Magical Instrument: Handpan - From the personal experience of handpan enthusiasts

instrument handpan

I first saw this instrument in Gion, Kyoto, Japan. A white-skinned and yellow-haired foreigner was sitting under a maple tree and playing extremely dynamically. The sound was ethereal and mysterious, full of dynamic and joy, and it attracted a large number of visitors. Stopped and listened, many young women in kimono swayed gently with the rhythm of the handpan. There was a sense of shock that combined tradition and fashion.

My Father liked this UFO-like instrument very much. He pointed to the pile of albums placed on the floor by the performer and said, "This instrument is really nice. Look, he still has albums on sale. Go buy one for me, I'd like to listen to it when driving." After returning from travel, my father and I often listened to handpan music in the car together when went out and we became interested in it.

The handpan is actually a very "young" percussion instrument. It first appeared before the eyes of the world at the 2001 Frankfurt International Musical Instrument Fair, and then it became very popular and spread widely all over the world. The earliest such musical instrument was "Hang" developed by a Swiss company, and the handpan is actually the widely accepted translation of English Handpan after it was introduced to China. We also call it "flying saucer drum", "steel drum", and "UFO". "Drum", "Hang drum", etc., some people mistakenly confuse it with the steel tongue drum.

From a linguistic point of view, the term Handpan describes the appearance or performance of the instrument, so it has now become the collective name and referent of this type of instrument worldwide. In different countries, different brands and more detailed classifications have gradually emerged, such as Halo and Bells in the United States, SPB Pantam in Russia, as well as Xuanyin and AM handpans in my country.

The material of the handpan is processed steel. After many improvements, its sound principle is more advanced. It uses spatial resonance, and the instrument has a strong ability to imitate sounds. It can imitate gongs, harps, drums, bells, etc. The handpan has two upper and lower sides, and the upper part generally has 8 or more notes. It surrounds the raised sound in the middle of the top surface-"Ding" (see Figure 1). The rest of the sounds surround the surroundings from low to high. Each pronunciation point is concave and can emit different pitches. At the bottom of the handpan, there is a circular hole in the center, called "Gu" (see Figure 2), which is used to allow the air inside to flow and generate overall resonance.

The handpan is usually placed on the player's legs and played with bare hands. The tone is warm and soft. According to different playing techniques, the top sound zone can produce a sharp bell-like sound, bright as a bell, and warm as a piano. The sound areas are arranged in a zigzag pattern, and the player can alternately play in ascending or descending order with his left and right hands.

There are fundamental, overtones and fifth overtones in each zone. Players can hit different positions in the sound zone according to the needs of the timbre to obtain a bright, dull, short, and long timbre. The opening on the bottom surface is open, you can play with the palm of your hand, and stimulate the airflow compression of the cavity to generate Helmholtz resonance, making a sound similar to Indian clay pot drums. Playing the edge of the bottom opening with your fingers can make a sound similar to the chime of a small bell.

After my mother listened to more handpan music with dad and me, she also wanted to buy one to keep at home. She said that the sound of this instrument is suitable for playing before and after practicing yoga. I agree very much. However, handpans are only played with both hands, which makes the material requirements very high, and the manufacturing process is complicated. At present, it can only be hand-made by skilled luthiers, and the market is often in short supply. My mom was very frugal. Hearing that this rare musical instrument was so expensive, she gave up the idea of buying it. However, dad and I have already ordered one on, which coincides with my mother's 50th birthday, as a surprise for her.

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