Guide to Choosing a Handpan
Congratulations, you've decided to buy a handpan! A handpan is an investment in yourself and your journey as a musician, and if you choose wisely your handpan will bring you years of enjoyment.
As you'll quickly discover, choosing a handpan to purchase isn't a quick and easy process. You're making a substantial investment, so there are many things to consider. The questions we always hear are:
- Which makes a quality handpan?
- Which handpan builders can I trust?
- What scales? And which scale to choose?
- What should I expect to pay for a quality handpan?
These are all excellent questions, and we recommend that you have answers to all of them, from your own research (not someone else’s), before you make a purchase.
At the end of the day, you not only want a high quality handpan, you want a handpan that is right for you.
This article presents 6 easy steps to help you find your perfect handpan!
Step 1 - Self-Assessment : Why do I want a handpan?
Step 2 - Learn the 7 qualities of a good handpan
Step 3 - Scales & Feeling: What you want to feel = what scale you should buy
Step 4 - Builders: How to know who to trust?
Step 5 - Consider price, and make an informed decision
Step 6 - Ready to buy!
At this point, we’d like to thank our friend David Carrier from masterthehandpan.com. He wrote a lot of the information you’ll find in this guide! On a side note, he offers courses on how to learn the handpan, you’ll definitely want to check to take courses on how to play!
Step 1 - Self-Assessment : 5 Quick Questions
These are some quick questions to help guide you in the rest of your handpan buying journey! These questions are also questions you can ask to any builder.
Q1 - Why do I want a handpan?
Note: Write out all the reasons you want a handpan! (It’s good to write it out!)
Q2- How do I want to play the handpan? (select all that apply)
Note: Different handpans are better for different contexts. For example, the Solos was invented with professional musicians, and able to be use in different musical genres. It’s also great for solo playing / meditation.
WITH OTHER HANDPANS
WITH OTHER ARTISTS
I AM A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN
Q3 -What feeling do you want to have when you play?
Details: In our opinion, handpans are meant to be “felt” or “experienced”. What are your feelings you want to have when playing? (ex: meditation, connection to greater power, get lost, etc.)
Q4 - How important is peace of mind / that the builder guarantees the quality of the instrument (with warrantees and customer service)?
Details: Some builders do not guarantee their product, and some customers have had bad experiences. How important is that the builder stands behind his/her product?
Q5 - How important is the relationship with the builder after the purchase?
Details: After-care support, follow up questions, re-tuning, community, customer service, etc.
Q6 - How long are you wiling to wait for a handpan?
Details: Wait times can be longer or shorter depending on who you buy from!
The self-assessment in now complete! Let’s learn some more!
Step 2 - Quality First: Learn the 7 Qualities of a Good Handpan
Handpans are such an important and magical purchase. We believe the first thing to look at is the quality of handpan.
To be clear, there are many handpans that are high quality, including the Solos. What we suggest is limit your choice of a handpan to those that are considered “high quality”.
For more information on the quality of the Solos handpan, read our story here. (read the story here LINK).
Now what is a quality drum?
Luckily for you, our friend David Carrier from masterthehandpan.com has done excellent work in the handpan community, he has written an excellent guide to list what we think are the 7 Quality factors of a handpan.
David’s article (LINK https://www.masterthehandpan.com/blog/the-7-marks-of-a-quality-handpan)
- Tuning: Is this handpan well tuned?
- The quality of sound: do I like the sound of this handpan?
- Sustain: Does this handpan have enough sustain for my taste?
- Balance: Do the notes all have the same quality?
- The “crosstalk” and the isolation of notes: does my handpan have too much crosstalk?
- The dynamic range: does this handpan allow me to play softly? (and also loud)
- The precision of harmonics: do they sound good and are they well tuned?
(Again, if you are looking to learn the handpan, check him out! (LINK https://www.masterthehandpan.com/blog/the-7-marks-of-a-quality-handpan)
TO DO LIST FOR YOU
- Read David’s article on the 7 qualities (LINK)
- Listen to many handpans and get a feel for these qualities
- If you know a professional musician or sound engineer, get their help to point out some of these qualities.
- Ask your builders about the 7 qualities. (see the email template in the steps below for example of questions you can ask)
Step 3 - Scales & Feeling: What you want to feel?
In step 1, we asked you “what do you want to feel?” The handpan is a powerful and deeply-connecting instrument. It is a unique instrument that moves and connects people.
Different handpans and scales will create different feelings for you. So the important thing to do is to further know what you want to feel for yourself!
David Carrier, again, has created a great resource to understand the scales. (LINK) In step 2, he talks about the feeling as well.
We both suggest that you listen, listen. He offers some links, and we have some links of our own (see below). We suggest you listen to as many different handpans, and different scales, and see what resonates with you. (Remember: this is for you in the end!)
Here are a few sound samples of my handpans (headphones recommended):
Solos Aeolian in C#:
Solos Celtic in D:
Solos Integral in D:
Solos Aeolian in D:
TO DO LIST FOR STEP 3:
1 - Read David Charrier’s article
2 - Listen to Solos’ scales
3 - Listen, listen, listen to as many other handpans in as many scales as you can find
4 - Take notes of the handpans you like and the feeling you get.
Step 4 - Who to Trust? - 5 Questions to Know Which Builders to Trust
This is a big question. As builders, we understand that the handpan players are looking for a quality drum, that will not go out of tune and that they will be able to enjoy for years.
The factors that we hear a lot, and that we suggest all handpan purchases look into are the following:
1 - Good quality drum (see step 2)
Again this is the most important question. With the information in step 2, you can ask specific questions to your builder about the instrument they built and if they have all 7 qualities of a good handpan.
For instance, here at Solos, our whole story is about building more than a drum, something that connects to you on a deeper level. We do that by really understanding music, and how to craft metal to create that.
We suggest that you ensure that you have a builder that is passionate, pays attention to detail, has vision in what they are building.
2 - Customer service: Is the builder open and communicating with customers
Are they open? Do they respond to message?
This applies for any business. Does the builder offer good customer service. How quickly do they respond? Do they answer your questions completely? Do they feel genuine?
These are all things you can validate when you message a builder.
Also, a high quality website with an FAQ (LINK TO FAQ) helps to improve that trust and that level of service.
3 - Do they offer warranty?
If they offer a warranty, it means that the builder stands behind their product. For instance, Solos stands behind their product, and guarantees it will not go out of tune. If there is an unforeseen event (which happens), we do fix for you for free.
For example, at Solos, we believe in our instruments so much that we offer an automatic warranty and we also offer a lifetime warranty as an option. We believe in our products, so we suggest you work with builders like us who offer that level of care and service.
4 - Convenience: Is it easy to buy from their website / does it look trust worthy.
The last thing is “customer experience” how easy is it to buy one? What is the process? Can I pay online? Is it easy?
This impacts the decision, and also serves to build trust.
We have listened to our users and have updated our process to make it easy for people.
5 - What are the waiting lists times?
This is an important factor. Many builders have waiting lists (handpans take time to build because they are all custom made), so check with your builders.
HERE IS THE EMAIL TEMPLATE THAT YOU CAN USE TO ASK YOUR BUILDER IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.
My name is (blank). What I’m looking for is a handpan to play by myself and to be able to jam and play with other. I am looking for this scale (enter scale). I am contacting a couple of builders to get answers to questions and depending on the answers, I will make my choice. My questions are:
Can you talk about your skills and experience in being a skilled handpan builder?
I am looking for a high quality handpan, I am looking for a handpan that has all 7 of these qualities can you tell me if your handpan meets all of these requirements?
In particular, I am concerned about the drum coming out of tune. What is your warrantee in terms of the drum being in tune or out of tune? How long is it? And what assurances do I have as a purchaser?
In your opinion, what makes your handpan stand out?
What is the wait time if I place an order today?
I am available by email or by phone (enter number) or skype (enter skype)
Thank you so much, I am looking forward to hearing from you,
TO DO LIST:
- Download the template (link)
- Copy the email template and modify it with your own words
- Send the email template to all the builders that interest you
- Write down a table comparing all the builders in the table.
Step 5: How much should I pay for a handpan?
This is last step before you talk to builders. There are a few things to consider here. We created a chart that will help you make that decision. As discussed above, we suggest to always keep quality as your #1 factor, so we suggest that you buy a high quality drum first and foremost.
The second consideration is to look among the top quality drums and choose according to a) feeling (see above) b) trust (see above) and finally c) price see graph below.
So let’s summarize some of concepts presented in this graph. Again, our friend David Charrier from masterthehandpan.com, does an incredible job of outlining our thoughts on the handpan market place.
Here is a summary of what he says in his article “How much does a handpan cost?” Here (LINK) and here (LINK)
1 - High price doesn’t mean high quality
The big problem, however, is that the instrument is so sought after that some see it as an opportunity to make money. That’s why you will find manufacturers that sell instruments that are too expensive compared to the quality they offer, or people reselling instruments for far more than they originally acquired them for.
2 - Top-Shelf Handpans range between $3000 and $4000:
For a ‘top-shelf’ make and/or for more notes: you’re looking at around $3,000-$4,000 (new).
We consider Solso to be a premium top-shelf product
For a solid handpan with a standard number of notes (7-8) from a good maker: you should probably expect to pay no less than $1,000-$2,500 (new).
3 - Put this in perspective : Compare to Cymbals
they are really not expensive for what they are, their rarity, the demand for them and what’s behind their creation. When talking about money, I like to make comparisons.
A rare vintage Zildjian or high-spec custom Paiste cymbal, for example, could easily cost $1,000-$3,000. Yet cymbals take less time, are simpler to make and only have one ‘note’. I believe that the vast majority of makers are fair in their price structures.
4 - Beware of dodgy offerings, scams and cons
Also, please beware of dodgy or scam offerings. Some people have started to try and scam people online, so this is something to be aware, keep an eye out for those! And always create a connetion with your builder!
Why Solos is in the “sweet spot?”
Finally, the question is how is Solos in the sweet spot in terms of have a high quality drum at a moderate price.
First is quality. Pepeto has been working to be a master builder for 20 years. His passion is to work metal and music (see his backstory). He is dedicated to helping people heal and connect through handpans, and he wants his handpan to be able to create new music and enter the mainstream.(LINK to ABOUT page)
This is what the Solos is about. As mentioned above, the “top shelf” drums are $3000 to $4000. And Pepeto wants these drums to be in the hands of those who want it, and also wants to be properly compensated for 20 years of research, study, and all the hard work that goes into each drum.
We are in Canada, our production costs are lower, so it is 15% lower cost than comparable “top shelf” product. $2499 USD. Every drum comes with a free bag ($150 value), and shipping ($100 value) as well, and a 1 year warranty ($250 value).
Step 6 - Place an order!
You now have all the information and all the tools to make a decision!
If you want a Solos, we have made it very easy to order, we have a new modern website with all the information (order now LINK)
If you are looking to buy from another builder, David Charrier did an excellent job at making a directory of all the builders. (LINK to other builder)
We hope it’s Solos, however we know there is a lot variety out there and that the Solos is not for everyone. if you think another drum is better for you, please, feel free to reach out and ask our opinion, we are there to help you, and have people with handpans on their laps. Please let us know regardless if you have any questions, we will gladly help you.
We hope this was useful! Have a great day, and talk soon!