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Exploring Handpan Scales: Finding the Right Sound for You

by Henter Feng 16 Jun 2024

Choosing a handpan can be an exhilarating experience. This enchanting instrument, with its otherworldly sounds and captivating design, beckons you to explore its musical potential. But with a vast array of scales available, the initial excitement can quickly turn into confusion. Don't worry; this guide is here to help!

We'll delve into some of the most popular handpan scales, unpacking their unique characteristics and guiding you towards finding the perfect match for your musical aspirations.

Understanding Music Scales (Optional, but Rewarding!)

Suppose you're unfamiliar with musical terms like "scale" and "minor," fear not! You can still choose a fantastic handpan based on the sound descriptions provided. But for those curious about the deeper workings of music, this section is for you.

A musical scale is a set of notes arranged in a specific order, creating a unique sonic landscape. Imagine a ladder – each rung represents a note, and the distance between rungs determines the interval between notes. The arrangement of these intervals defines the "character" of the scale, whether it sounds happy, sad, mysterious, or anything in between.

Two common types of scales you'll encounter in the handpan world are major and minor scales. Major scales typically evoke feelings of happiness and brightness, while minor scales lean towards a more melancholic or introspective mood. This is just a general rule, though – scales can be incredibly nuanced, and skilled players can coax a wide range of emotions from them.


Now, let's embark on a journey through some of the most beloved handpan scales!

1. Celtic/Amara: A Timeless Classic for All Levels

The Celtic or Amara scale is a true crowd-pleaser, popular among both beginners and seasoned handpan players. It boasts a minor tonality reminiscent of the evocative melodies found in film scores and Celtic music. This scale's accessibility and inherently captivating sound make it a fantastic choice for anyone starting their handpan adventure. Here are the notes for a D Celtic/Amara handpan: D/A C D E F G A C.

Playing a D Celtic/Amara handpan feels like wandering through a misty Celtic landscape, with the air cool and crisp and the melancholic beauty of the surroundings stirring your soul.

2. Kurd/Annaziska/Aeolian: A Versatile Playground for Exploration

These names often refer to the same scale, although slight variations might exist depending on the handpan maker. This versatile scale is a full minor scale, offering a broader palette of emotions to explore. It provides a strong foundation for beginners seeking to create haunting melodies and caters to advanced players who desire deeper musical expression. The D Kurd/Annaziska scale typically has the notes: D/A Bb C D E F G A.

Playing a D Kurd/Annaziska handpan feels like Embarking on a journey through a vast emotional landscape, from the quiet contemplation of a minor chord to the soaring joy of a major chord contained within the scale.

3. Pygmy: The Magic of Five

The Pygmy scale stands out for its simplicity. It's a pentatonic scale, meaning it uses only five notes instead of the usual seven. This characteristic makes it a great choice for beginners who are still familiarising themselves with the handpan's layout and playing techniques. Despite having fewer notes, the Pygmy scale offers a unique and intriguing sound that occupies a space between major and minor scales. The F Low Pygmy scale, a popular variation, has the notes: F/G Ab C Eb F G Ab C.

Playing an F Low Pygmy handpan feels like Discovering an ancient melody imbued with a primal simplicity that resonates deep within your core. It's a call to connect with the natural world, a song whispered by the wind through the trees.

4. Integral: A Subtle Shift, a World of Difference

The Integral scale is a variation of the natural minor scale. Similar to the Celtic/Amara scale, it has a minor feel. However, by excluding one specific note (the fourth scale degree), the Integral scale creates a distinct character. This highlights the fascinating world of handpan scales – how even a minor change in the note selection can produce a completely different vibe. The D Integral scale, a common version, uses the notes: D/A Bb C D E F A C.

Playing a D Integral handpan feels like Stepping into a familiar minor soundscape yet experiencing a subtle shift in perspective. The missing note creates a sense of intrigue, inviting you to explore the emotional nuances within the scale.

5. Hijaz: Unveiling the Mystery of the East

The Hijaz scale offers a unique sound with a raised 7th note, creating a brighter and more exciting feel compared to natural minor scales. This raised note introduces the possibility of a brilliant major chord, completely transforming the mood from introspective to uplifting. The E Romanian Hijaz scale, a popular variation, has the notes: E/A B C D# E F# G B.

Playing an E-Romanian Hijaz handpan feels like Immersing yourself in the vibrant tapestry of Arabic music. The scale evokes a sense of mystery and adventure, with the raised 7th note adding a touch of unexpected joy and energy.

Remember, There's No One-Size-Fits-All Scale

The beauty of handpan scales lies in their diversity. Each scale offers a unique sonic fingerprint, allowing you to express a wide range of emotions and musical styles. The best scale for you ultimately depends on your personal preferences and musical goals.

Finding Your Perfect Match

Here are some tips to help you choose the perfect handpan scale:

  • Listen to recordings of handpans in different scales.This is the best way to get a feel for the sound and see which one resonates with you.
  • Consider your musical goals.Are you aiming to create melancholic melodies, uplifting tunes, or something more experimental? Choose a scale that aligns with your musical aspirations.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment!There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing a scale. Try out different handpans and see which one speaks to your soul.


With a little exploration and these helpful tips, you'll be well on your way to finding the perfect handpan scale to fuel your musical journey. Remember, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the process of creating beautiful music with this captivating instrument.

If you have questions or need guidance, reach out to experienced players, makers, or retailers like Cosmos Handpan. They'll be happy to share their knowledge and assist you in finding the perfect handpan instrument for your musical aspirations. Trusted retailers like Cosmos Handpan offer a wide selection of handpans in various scales, allowing you to explore different options and find the one that perfectly complements your musical style.

Cosmos Handpan Online Store

The team behind Cosmos Handpan is made up of skilled craftsmen, each with their own unique talents and expertise. They work tirelessly to create instruments that are not only beautiful to look at but also a joy to play. Each handpan is carefully crafted with precision and attention to detail, ensuring that every note is perfectly tuned.
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