D-tuned model is one of its great proposals. By observing its characteristics and the sound it emits, we can understand why it's so appreciated by users.
This is a handpan made entirely of bronze, one of the best materials for creating percussive instruments that emit musical notes in the form of harmonics. Its main characteristic is its great capacity as a resonator. In its standard format it has an elasticity of 10.3 N/m2, so it's considered medium range. Nevertheless, it's the one that best achieves the musical sounds.
It's not a standardized bronze ingot, but a 0.3 mm thick sheet. This means that its elasticity is greater, to the point of achieving a higher acoustic capacity.
This hang instrument is different from the originals. Instead of having a flying saucer-like shape, it has an oblate spheroid design. Another significant difference is the resonator shafts, which are not shaped like sound-emitting moles, but have semi-rectangular reeds. This shape of the reeds is a variation that offers a more linear vibration and therefore the sound is less vibrating.
Harmonically, it's provided with eight musical notes: re, mi, fa, la, la#, re', mi, fa. These are the ones that belong to the D minor scale. In addition, the bottom of the Hapi drum has four anti-vibration rubber bands to keep it suspended above the ground and allow for a better sound.
Some users have reported that the tuning is slightly above the standard 440Hz. This means that when you play it accompanied by other harmonic and melodic instruments, a trained ear can sense something different in the sound. However, it can be used with other percussion, harmonic and melodic instruments that have better control of the composition.
Either way, the sound is an aural delight, because it maintains an exceptional balance between volume and the minor scale. Thanks to the shape of the reeds, you can make the sounds corresponding to the harmonic and melodic minor scale. These have a balance that creates transitions rich in musicality.
The base note of the minor scale is audible and is not overshadowed by the fifth and octave harmonics. Now, the sound of the just fifth one over the natural is excellent. Likewise, the sound of the tonic harmonic but in its octave over 12 is the great attraction and you will surely love the amalgam of sounds you will find.
It's an excellent choice for feng shui practitioners and those who like new age sounds, thanks to the Asian influence that can be felt with each musical note. In addition, its small size makes it the ideal companion for your yoga sessions, or to keep in your living room as a beautiful and functional accessory. Find the best prices at thomann.
Asian Sound HAPI Drum D-Moll Pentatonic
The sound of the pentatonic scale is perfect.
A bit expensive.
- Materials: stainless steel.
- Sound: 10 out of 10.
- Dimensions: 30.48 cm in diameter and 20.32 cm deep.
- Weight: 5.44 kg.
HAPI offers this musical instrument tuned in one of the most enveloping scales in the musical world. Moreover, it does so using one of the least expected materials of all, thus achieving a very atypical and enigmatic result.
Percussion and harmony instruments are generally made of bronze or copper. But this hang has been built in stainless steel. Despite popular belief, steel is not a rigid and inflexible metal. Instead, it happens to be a metal with the highest modulus of elasticity in the world: 19.5 in Young's modulus. This is why it's very vibrant, and why it had not been used to manufacture this type of instrument. Nevertheless, the result achieved by HAPI is pleasantly-surprising.
Likewise, it not only has a higher vibratory capacity, but also a higher durability than copper or bronze. And because it's stainless steel, water and sweat won't inflict any damage.
The first thing that stands out in the design of this Hapi drum is the scale of the reeds: the D minor pentatonic, the most versatile pentatonic scale of all. It can be used to play pieces in D minor, C major, G major, E minor, F major and A minor. On the other hand, the reeds do not have the standard rounded tip design, but a semi-rectangular shape, which influences the acoustics.
In terms of shape, this hangdrum also departs from the traditional flying saucer design and opts for the oblate-type spheroid. This allows for a rounder and slower distribution of sound, compared to the conventional shape.
Because it's made of stainless steel, this is a more vibrant handpan than conventional ones. In addition, the sound is less sharp and accentuates notes with a lower frequency.
The reeds produce the notes re3, fa3, sol3, la3, la3, do4, re4, fa4 and la4, but the color is a little more opaque not only because of the elasticity of the stainless steel, but also because of the paint finish. This makes for a creamy, somewhat heavy but quite harmonic sound that is great for music therapy sessions.
Regarding the transition from the D minor pentatonic scale, this handpan makes a leap in the second note extension, from F4 to A4. This allows a greater extension to be used where the sol4 can be achieved by using a double tap of the phalanges of the middle finger and the tenar eminence of the palm.
Overall, this is a hang with exciting harmonics and a slow but enveloping reverb. In addition, the volume is powerful thanks to the medium-sized soundboard.
HAPI has not only experimented, but has also hit the mark with its handpans that do not follow the standard of percussive and harmony instruments. This particular model is an excellent choice for music lovers and amateurs who want a versatile tool to accompany other harmony instruments in at least five different scales. Interested? Find the best prices at thomann.
Thomann Nataraj tongue 16″ E-Pygmy
It has a powerful and deep sound.
- Materials: stainless steel.
- Sound: 9 out of 10.
- Measurements: 40.64 cm in diameter and 13.97 cm deep.
- Weight: 4.2 kg.
Thomann is not satisfied with just offering all kinds of instruments, such as guitars, drums, pianos and other less common ones. It also atypical instruments within its stock, such as the hang. And this is one with a much more affordable price than the competition. Let's see what it has to offer .
Thomann seeks to reduce costs, to offer this instrument at half the price of the competition. This is achieved thanks to its stainless steel construction without bronze or copper alloy, which may slightly affect the quality.
Its elasticity is much higher and reaches 20.5 Young's modulus, making it more vibrant and resonant than any other competing handpan. However, it also makes it more resistant to damage or deformities that may ensue due to unwanted shocks.
The Thomann Nataraj Tongue 16″ E-pygmy doesn't follow the traditional tone resonator polka dot design. But it also doesn't have the semi-rectangle shape of previous examples, and instead opts for conventional tabs. This helps vary the way the sound vibrations spread.
As far as tuning is concerned, this is a hang drum in E minor. This means that the third degree is a minor third. It also omits the fourth degree of the scale to give a kind of pentatonic.
The only drawback is that the tuning reaches 443 Hz. This is slightly higher than the standard 440 Hz and, therefore, would not be fully in tune with other harmonic and melodic instruments. Now, the extra vibration of the unalloyed stainless steel, along with the rounded edge tabs, offers a much more spatial feel than the semi-rectangular tabs. This is very good because the harmonics are more audible due to the slower displacement.
The degree notes in the E minor scale are: E3, F#3, G3, B3, B3, D4, E4, F#4, G4, B4 and D5. On the other hand, we must say that this hang is better played with mallets than with bare hands. The sound is more harmonious, with greater sustain and has an enigmatic echo. Also, the volume is higher than the competition, although the sound quality is much creamier and almost slippery.
Thomann has succeeded in creating a handpan that delivers what it promises at the best price point on the market. The only bad thing is the tuning at 443 Hz. However, this is entirely intentional as the goal is to emulate the traditional hang drum. If you are a harmonic percussion lover, you have to buy this hang. Also, if you are a fan of feng shui and meditation, this instrument will facilitate those moments of relaxation. Want to find the best deal? Follow this link.
Liquid Light Acoustics Perseus “Polaris”/Thomann Ed
Exceptional design and sound.
- Materials: stainless steel.
- Sound: 10 out of 10.
- Measurements: 40 cm in diameter by 20 cm deep.
- Weight: 6 kg.
This hand drum has a totally unique design. The first thing we may think is that this is only an aesthetic aspect, but that is not the case. The first notes heard on it are the ones that mark a before and after in everything we know about this instrument. Read on to find out what we mean.
This is a tam drum made of AISI 304 stainless steel, according to the physical characteristics observed on its surface. This metal is softer than other steels and is therefore more flexible. In addition, its ability to resist corrosion is higher and the elasticity reaches 22.5 in Young's modulus. Consequently, the acoustics are of a higher quality.
Here you will learn everything that makes this handpan different. Not only is it designed with an oblate spheroid shape, but the shape of its tabs is completely different from any other hangdrum on the market. These have a lanceolate leaf shape with three insertions: one in the center and two at the ends.
This design causes vibrations to travel in three directions simultaneously: toward the center of the spheroid, to the right and to the left. There are also from two to twenty-two holes in the different reeds to guarantee perfect tuning. In addition, they create a vertical sound leakage.
In other words, the design of the reeds allows sound to be distributed in all directions in which the hearing apparatus works. Thus, the sound spectrum we capture is the widest of any hang available on the market.
It's tuned in C major but has several accidentals and omitted notes. In addition, it has eleven reeds for eleven different degrees of tonality.
Basically, its tuning is the standard 440 Hz and the scale used for the reeds is an original creation. The manufacturer calls it “Ursa Minor” and it's composed of the notes do / sol, sol#, do, re, re#, re#, fa, sol, sol#, do and re. This arrangement gives it total versatility and you can accompany other harmonic instruments working on any major and minor scale.
Furthermore, the design of the reeds allows the sound to offer the base note and also four harmonics. One of them is the fifth of C3, which would be G3, as well as G4 and its twelfth, G12. The same occurs with do3, which produces the octave do4 and the twelfth do12.
Thanks to this, the ear perceives a shower of great and perfectly tuned harmonics. In addition, and due to the vibration distribution, the reverb and sustain are a total blast. You can enjoy all of its sound potential in the following link.
This harmonic percussion instrument is one of a kind. Its quality is unquestionable, and it's the ideal accompaniment for expert percussionists. Also, if you want to buy a hang for music therapy or simply love spiritual sounds, this will be an excellent purchase. To check out the best price at Thomann, follow the link.
Metal Sounds Zenko Drum ZEN01 ionian
Versatile and high quality sound.
The tabs are somewhat small
- Materials: stainless steel, bronze.
- Sound: 10 out of 10.
- Measures: 32 cm in diameter and 13 cm deep.
- Weight: 2.8 kg.
Metal Sounds is a young brand that has dedicated itself to the manufacture of handpans that present traditional features with modern aspects, and that make them stand out. This is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to get their hands on a high quality hang.
This hang drum uses traditional brass, which offers great durability against corrosion and high speed acoustic characteristics in the bell. It also has stainless steel on the bottom to create a high quality sound cushion. This synergy between both materials results in a musical instrument with great resistance to fractures and dents, as well as a sound response of great value for professional musicians.
Maintains the traditional flying saucer shape. This is why its diameter of 32 cm is large in relation to its depth of 13 cm. This makes it different from all those described above not only in form, but also in sound action.
However, despite its traditional shape, it doesn't have polka dots but curved tabs. This is the design most commonly used by manufacturers today, as it offers a higher quality acoustic response. However, these are somewhat small and this can make execution difficult.
Regarding its tuning, it's the ionian scale with eight notes and a single note repeated in the octave: A3, C4, D, E, F, G, A, B, B, C5. This makes it one of the most versatile handpans on the market, as well as one of the most affordable.
Finally, it has a support ring made of steel that allows it to be placed on a base without affecting the sound quality.
Its tuning at 440 Hz is perfect and adjusts to perfectly accompany all types of harmonic and melodic instruments. The volume is ideal for meditation sessions because it's not shrill and maintains an appropriate level on all reeds.
Another thing that pleases us is that it has a sound that is totally different from all those described above. The sound is dark, creamy, doughy, even feels slow but not at all heavy. On the other hand, the harmonics have an impressive agility and thanks to their wide vibration, each one of them is perceptible.
We love it because it's possible to visualize the movement of the sound as if we were watching the acoustic waves moving. This effect is not at all easy to achieve and is largely beneficial for Erik Mongrain-style new age lovers.
We find a hang drum different in form and sound, as it captures the best of both tradition and modernism, and continues to evolve. We love the grace in the variations of its sound and find it to be a complete and well-finished instrument. Find the best price at Thomann.
You can find other versions of this Metal Sound. The Metal Sounds Zenko Drum ZEN02 penta C is tuned in C major pentatonic. The Metal Sounds Zenko Drum ZEN03 akebono is an excellent choice tuned in G minor harmonic. Similarly, the Metal Sounds Zenko Drum ZEN04 equinox uses the G major scale with minor seventh added. You can also find other great proposals in C major harmonic with minor seventh and minor second, in B minor harmonic and in C minor.
Terre Handpan Moon D-Moll
Traditional sound and impressive power.
- Materials: copper, bronze and stainless steel.
- Sound: 10 out of 10.
- Measurements: 55 cm diameter with 24 cm depth.
- Weight: 5 kg.
Now we come to the traditional hang drums that have the best sound and build quality of all. Here we enter a dimension only comparable to the sound effects of the movie Doctor Strange. Let's see what this handpan has to offer.
In this instrument we find the union of three impressive metals: bronze, copper and 304 stainless steel in the back of the instrument. The latter, in addition to providing superior durability and broad-spectrum elastic properties, has an acoustic capacity that balances perfectly with the rest of the metals used.
It's a traditional handpan in the shape of a flying saucer. It's tuned in the D Hijaz scale, which is one of the most used Arabic scales. In this sense, it has the notes D3, A3, D4, D#4, D#4, F#4, G4, A4, C5 and D5. In other words, it covers a wider area than all the handpans described above.
The shape in the tone areas is in the form of polka dots, like the first hang drums created in Sweden. This model is one of the most difficult with which to achieve a solid sound, but once you do, you will get the best sound quality.
In terms of sound, the Terra house handpan is full and dynamic thanks to its three-octave scale. With them you can achieve modulations rich in nuances, but also with excellent sonorous movement due to the D Hijaz scale.
This is one of the most used Arabic scales in new age and oriental music. This hang is one of the most used by professional musicians, as it achieves harmonics in three different extensions. The sustain also contributes greatly to achieving a balanced sound with great volume. In addition, the reverb is responsible for making the three available harmonic ranges perceptible.
This manufacturer creates really expensive hang drums, but we must admit that they are worth every euro invested. However, this is not an instrument for amateurs, but for professionals dedicated to meditation and professional new age music. The sound is solid, round and balanced, while its construction is exceptional. Interested? Find the best price at Thomann.
Sela Harmony Handpan D Amara 202
The sound is dark and warm, with excellent harmonics.
- Materials: nitrogen steel.
- Sound: 10 out of 10.
- Measurements: 58 cm in diameter by 28 cm deep.
- Weight: 4 .8 kg
RAV is another major manufacturer of handpans, and this is one of their pieces for professional percussionists. This series in particular is special thanks to the high quality of its sound, which overflows with a resonant, deep and warm capacity that is first class and difficult to find in the competition. Let's see what it's all about.
Its drum is metallic and created with high-density nitrided steel that is capable of withstanding the most severe conditions. This steel is the most resistant to shocks, dents, and the least elastic of all. Its resistance is 120 kilograms per square millimeter.
This means that the probability of you damaging it is almost zero, even if you throw it from a second floor. On the other hand, its elasticity makes it one of the least vibrant hangdrums on the market, but with one of the warmest sounds and the deepest and most dynamic harmonics you can find.
The metal drum of this hang has a traditional shape. It's not the heaviest in this comparison but it does have the largest soundboard relative to its depth measurement.
It's tuned to 440 Hz and in the RAV scale in D major. This is one of the scales created to customize the sound of the hand pan and features the notes re, sol, la, la, si, do#1, re1, mi1, fa#1 and la1. Consequently, its range of action is limited to two octaves of natural notes, two octave harmonics and two twelfth harmonics. The design of the percussive areas is also traditional and is an ideal combination to achieve the very refined sound it possesses.
Being made of high density nitrided steel and with larger sizes than the competition, this handpan is a very responsive instrument at low and mid frequencies. Each of its notes is perceived with great clarity and strength, because the volume is excellent and greater than in other hangs. Thanks to this, you can use it to play in large areas and even to perform outdoors.
The scale has a spectrum that seems narrow. However, if you consider the shape of moles in harmonic areas, you can achieve even more dissonant sounds with the double stroke technique. The sustain is clear and not very long lasting, but the reverb is differentiated and of high acoustic quality. It's delightful for playing oriental pieces or new age music.
This hang is what every professional musician is looking for to create electrifying and dynamic sounds, but with an air of tradition that evokes the most beautiful landscapes of Asia and the regions of Central Africa. If you are a professional percussionist who plays handpan, this instrument is an option you should definitely consider. Find the best price at Thomann.
We recommend you check our culturasonora page. There you will find reviews of all kinds of musical instruments, such as guitars, drums and even timpani.
|Asian Sound HAPI Drum Mini D-Akebono||antique copper||20,5 x 13,97 cm||1,7 kg||7 out of 10|
|Asian Sound HAPI Drum D-Moll Pentatonic||stainless steel||30,48 x 20,32 cm||5,44 kg||10 out of 10|
|Thomann Nataraj tongue 16″ E-Pygmy||stainless steel||40,64 x 13,97 cm||4,2 kg||9 out of 10|
|Liquid Light Acoustics Perseus «Polaris»/Thomann Ed||stainless steel||40 x 20 cm||6 kg||10 out of 10|
|Metal Sounds Zenko Drum ZEN01 ionian||stainless steel, bronze||32 x 13 cm||2,8 kg||10 out of 10|
|Terre Handpan Moon Hijaz D||copper, bronze and stainless steel||55 x 24 cm||5 kg||10 out of 10|
|RAV Vast RAV Pan D Major||nitrogen steel||58 x 28 cm||4,8 kg||10 out of 10|