Wikipedia:WikiProject Musical Instruments/Templates/Infobox instrument
names=Steeldrum, pan

*Percussion instrument

Steelpans (also known as steeldrums or pans, and sometimes collectively with musicians as a steelband) is a musical instrument and a form of music originating in Trinidad and Tobago. Steelpan musicians are called pannists.

The pan is a pitched percussion instrument, tuned chromatically (although some toy or novelty steelpans are tuned diatonically), made from a 55 gallon drum of the type that stores oil. In fact, "drum" refers to the steel drum containers from which the pans are made; the steel drum is correctly called a "steelpan" or "pan" as it falls into the idiophone family of instruments, and is not technically regarded as a drum or membranophone.


The steel pan evolved out of earlier musical practices of Trinidad. Drumming was used as a form of communication among the enslaved Africans and was subsequently outlawed by the British colonial government in 1883.cite journal | last = Berre | first = Maxens | title = Steel Pans: A Brief History | journal = Clave | publisher = Latin American Folk Institute | location = Mount Rainier, Maryland | url = ] African slaves also performed during Mardi Gras celebrations, joining the French that had brought the tradition to the island.cite web |url= |title=A Brief History: Origins of the Steel Drum and "Rhythmical Steel" |accessdate=2008-02-22 |last=Walborn |first=Christopher D. ] The two most important influences were the drumming traditions of both Africa and India. The instrument's invention was therefore a specific cultural response to the conditions present on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.

The first instruments developed in the evolution of steelpan were Tamboo-Bamboos, tunable sticks made of bamboo wood. These were hit onto the ground and with other sticks in order to produce sound.cite web |url= |title=Another Look At The History Of The Steel Band No. 1 The Evolution Of The Steel Band |accessdate=2008-02-22 |last=Saldenha |first=Robert |year=2006 |month=January |work=Sam's Newsletter ] Tamboo-Bamboo bands also included percussion of a (gin) bottle and spoon. By the mid-1930s bits of metal percussion was being used in the tamboo bamboo bands, the first probably being either the automobile brake hub "iron" or the biscuit drum "boom". The former replaced the gin bottle-and-spoon, and the later the "bass" bamboo that was pounded on the ground. By the late 1930s there occasional all-steel bands were seen at Carnival and by 1940 it had become the preferred Carnival accompaniment of young underprivileged men. The 55-gallon oil drum was used to make lead steelpans from around 1947. The Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), formed to attend the Festival of Britain in 1951, was the first steelband whose instruments were all made from oil drums. Members of TASPO included Ellie Mannette and Winston "Spree" Simon.

Anthony Williams, one member of the TASPO band, on returning from Britain, designed the "Fourths and Fifths" arrangement of notes which is, in effect, a cycle of fifths. This has become the standard form of note placement for lead pans. Other important developments include the tuning of harmonic overtones in individual notes, developed simultaneously and independently by Bertie Marshall and Alan Gervais, and the chroming of pans.

Two Americans, George Whitmyre and Harvey J. Price, have secured a United States patent for "the process of formation of a Caribbean steelpan using a hydroforming press". This patent is being challenged by the Trinidad and Tobago Legal Affairs Ministry, since many Trinbagonian drum makers have used similar methods for years. [cite web |url= |title=Pan Shocker: Americans patent pan plan |accessdate=2008-02-22 |last=Joseph |first=Terry |date=2002-04-16 | ] Their pan making company, Hydroforming, has gone out of business.


Steeldrums are built using sheet metal with a thickness between 0.8mm and 1.5mm. Traditionally, steelpans have been built from used oil barrels. Nowadays, many instrument makers do not rely on used steel containers and get the resonance bodies manufactured according to their preferences and technical specifications. In a first step, the flat sheet metal is drawn into a bowl-like shape. This process is usually done with several hammers, manually or with the help of air pressure. The note pattern is then marked onto the surface, and the notes of different sizes are shaped and molded into the surface. After the tempering, the notes have to be softened and tuned (initial tuning). The softening is part of this initial tuning process. The technician will use the best possible tuning device to correctly tune the steelpan's playing areas to the desired pitch. Often they will use an expensive electronic tuner called a Strobe tuner to assist the tuning of the steelpan.

The note's size corresponds to the pitch—the larger the oval, the lower the tone.cite web |url= |title=Harmony in the Caribbean: Making and Breaking the Secrets of the Steel Pan |accessdate=2008-02-22 |first=Krystle |last=Williams ] The size of the instrument varies from one pan to another. It may have almost all of the "skirt" (the cylindrical part of the oil drum) cut off and around 30 soprano-range notes. It may use the entire drum with only three bass notes per pan, in which case one person may play six such pans. The length of the skirt generally corresponds to the tessitura (high or low range) of the drum. The pans may either be painted or chromed.

Despite being a relatively new member of the percussion family, steelpan tuning techniques have advanced rapidly. Because of the short "voice" of the pan, needle/LED display type tuners cannot track the signal to identify a tone. Strobe tuners are real-time tuners, ideally suited for the task. The need to see the first few overtones further makes a strobe tuner a necessity for steel pan tuning. Steelpan makers have used strobe tuners since it was discovered that, by adjusting the overtones (1st (fundamental), 2nd and third partial), the pan's sound seemed to sparkle in a way that it did not previously.

Over the years, together with experienced ears, a tuning stick, a hammer, and a strobe tuner, the unmistakable, exotic and uplifting sound of the pan has been molded into current shape.

There are several ways in which a steelpan may become out of tune and it is quite common that steelbands arrange to have their instruments tuned once or twice a year. A tuner must have a great skill in his work to manage to make the notes sound both good and at the correct pitch. Much of the tuning work is performed using hammers.

The pan family

There are 13 instruments in the pan family: [cite web |url= |title=Steelband |accessdate=2008-02-21 |year=2007 |work=National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago ]

*Soprano, lead, or tenor
*Double tenor
*Double second
*Double guitar
*Quadrophonic (four pans)
*Triple guitar
*Cello—typically made of three to four barrels [cite web |url= |title=About the Steel Pan |accessdate=2008-02-22 | ]
*Six pan
*Tenor bass (three and four pan variations)
*Six bass (and numerical variations)
*Seven bass
*Nine bass (with numerical variations up to 12)
*12 bass

Future of pan

Many ensembles have emerged in recent years which combine the steelpan with other styles of music. More and more artists have begun including the instrument in various genres of music. An international festival, the World Steelband Music Festival, has been held biannually in Trinidad since 1952. [cite web |url= |title= World Steelband Festival 2005 |accessdate=2008-02-22 |author=Everybody's Magazine |date=2007-12-05 |work=eCaroh Caribbean Emporium ] During Carnival celebrations the steelband contest Panorama takes place.

From a classical perspective in December 2006, Liam Teague and the Vermeer Quartet performed Deborah Fischer Teason's five movement "Cadences" for tenor pan and string quartet at the Northern Illinois University concert hall on a program with Schubert's Quartettsatz in C minor and Beethoven's Quartet in A minor, Op 132. The concert was repeated at Chicago's Symphony Hall. Teague also premiered Jan Bach’s Concerto for Steelpan and Orchestra with the Chicago Symphonietta in 1995. Other works in this genre include a concerto for double tenor pan by Rachel Hayward which was premiered by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (1988). Many contemporary composers, such as Hans Werner Henze, Per Nørgård, Toru Takemitsu, Javier Alvarez, Simon Limbrick, Gerard Grisey, Christopher Melen, Brian Elias, Libby Larson and Felix Cross have also written pieces featuring solo steelpan parts. Famous pan players include Gary Gibson, Chris Tanner, Tom Miller, Lennox Sharpe, Theo Stephens, Othello Molineaux, Andy Narell, Jeff Narell , Aldon Moore, Jim Munzenrider, Robert Greenidge, Liam Teague, Derek Smith, Yohan Popwell, Alan Lightner, Ray Holman, Douglas Peterson, Naveia Daniel, Sterling Betancourt, Jonathan Scales, Victor Provost, Dave Longfellow, Gregory Boyd, Jim Morford, Keith T. Moone, and Russell Henderson.

ee also

*Music of Trinidad and Tobago
*List of musical genres
*List of musical instruments
*List of steelbands
*Hang Drum
*Caisa drum
*Electronic tuner


Further reading

AHO William R., 1987, "Steel Band Music in Trinidad and Tobago: The Creation of a People's Music" in Latin American Music Review 8 (1): 26-56.

DUDLEY Shannon K.:
*1996, "Judging "By the beat": Calypso versus soca" in "Ethnomusicology" vol. 40 n° 2 : 269-98.
*1997, "Making music for the Nation: Competing identities and Esthetics" in Trinidad and Tobago's Panorama Steelband Competition PhD dissertation; University of California Berkley, 353 p.
*2002, "Dropping the Bomb: Steelband Performance and Meaning in 1960's Trinidad" in Ethnomusicology 46 (1): 135- 64.

*1999, "La compétition des steelbands de Trinidad Musique et jeu du tenor." Mémoire de maîtrise, Paris X Nanterre, 86 p.
*2001, "Geste individuel, mémoire collective: Le jeu du pan dans les steelbands de Trinidad et Tobago" in Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles 14 : 181-202.
*2005, "Mémoire et jeu d’ensemble ; La mémorisation du répertoire dans les steelbands de Trinidad et Tobago." Thèse de doctorat, Université Paris X Nanterre, Paris.
*2006, "The influence of the group for the memorization of repertoire in Trinidad and Tobago steelbands," in 9th International Conference on Musical Perception and Cognition proceedings, ed. by M. Baroni, A.R. Addessi, R. Caterina, M. Costa, Bologna.

STUEMPFLE Stephen, 1995, The steelband movement. The forging of a national art in Trinidad and Tobago University of Pennsylvania Press 287 p.
*cite book|author=Manuel, Peter|title=Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae (2nd edition)|publisher=Temple University Press|location=Philadelphia|year=2006|id=ISBN 1-59213-463-7

External links

* [ The world governing body for steelpan]
* [ Int Recording Artist]
* [ The Pan Page] —a forum for the steelpan
* [ An illustrated history of steelpan]
* [ Dossier de la Médiathèque de la Cité de la Musique]
* [ Dossier sur les steelband]
* [ Pan On The Net] —Everything about the steelpan and steelbands worldwide
* [ North Tyneside Steelband]
* [ Desperadoes Steelband] ;videos:
* [ Making a Steel Drum Steel Pan Tenor Pan]
* [ Fine Tuning Double Seconds] , by Dave Beery
* [ Limbofied] played on a steel pan with marks

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