In this article I will share my ideas and thoughts about creating a high quality Handpan.
I will not examine the ‘Tone’, because every maker has he’s own sound. and sound is a matter of personal taste, it is not a matter of quality.
A good quality handpan starts by having all the fundamentals and the two harmonic frequencies tuned in each note.
Every note in a handpan has at least 3 frequencies – Fundamental – the base tone of the note, for example D3.
The octave which is exactly double the frequency of the fundamental – for example D4 found in a D3 fundamental note.
And finally, the 5th, which would be A4 in the example of a D3 note.
The fine tuning of the fundamental, octave and 5th is crucial for every note in a handpan. when these frequencies are not perfectly in tune, the sound and blooming of the note will reduce, and the disharmony can be very noticable.
Another important function is if the Handpan has rust resist qualities.
In case of a stainless steel handpan, it should naturally be rust resistant. Although there are some grades of stainless steel which are less rust resistant, but still they should do the job of keeping your handpan safe from rust.
In case of other material such as low-mid carbon steels, which are very sensitive to rust, they should go through a proper nitrided process which creates a protective layer on the surface of the instrument, keeping it rust resistant.
If this process has not been applied on your instrument, it will start to rust quickly.
How do I know if my handpan has received the nitriding process?
This is a tricky question, and the only answer can come from the maker of that instrument.
Making the difference between tuning qualities
Tuning is an art by itself. There are many ways to tune a note on a handpan, and each will result in a different timbre of the note. If a note is tuned in a way where the inner tension inside the membrane are uneven, this will result in a note that will be detuned easily over time.
A high quality handpan should hold proper tuning for at least 2-3 years, where lower quality handpans hold their tuning for less than 1 year.
How do I know which is the tuning technique used to tune my instrument?
It is very difficult for a beginner player to identify this, but if tapping with your hand a note a little bit harder than usual and hearing a ‘blurry’ or ‘strident’ sound from the note, then it means that the note is not properly balanced and might be detuned easier over time.
I hope that this article helped you to receive a more precise view of the handpan world and understanding how to distinguish between the qualities in the market.