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The difference between steel tongue drums and handpans

Steel tongue drums and handpans are both popular percussion instruments known for their beautiful and unique sounds. While these instruments may look similar, there are some key differences between them. In this article, we'll discuss the main differences between steel tongue drums and handpans.

Design and construction: Steel tongue drums typically have a round or oval shape, with several indentations, or "tongues," on the top. Each tongue produces a different note when struck with a mallet or finger. Handpans, on the other hand, have a larger, more concave shape and are made from a single sheet of metal. They usually have a combination of raised and sunken areas, called "notes," around the top edge of the instrument.

Sound and tone: Steel tongue drums have a warm, mellow tone and produce a variety of sounds, depending on the number and placement of the tongues. Handpans, on the other hand, have a more resonant and metallic tone, with a distinct bell-like sound. They also produce more sustain than steel tongue drums.

Playing technique: While both instruments are played by striking the metal with a mallet or finger, the playing technique for each is slightly different. Steel tongue drums require a lighter touch and can be played with a variety of mallets or even the fingertips. Handpans require a slightly firmer touch, and are typically played with the hands or fingers.

Availability and cost: Steel tongue drums are generally more readily available and more affordable than handpans. While both instruments can be expensive, handpans are often made in limited quantities by skilled artisans, which can drive up the cost.

Musical style: Both steel tongue drums and handpans are versatile instruments that can be used in a variety of musical styles, from ambient and meditation music to world music and pop. However, handpans are more commonly associated with the latter genres, while steel tongue drums are often used in more introspective and meditative music.

In conclusion, while steel tongue drums and handpans share some similarities, they have distinct differences in design, sound, playing technique, availability, and musical style. Whether you choose a steel tongue drum or a handpan, both instruments offer a unique and beautiful sound that can add a special touch to your music.


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