The handpan is a finely tuned percussion instrument that has caught the fancy of musicians all over the world. Since its introduction during the year 2000, the handpan has gained in popularity and has become a household name in many parts of the world.
The question foremost in the minds of music enthusiasts is, how are handpans made? This article hopes to answer this question rather briefly, but it will surely give you the answer you seek.
Steel is the metal that is normally used in making a handpan. The correct grade of square steel sheets is needed first. These are sourced from regular sellers.
Normally, most handpans are made by hand. The steel sheets are hammered by hand until it gets the dome shape. This takes time and effort. However, some companies use machines to achieve this shape.
The dome shape is now cut out and a process of heat and chemical reaction enables the addition of nitrogen to the steel. This process is known as nitriding. This process hardens the steel and prevents rusting. However, if you are using stainless steel you don’t have to nitride.
The next process is to set the tone fields on the dome. Normally there are about 7 to 9 tone fields in each instrument. The center point, generally known as the “ding” gives out the ding note. The other notes are now incorporated on the top of the sheet or dome. These are spaced out in a particular pattern as decided by the tuner or artisan. These points are then hammered to create the tone fields. This could be a depression towards the inside or a protrusion towards the outside. The maker decides this.
This step prepares the shell for tuning. This process involves hammering the tone fields to compress the metal and then a process of heat treatment is given to stabilize the shell.
The actual tuning takes place in this step. This is the process in which each tone field is hammered to generate the required sound. The constant hammering brings the tone field into the specific shape required. Slowly the metal is coaxed to put the right pitch and play the correct note.
Three notes can be produced by one tone field. This is a process that is time-consuming and may take months to perfect.
In this step, the top part of the shell is firmly fixed to the bottom shell using a strong glue. The bottom half has a hole in the middle of a particular size to allow airflow. This enables the instrument to resonate when being played.
The entire instrument is tuned and re-tuned to achieve perfection. You have to allow the instrument a few weeks to settle down before you book it to your buyer as the metal has the memory to revert to its previous shape. Re-tuning will help to maintain the shape better.
This step involves cleaning and polishing the handpans. This will help to remove the excess glue in the fixture and also smooth the edges. You now have a wonderful instrument ready to enchant the world.