Warm summer night. Redolent flower smell. Waves whispering on the beach. And mesmerizing music of an instrument I have never heard before. Have you heard these magnetic sounds coming from nowhere and taking your imagination to the place with the deep blue ponds and blazing meteors? This is how I first discovered handpan.
Being fascinates by its soothing sound, I decided to get one for myself. But when I first started searching, I was confused by all the info I found on the internet. It took me a time to get to the core and choose the right instrument for myself. So, here’s the guide for buying a metal tongue drum based on my own research and experience.
Let’s figure out the term
Handpan is the name for many instruments and it can be a little confusing for those who are hearing about these instruments for the very first time. So, let me provide you some explanations here. Handpan is a metal hand drum that belongs to the idiophone class. This group comprises many music instruments with different shapes and sound features but many of them are percussion instruments. That means that the noise is created when the instrument is being struck and the shell is vibrating.
I’d divide all the instruments into the following groups:
Handpans have a shape of two inside-out joint spheres with dimples. You can also find its name written separately like hand pan as it is played with a hand and its pan reminding look. The original shape was created by PANart but the instruments are no longer in production. However, many music brands like RAV and Opsilon picked up the idea and designed their own versions of handpan.
Handpans usually have the best sound features and are higher at price. They are usually bigger and are mostly played by those who already have gained some experience in playing hand drums. So I mostly recommend it for intermediate users.
Tank drum is actually the ancestor of a metal tongue drum. The artisans handcrafted drums out of propane tanks. These were early experiments in a search of a lush velvety sound that further evolved to metal tongue drums.
Metal tongue drums
This is a big group of instruments. They usually have a smaller size than handpans. The hallmark of these drums is that they resonate with petals or tongues curved in their shell. The sound differs from one created by handpan but is still soothing. Although it, of course, depends on the quality.
3 factors play the role here: the size, the thickness of the shell and the material. When you choose for a thinner shell, quality steel and trusted the brand, you get a cleaner sound with a longer sustain (and that’s what you are searching for, right?).
In general, metal tongue drums and tank drums produce a more muffled sound comparing to handpans. This is the reason why unlike handpans they mostly are accompanied by a pair of mallets. However, the richer texture and sound diversity provided when playing with hands are not available in this case. If you ask my opinion, although they are still good enough, the music created with these drums does not sound as magical as the one created by a handpan.
On another side, metal tongue drums are usually cheaper. So, if you like me consider handpans far over your budget, opt for a tongue drum as an instrument you can realistically afford, especially if a clean lush sound is not your priority.
RAV Vast Drum
RAV Vast stands by itself beyond metal hand drums being a combination of a tongue drum and a handpan. It has a handpan inspired shape of 2 inverted spheres but has a central tongue and 8 petals around. The petals have a unique patented swirl shape. RAV is almost as big as an average handpan (52 cm compared to 58 cm) and creates a strong lush sound without a xylophone alike tone.
What I like about RAV is that it has a great sound at a very affordable price. It can also be played both by beginners and professionals. It’s easy to deal with though it has a big musical capacity for those who already play metal drums. If you still prefer the original handpan sound and feel confident enough to play, check out RAV’s handpan – the brand creates both types of instruments. The company has also a collection of tutorials and reviews that will help you to choose the right instrument and scale.
Don’t hurry when choosing a hand drum. Overview a few, listen to how they sound and choose the one which resonates the best with your body and soul!