The PanArt Hang (Drum) & Handpans | Swiss Design Steelpan Hybrid

This article was originally posted to the Blog Santiwah ( We are re-posting it here since "King Carnival is about to take hold of Trinidad and Tobago once again" and the steel pan competitions will come into play once again. The Hang should be of interest to steel-pan enthusiasts if only as a curiosity!

If you come across the 'hang', one would think that it was formed from the design of the traditional steel-pan of Trinidad and Tobago. Indeed, the idea was born out of a study of the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. The World has taken note of the national instrument and have come up with another creation but this time it was not done by Trinidadians but creative people who saw the potential of the steel-pan and took it to a different level of musical creativity.  My first impression after listening to the instrument was that it sounded like someone tuning a traditional steel-pan. However, if you go to YouTube you can find some really interesting 'playing or drumming' with this relatively new instrument (hand-drum).

The Hang (pronounced "hung") has been called 'The Musical Flying Saucer' comes from Bern, Switzerland and is the creation of Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer of  PANArt limited. Now everyone knows that the word 'pan' is used to reference the steel-pan  in Trinidad and 'back in the day' they used the term 'beat pan' when referring to playing the pan. The company name used for the Hang references the word Pan (PANArt) and the sound from the instrument is obtained by 'beating' the tonal area with the bare hand.

The Swiss innovators studied the steel-pan and other instruments from around the world including the Gong, Gamelan, Ghatam, drums, Bells and Singing Saw before innovating and coming up with this unique saucer 'pan design'.  The  word 'HANG' is Burmese for hand and not surprisingly the instrument is played using your hands.

The instrument looks like a pan turned upside down and reminds me of watching Boogsie playing the steel-pan upside down. However, 'The Hang' consists of two hemispheres of steel fused together is a unique fashion and is played using bare hands instead of 'pan sticks'.  One side (top) is called the 'DING Side' while the bottom area (vented in the middle) is called the 'GU Side'. It is used like a drum and is played similarly. The DING side has eight notes tuned to scale while the GU side is designed without notes (one side is played). The sound is similar to the steel-pan but different (listen to the sound from the YouTube video provided below).

Here is a clip from the the Wikipedia article "The Hang":
"The Hang uses some of the same physical principles as a steel-pan but with a nitrided surface and structural change of having two clamped shells with a small opening so that the instrument is a Helmholtz resonator.The creation of the Hang was the result of many years of research on the steel pan as well as the study of a diverse collection of instruments from around the world such as gongs, gamelan, ghatam, drums and bells.Metallurgical and acoustic research by the makers has led to significant changes and refinement in structure, design, and process over the years since the first Hang was offered."

Here is another reference to the steel-pan from the same article but this time about 'Playing the Hang':
"The Hang is typically played resting on the player's lap. The Hang is generally played with the hands and fingers instead of mallets. This lighter playing tends to produce a complex overtone-rich sound that could be considered 'softer' and 'warmer' than the 'bright' sound of a mallet based traditional steel-pan."

Here is an example of how 'The Hang' is played and the sound that emanates from the instrument. There are many videos on YouTube regarding 'The Hang'. Go ahead and view some - it is a very interesting instrument.
This is a Hang and Handpan Comparison Video

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