So you want to buy a Hang or Handpan ?

Posted on Nov 14, 2014

I first heard the Hang in Vondel Park in Amsterdam in 2006.  Instantly I  knew that I should seek one out and I was very lucky as just over a year later , I had my very own Hang sat in my lap by a river in Switzerland and an amazing journey with people, sound and music began.

Ok….  maybe we met in the street whilst i was busking or gigging and got talking about the hang ,maybe you bought my album – if so thanks so very much  because as an independent artist it means so much and helps me pay the bills and buy more instruments ! Maybe we haven’t yet met, no worries my friend i hope this may help.

So…. I, like many other handpan players get asked all the time where i got my hang from and how do you go about buying one of these instruments? how much do they cost etc etc? i dont mind answering at all as I love sharing my passion for these instruments which is why I play on the streets – go to the people !

I have been planning on writing things down in a bit more detail for some time for those of you seriously interested in Handpans, instead of writing loads of separate emails to people who ask for some help. Handpan is  the name most people give to the genre of instruments ( not all people like the name however but thats another story as they say).

So just i’m choosing to use that general term here for ease of communication.

So, lets get back to you getting a Handpan ….. there are no simple  answers and for most people its not a simple process – so if you want a quick answer I’m sorry !!  – this is not it , however hopefully this lengthy blog post will be useful if you have the time and inclination to read it !

At the risk of over romanticizing it – it is in a way a bit of quest and it becomes an obsession for some.

So.. first… some background information which may help – with an added caveat – I’m no expert, check everything I say and as in life ,try things your own way and remember things change.  A proactive approach ,if you really want an instrument, will pay dividends.

The first and original Hang instrument is no longer made by the makers PanART from Switzerland.They make something else now called the Gubal – their list is full for that right now – so you have  few choices if you want an original hang. Ebay and other such auction sites – but beware there are many scams out there and the prices are often very high. Some people , although very rarely it seems, sell for sensible prices either privately or through forums and this is another issue there is a lot of debate around.

Also beware that sometimes instruments are sold that are badly out of tune and sometimes in rare cases they are untuneable. On the plus side I have heard stories of people being gifted Panart Hang and people finding them covered in bird poop in random places !

Lots of people have copied the original hang concept and made their own versions of the instrument. Some companies like the wonderful guys at Pantheon Steel (there are others) have been around for a number of years now.

The past few years have seen a proliferation of people taking on the arduous task trying to make their own instruments and i take my hat off to all of them. There are now well over 100 people (edit…March 2016) out there today that i’m aware of trying to make handpans.

Maybe by now you are thinking” just tell me whats available now Simon”….well alas… again, its not that simple, its a dynamic situation so you will need to go through the links i provide below and find out for yourself.As for prices ,the cheapest really good instrument i have seen went for around £800-£900 and that was/is very good value ! Most makers charge between £1100-£2000 . the average price is around is likely to be around 1300 euros now i would say.

Some people are advancing very fast in learning to tune and making amazing quality instruments in a relatively short period of time. Some are making decent but not spectacular instruments but are developing slowly and some are cashing in on peoples desires and obsessions and making things that are really sub-par instruments, sometimes practically unplayable by anyone that is not profoundly deaf and often for a very high price.

So beware – seek information and advice – look for reviews, see what others are saying, educate yourself – listen to lots of videos.

Dont’ just lash out money for the first thing you find , patience is the key and persistence and a bit of luck too – and remember two rules of thumb…

if it’s too good to be true, it probably is……..and a fool and his/her money are easily parted !

“Seek information  you say Simon – where from ?”… Ok there are a number of sources –

Online Forums such as:

http://www.handpan.org/forum

This is the BEST place to seek information about handpans and if you are seeking for a hand-played pan theres a wealth of information here you can search old posts ask questions and you will almost certainly find someone else has asked the question you are asking so its a good idea to do some digging. So do yourself a favour and join this forum and say hello, be upfront and respectful and you will find loads of people willing to help who will know how you feel. By joining you can see certain sections that are hidden from non-members like the For Sale section where handpans  and accessories are sold.

That being said there are a lot of politics and opinion in the handpan community about the selling of instruments and loads of other topics besides ( like most communities there exists tensions -liberal/conservative elements and other binary opposites we can use to try and describe things) I don’t want to go into that here but again do your research and form your own opinions.

Or you could just as easily stay away from the forums if thats not your thing, target your desire through other sources, like blogs,  youtube and facebook (see below) for example and do your homework- there are many ways to the same place of course.

Other useful sources of info :

http://www.hangdrumsandhandpans.com/

is a blog-type online magazine includes a list of current makers new and more established:

http://www.hangdrumsandhandpans.com/p/all-of-handpans.html

http://www.hangdrumsandhandpans.com/p/new-and-upcoming-handpan-and-makers.html

as well as links to ebay sales, a forum and reviews of instruments and interviews with players and makers.

Facebook groups such as – Handpan Instruments:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1420146368215788/?fref=ts

Sometimes there are flash sales of certain instruments – put on facebook or on their websites on a  first come first served basis.Other makers have lottery systems for their instruments and others long waiting lists.

It’s  definitely worth keeping an eye on upcoming makers.These can often be found in sections like Developments,Creations and Influences in the Handpan.org forum or in the magazine mentioned above. Once a new maker gets to certain standard and people start asking to buy their instruments they will start a waiting list system and its possible with some of these if you get in early enough to buy prototype instruments at discount prices and sometimes with a place further down their wait line when their instruments are more advanced – i know people who have gone down this route and ended of with one or more quality instruments. You can always trade your instrument for another -but that is in itself another discussion.

Of course some people make “prototypes” that are , as i have said not of a playable quality and try and sell them. You may or may not have a good ear for when an instrument is properly tuned – if not , see what others are saying.

Try and work out what a well tuned instrument sounds like.Theres much to learn here. Handpans are tuned with fundamental notes.. my hang for example is D minor so… D A Bb C D E F A and each note is tuned within an  octave and  most usually a  fifth harmonic ( five notes up on the piano) included in most notes. I’m far from an expert on tuning and many more builders and players know a lot more than i do – seek  out views on handpan.org forum and wherever floats your boat.

Also, good tuning is not all there is t think about – what’s the instrument made from? is it heat treated to help avoid rust? how stable is its tuning or how likely is it to stay in tune. What is the reputation of the company or people making the instrument like? Can they retune it?  what if i drop it ? Import charges? Taxes?  Carry Bags?  Do you need a stand to play it comfortably? Taking care of it? Don’t connect with the sound model like i thought i would..all these are just some examples of real issues to think of and that often happen.

Be careful putting down deposits – avoid this if u can. There is much to learn about these issues – educate yourself before spending a LOT of money or you may end up with something on your hands thats not so pleasant if you dive in too early.

Of course when it comes to sound there are lots of opinions and tastes and some instruments may not to be my taste but may be to others and that doesn’t mean anyone is wrong. That goes for the type of sound and of course the sound model or “scale” as its usually called – although many handpans are in fact mostly modes of scales  ( for you music theory junkies out there ).

You can choose between major and minor models, pentatonics, mixolydians, harmonic minors etc etc. brain freeze ??? ! 🙂  .. you can get central notes – or Dings as they are known on the Hang specifically, in a low B tuning through to C D E F F G etc . If that means nothing to you ,then relax…just use your ears.. what sings to you, what speaks to you ? – watch lots of videos, look at the sound models on different makers websites – mostly  they include sound-files and or videos of the scale on offer.For interest: the original hang scales are on a site called oddmusic – search for it with the word hang too.

Work out what your taste is and where to find it. Do you like instruments that are very bloomy or blossomy in terms of sound or more controlled?  There are some interesting comparison videos by senior established hang players that compare instruments : see  Handpan and soundsculpture videos and audio section on the Handpan.org forum.

There are now makers in Japan, UK, USA , France, Israel,Netherlands,South America, Russia, Germany,Italy, Spain, Bali, and many other places. However there are a lot of people chasing these instruments.

There are also small and  (getting) larger handpan gatherings that you can attend in many parts of the world.Some even without an instrument – a great way of meeting people in the community, playing instruments and hearing great music.

The hang has been for me and many others I know a life changing thing, so I sincerely wish you luck in your search.

Simon Wood – from Newcastle in the UK