About Steel Pans

About Steel Pans

About Steel Pans

About Steel Pans brought to you by Steelasophical and online recourses

Steelpans 

(also known as steel drums or pans, and sometimes, collectively with other musicians, as a steel band or orchestra) is a musical instrument originating from Trinidad and Tobago. Steel pan musicians are called pannists.

The modern pan is a chromatically pitched percussion instrument made from 55 gallon industrial drums that formerly contained chemicals.

Drum refers to the steel drum containers from which the pans are made; the steel drum is more correctly called a steel pan or pan as it falls into the idiophone family of instruments, and so is not a drum (which is a membranophone). Steel pans are the only instruments made to play in the Pythagorean musical cycle of fourths and fifths.

The pan is struck using a pair of straight sticks tipped with rubber; the size and type of rubber tip varies according to the class of pan being played. Some musicians use four pansticks, holding two in each hand.[1] This skill and performance have been conclusively shown to have grown out of Trinidad and Tobago’s early 20th-century Carnival percussion groups known as Tamboo bamboo The pan is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.

A typical steelband (steel drum band) has four sections

  • Frontline Pans section – contains the highest pitched instruments
  • Mid-range pans section – contains instruments in the middle of the steelband range
  • Background pans section – contains the lowest pitched instruments
  • Engine room – contains percussion instruments other than the steel pan

About SteelPans

Caribbean Island steel bands

About SteelPans

Frontline pans

are the highest pitched instruments in the steel pan family.

They usually play the melody, countermelodies or provide high harmonic support.

Members of the section:

  • Tenor pan
  • Double Tenor pan
  • Seconds pans – Single Seconds, Double Seconds

The double seconds and double tenor pans are very similar in appearance and range. However the double tenor usually has a shorter skirt and a brassy tone, while the double seconds has a warm tone

Tenor Pan

The tenor pan is also called the lead or soprano pan. It is the highest pitched pan in the steelband and usually carries the melody. It is a single drum played by one person.

The most common arrangement of notes is a cycle of fourths and fifths; however other arrangements, such as cycles of thirds and fourths, are sometimes used.

They tend to be shrill with a bright tone. The tenor pan is the only pan used in both conventional conventional and single pan bands

Low tenors are becoming the most popular style of tenor pans, as they have more notes in the ‘best’ range of the instrument and melodies played on this pan require less transposing.

Caribbean Island steel bandsttt

Double Tenor Pan

The double tenor pan is also called the double lead. It is a pair of pans played by one person.

It reinforces the melody and/or harmonizes the melody. They have a brassy tone and can expand the melodic range of the tenor pan if necessary.

They are used in conventional steelbands

Seconds Pans

Seconds pans are also called alto pans. They typically play harmony and countermelodies.

The two main types of seconds pans are:

1) Single Seconds Pan: A single pan played by one person used in single pan bands

Tenor Pan Steeldrum

Guitar Pans

The main function of the steel pans (steel drums) in this section is to provide harmonic support and sometimes countermelodies.

Members:

  • Guitar pans
  • Cello pans
  • Quadrophonic pan

The cello and guitar pans have the same warm and mellow tone and differ from each other only in their range.

Single Guitar Pan

A single pan played by one person used in single pan bands

Double Guitar Pan

A pair of pans played by one person, used in conventional steelbands

Cello Pans

The main function of cello pans is harmonic support usually in the form of strumming chord tones and also countermelodies. There two main types are:

1) Triple Cello Pan: Three drums played by one person, used in conventional steelbands.

2) Four Cello Pan: Four drums played by one person, used in conventional steelbands

Quadrophonic Pan

The quadrophonic pan is a set of four drums played by one person. It has the widest range of the entire steelband family which allows them to perform a variety of functions, including reinforcing the melody, playing countermelodies and providing harmonic support.

It is also one of the hardest pans to play and are used in conventional steelbands.

Tenor Pan Steeldrum double 2nd
Tenor Pan Steeldrum double 2nd r4t

Bassline

This section contains the lowest pitched instruments in the steel pan family. They play the bass lines which provide the harmonic foundation for the steelband (steel drum band).

There are many members in this section but only the more common types are mentioned.

Members:

  • Dudup
  • 4 Note Bass pan
  • Tenor Bass pan
  • Six Bass pans

Dudup

A single pan with two notes played by one person. They are used in single pan bands

Although the pan has two definate pitches, its function is essentially rhythmic, as it is used to play simple bass lines with repeated rhythmic figures.

4 Note Bass Pan

A single pan with four notes played by one person. It provides the bass lines for single pan bands.

Tenor Bass

Also called the four bass. It consists of four drums which are played by one person and are used in conventional steelbands.

They provide the definition in the section and play a crucial role in producing clean, unambiguous bass lines.

Six Bass Pan

Six drums played by one person, used in conventional steelbands.

They are the most popular background pan and are used in steel pan ensembles of all sizes

Seven Bass Pan

Seven drums played by one person, used in conventional steelbands.

They are the most popular background pan and are used in steel pan ensembles of all sizes

Nine Bass Pan

Nine drums played by one person, used in conventional steelbands.

They are the most popular background pan and are used in steel pan ensembles of all sizes

Twelve Bass Pan

Twelve drums played by one person, used in conventional steelbands.

They are the most popular background pan and are used in steel pan ensembles of all sizes

Steeldrum tenor seconds guitar cello bass steelasophical steelband bass

Engine room

A term used to describe the group of un-pitched percussion instruments that accompany steelbands (steel drum bands).

These instruments provide the timing and rhythmic drive for the entire band and are an important section in most steelbands.

This section may not be necessary for all genres of music, but it is a MUST when playing popular Caribbean genres, especially calypsos.

A pair of Conga Drums tuned in a standard fourths or fifths tuning, played with rubber tipped sticks.

Drum kit

  • Scratcher (metal guiro)

One or more irons of different relative pitches and tonal colors.

Originally discarded car brake drums played with metal beaters were used as irons.

Cow Bell and/or Jam Block struck with a beater

Other percussion instruments such as tambourines, shak-shaks (maracas) and cabasa

This section is the same for both conventional and single pan bands

However, when single pan bands are mobile, the instruments have to be strapped the player’s body. The drum kit and congas are split between two or more players while others are simply played while being held in the player’s hands.

Steeldrum tenor seconds guitar cello bass steelasophical steelband