1 day ago
Steel pans have been a bit of a pigeonholed and misunderstood instrument for many - other musicians, composers, and orchestrators included. They aren’t as much of a mystery as you may have been led to believe, though, and this family of instruments has undergone significant development.
A few key points:
1) The professional instruments are chromatic, just like other pro instruments.
2) There are many ranges, and they each have names, like string or other families of instruments do.
3) They can be played with different types of mallets (or fingers) although consideration needs to be made for not damaging the instrument.
4) Writing for them isn’t particularly difficult, although there are a few things to know about each type of steel pan that can be pointed out by the player.
5) Like other instruments, the notes get bigger as they get lower, so they have to be spread across multiple drums to keep a decent range.
6) They have the potential to contribute to the orchestration and texture without sounding “tropical.”
7) The ranges and layouts have become pretty standardized over the years; you’ll see some variation by a note or two at the top or bottom but overall it’s more predictable than it used to be. ✳️ Many steel drummers can read music and play multiple ranges of steel pans. There are dozens in the Los Angeles area, for example. Some play by ear exceptionally well. Many feel comfortable with improvisation. Percussionists who aren’t steel drummers may have a harder time, depending on the music, of course, but can practice the part (if time allows and they have access to the instrument). *Below are our pans and their ranges. These are pretty typical. In the steel pan family, there’s even more than this, but wanted to share this to start. If you have further questions, let us know!
To see our steel pans page: https:www.lapercussionrentals.com/instruments/categories/steel-drums steelband steeldrum steelpans doublesecond tenorpan quadpans basspans basscans composer orchestration gamecomposer filmmusic