About The Handpan

Courtesy of Davide Swarup:

The handpan is a relatively new instrument that has quickly gained popularity among musicians and music enthusiasts alike.

Its unique sound and captivating melodies have captured the hearts and ears of people all around the world.

But, where did this instrument come from?
How did it evolve over time, and who were the key players that helped shape its development?

In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating history and background of the handpan, exploring its origins, evolution, and impact on the music world.
The Origins of the Handpan
The handpan is a unique, percussive instrument that has captured the hearts of music enthusiasts around the world. Its origins can be traced back to the early 2000s, when a Swiss instrument maker named Felix Rohner began experimenting with a new type of steelpan.

While steelpan originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930s, Rohner’s creation was different in that it was played with the hands and featured a distinct, spherical shape. He called his creation the “Hang,” which means “hand” in Bernese German.

The Hang quickly gained popularity among musicians and music lovers, and Rohner and his partner, Sabina Schärer, established the firm PANArt Hangbau AG to produce the instrument commercially. However, demand was so high that the waiting list grew to years, and in 2013, PANArt ceased production of the Hang.

Evolution of the Handpan
The handpan has undergone significant changes since its inception. From its early days as a simple steel drum, it has evolved into a complex and intricate instrument that requires skill and practice to master.

One of the most significant changes in the handpan’s evolution is the refinement of its design. The original steel drums used to create handpans were often sourced from oil barrels, and had to be carefully heated and shaped to create the desired shape and notes. Today, handpans are made from high-quality steel specifically designed for the instrument, and are carefully tuned to produce a rich and warm sound.

Another important aspect of the handpan’s evolution is the development of new playing techniques. As the instrument has grown in popularity, players have experimented with new ways of striking and playing the handpan to produce unique sounds and tones. This has led to the creation of new playing styles and techniques, such as “percussive fingerstyle” and “flamenco-style” playing.

Notable Milestone
1990s: First handpan created by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer.
2000s: Introduction of new handpan scales, including the “Integral,” “Pygmy,” and “Equinox”
2010s: Increasing popularity of handpans in mainstream music, with artists like Ed Sheeran and Bjork incorporating the instrument into their music

As the handpan has continued to evolve, it has become an increasingly versatile instrument that can be used in a variety of musical genres. From its early days as a simple drum, it has grown into a complex and nuanced instrument that requires skill, practice, and dedication to master.

Contemporary Use of the Handpan
The handpan has gained popularity among musicians and music enthusiasts all over the world due to its unique sound and versatility. Its popularity has led to the creation of several musical genres that are centered around its use. Today, the handpan can be found in various musical performances, including concerts, festivals, and events.

One of the most remarkable features of the handpan is its ability to generate different rhythms and melodies, which makes it ideal for various musical styles. From jazz to world music, fusion to ambient, the handpan has found a place in various genres.

The Handpan in World Music
World music, by definition, fuses different musical styles from around the world to create a unique sound. The handpan’s versatility and unique sound make it an ideal instrument for creating world music. Artists have used the handpan to create music that is influenced by different cultures, including African, Middle Eastern, and South American.

The Handpan in Jazz
The handpan’s ability to create different rhythms and melodies has also made it a popular instrument in jazz music. Jazz musicians have used the handpan to create complex and intricate melodies, which have helped to define the genre’s unique sound.

The Handpan in Ambient Music
The handpan’s unique sound also makes it an ideal instrument for creating ambient music. Ambient music is a genre that is characterized by its atmospheric and ethereal sound. The handpan’s ability to generate different rhythms and melodies can create a dreamy and relaxing atmosphere.

Artists such as Bjork and Sigur Ros have used the handpan to create ambient music that is both calming and otherworldly.

The handpan’s versatility makes it an instrument that can be used in different musical genres, and its popularity is only continuing to grow. Its unique sound and the emotional response it evokes make it a beloved instrument among musicians and music lovers alike.

The Impact of the Handpan
The handpan has had a significant impact on the music world, inspiring countless musicians to explore its unique sound and incorporate it into their compositions. Its ability to evoke emotions and create a sense of spirituality has made it a popular instrument in a variety of musical genres, ranging from world music to new age and beyond.

Many musicians and performers have found that the handpan’s calming and meditative qualities create a receptive and engaged audience. The instrument’s soft, mellow sound has the ability to transport listeners to a different place and stimulate their imagination.

Furthermore, handpan enthusiasts often cite the instrument’s accessibility as a factor in its growing popularity. Unlike other percussive instruments, such as drums or marimbas, the handpan requires no formal training or prior knowledge of music theory to play. Its intuitive design allows anyone to pick it up and start playing, making it an ideal instrument for beginners and seasoned professionals alike.

The Handpan’s Growing Influence
As the handpan continues to capture the imagination of musicians and listeners around the world, its influence is also being felt in other areas. Many artists and performers are incorporating the handpan into their live performances, creating a unique and engaging experience for audiences.

Moreover, handpan manufacturers and innovators are constantly refining the instrument’s design and sound, pushing the boundaries of what it can do. This has led to a proliferation of new handpan models and styles, each with their own distinct character and sound.

Overall, the handpan’s impact on the music world is both far-reaching and enduring. Its unique sound, accessibility, and meditative qualities have made it a beloved instrument for many, inspiring creativity and a sense of calm in all who encounter it.

Handpan Players and Innovators
The unique and mesmerizing sound of the handpan has captured the hearts of countless musicians and music enthusiasts worldwide. Over the years, numerous talented players and innovators have emerged, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with this extraordinary instrument.

Influential Handpan Pioneers :
Alongside the growth of handpan makers, talented musicians have played a pivotal role in popularizing the instrument and pushing its creative boundaries. Here are some influential handpan players who have left an indelible mark:

  1. Dante Bucci: Was known for his innovative techniques and blending of musical genres, Dante Bucci’s virtuosic handpan performances have elevated the instrument’s prominence.
  2. Manu Delago: Collaborating with renowned artists like Björk, Shpongle and Anoushka Shankar, Manu Delago has showcased the handpan’s versatility and its ability to seamlessly integrate into different musical contexts.
  3. Davide Swarup: Starting his handpan journey in 2005, Davide Swarup has played a crucial role in popularizing the instrument and exploring its potential for meditative and healing music.
    His album “Music for Hang” is the first solo album recorded with the original Handpan from PanArt, in 2007.
  4. Daniel Waples: Daniel Waples’ captivating street performances and mesmerizing compositions have made him a prominent ambassador for the handpan, inspiring a new generation of players.
  5. Nadishana: Nadishana’s fusion of world music, traditional Eastern influences, and handpan melodies has resulted in captivating compositions that demonstrate the instrument’s versatility.
  6. David Kuckhermann: A classically trained percussionist, David Kuckhermann was one of the first to really explore the potential of the handpan. His playing is characterized by a beautiful touch and a deep understanding of the instrument’s capabilities. He has released a number of albums and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the handpan world.
  7. Kabeção: is one of the most talented and well-known handpan players in the world. His unique style, has inspired other handpan players to explore new directions with their playing.

Handpan playing has been on the rise in popularity in recent years. While the instrument is still relatively new, there are already a number of notable handpan players who are helping to popularize the instrument and explore its potential for meditative and healing music.

Each of these musicians has their own unique approach to playing the handpan. However, they all share a common goal of popularizing the instrument and expanding its musical potential.


The handpan has come a long way since its creation in the early 2000s. With every passing year, it continues to grow in popularity and influence, captivating audiences and inspiring musicians around the world. Its unique sound and spiritual qualities make it a truly transformative instrument that will undoubtedly continue to shape the musical landscape for years to come.

Handpan Maintenance and Care
The handpan is a unique and delicate instrument that requires proper care and maintenance to ensure its longevity and optimal sound quality. Here are some practical tips and advice to help you keep your handpan in top shape:

It is essential to keep the handpan clean to prevent dirt, dust, and grime from building up on the surface. Use a soft cloth to wipe away any debris after each use. You can also use a mild soap or cleaning solution to wipe away any stubborn dirt and stains. Make sure to dry the instrument thoroughly after cleaning to prevent moisture build-up.

Protecting the Surface
The handpan’s surface is prone to scratches and dents, so it’s essential to protect it from damage. Consider investing in a protective cover or case to keep the instrument safe during storage and transport. When playing, try to avoid wearing any sharp or hard objects that may come into contact with the surface.

Storing the Handpan
When storing the handpan, it’s important to keep it in a dry and cool place, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Avoid placing heavy objects on top of the instrument and make sure to store it in an upright position to prevent warping or bending of the metal.

Playing Technique
Proper playing technique is also essential to keep your handpan in good condition. Avoid hitting the instrument with excessive force or using inappropriate mallets that may damage the surface. Make sure to use the correct playing technique to produce the best sound quality without straining the instrument.

Regular Maintenance
Regular maintenance is crucial to keep your handpan in optimal condition. Consider having it tuned by a professional at least once a year to maintain its sound quality and prevent any potential damage. With proper care and regular maintenance, your handpan will continue to produce beautiful music for years to come.

Exploring Handpan Accessories
If you’re a handpan enthusiast, you know that having the right accessories can enhance your playing experience. Here are some essential accessories worth considering:

Cases and Bags
To protect your handpan during transport, investing in a quality case or bag is crucial. Hard cases made of materials like fiberglass offer the most protection, while soft cases made of padded fabric are more lightweight and easier to carry. Look for cases with a snug fit to prevent your handpan from moving around during travel.

is the most appreciated company for Handpan cases.

Playing the handpan on a stand can be more comfortable and ergonomic than holding it in your lap. Stands come in various designs, such as collapsible or adjustable models, and can provide a stable and secure platform for your instrument.

Frequently Asked Questions about Handpans
As you dive deeper into the fascinating world of handpans, you might have some questions. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about handpans.

What is a handpan?
A handpan is a musical instrument that originated in Switzerland in the early 2000s. It’s made from two steel half-shells that are glued together and then hammered and tuned to create a unique sound.

How do you play a handpan?
To play a handpan, you hold it in your lap or place it on a stand. You then use your hands to strike the notes on the instrument, creating a melodic sound. The playing technique is similar to that of a steel drum or hang drum.

What is the difference between a handpan and a hang drum?
The hang drum is the predecessor of the handpan and was created in Switzerland in 2000. The handpan has a similar shape and sound to the hang drum but has evolved to have a larger range of notes.

Is it difficult to learn to play the handpan?
Learning to play the handpan requires patience and practice, but with dedication and the right guidance, anyone can learn to play. Many talented musicians have learned to play the instrument on their own, while others have taken lessons from experienced handpan players.

What kind of music is commonly played on a handpan?
The handpan is a versatile instrument that can be used to play a variety of music, including jazz, world music, and even classical music. Many musicians use the unique sound of the handpan to create soothing, meditative music as well.

How do I take care of my handpan?
To care for your handpan, avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures, as this can cause the metal to warp. You should also regularly clean it with a soft, dry cloth and avoid using any abrasive materials. Finally, it’s recommended that you store your handpan in a protective case when not in use.

Are handpans expensive?
Handpans can be expensive, with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. The cost depends on the maker, the design, and the quality of the instrument. However, many musicians believe that the investment in a handpan is worth it, as the instrument can provide a unique and rewarding playing experience.

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