About Steel Pans
About Steel Pans brought to you by Steelasophical and online recourses
(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. 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