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The Ultimate Guide To Choosing A Handpan Steel Drum

by Henter Feng 05 Jul 2024

Do you feel that choosing the right handpan steel drum is overwhelming? Well, this guide will make it less overwhelming! Making an informed decision is important when there are so many options available. Cosmo Handpans’ ultimate guide will help you navigate through this difficult choice.

Handpan vs. Hang Drum

Handpans are also known as Hang drums and pantam. A creator known as PANArt was the first to introduce the hang drum. However, today, a lot of makers produce handpans. Handpans typically have a wider range of scales and customization options, while Hang drums are more uniform.

Material Matters

Before you commit to a handpan, you should know that the material of your drum greatly influences its sound and overall playing experience. You should know that choosing the correct handpan material can significantly impact the longevity and tonal quality of your instrument.

Handpan materials

Stainless Steel Handpans

Resistance to Corrosion and Rust

A substance known as chromium oxide creates a protective layer on steel’s surface making it rust and corrosion resistant even the harshest of weathers. Due to this rust resistance, steel handpans are long lasting and low maintenance.

Sound Quality

Stainless steel handpans are renowned for their brighter tone. They produce a clear, resonant sound with a more open and expansive quality. This material also offers a longer sustain, meaning the notes resonate and linger in the air longer after being struck. This characteristic can be particularly appealing for creating meditative and atmospheric music.

Dynamic Range and Amplitude

Stainless steel handpans have a higher amplitude and broader dynamic range compared to other materials like nitrided steel. Having a higher amplitude tells us that stainless steel can create a larger variety in volumes.

Manufacturing Challenges

You should know that stainless steel has a very specific manufacturing process. Since the stainless-steel material is harder, it is also less malleable and poses a challenge to shape and tune properly. All hope is not lost! Handpan makers with experience have special techniques to work with stainless steel which deliver stable and high-quality products.

Nitrided Steel Handpans


To make the Nitrided steel handpans become much durable, they have to undergo a nitriding process. In this process, nitrogen is diffused into the steel's surface so that it can create a rigid, wear-resistant layer.

Sound Characteristics

You should know that Nitrided handpan steel drums typically produce a soft and warm tone when comparing to a stainless-steel drum. Nitrided handpan usually come with a shorter sustain which can create a more staccato and percussive sound. This quality may be preferred by players looking for a more traditional or earthy sound.

Ease of Tuning

Nitrided steel is generally easier to work with during the manufacturing process. It is more malleable, allowing makers to shape and tune the instrument with greater precision. This can result in a more consistent sound quality and tuning stability.

Research and Compare

Thorough Research

Investigate different brands and makers. Reading reviews and joining online forums like Cosmo Handpan USA can provide valuable insights from other players. Learn about the various models and their sound characteristics. You can also find videos and sound samples online to get a better idea of how each handpan sounds.

Compare Prices

Check multiple sources to compare prices. Look at both online retailers and local shops. Consider additional costs like shipping and return policies. Sometimes, the lowest price might come with higher shipping fees or less favorable return options.

Look for Sales

Sales will be your biggest saviour! Many retailers carry out sales in the holiday season. If you sign up for handpan makers or retailers’ newsletters, you won’t be missing out these special sales and discounts. Follow Cosmo Handpans USA on social media and stay informed about any limited time offers!

Deciding on Features

Size and Scale

Handpans come in various sizes and scales. A 22-inch handpan can provide a more comprehensive dynamic range, ideal for more experienced players. Beginners should usually go for a smaller and manageable size! The scale, however, depends on the type of musical genre you prefer.

Chromatic vs. Diatonic

Chromatic handpans allow you to play in any key, offering greater versatility. Diatonic handpans are limited to specific scales, which can simplify playing and learning. Decide based on the music you intend to create. If you want to create a more complex and intricate musical tune then go for chromatic scales, but if you’re a beginner or want to take your music into a different direction, purchase diatonic scales.

Sound Quality

Sound quality is paramount when choosing a handpan. Before committing to a handpan, take a listen to the sound samples and videos to learn more about the particular handpan’s tone, sustain, and overall sound quality. Visit makers or retailers if possible to hear the instruments in person.

Purchasing Wisely

Buy from Reputable Sellers

Do make sure you are buying your handpan instrument from a well-known retailer or better yet, purchase directly from the handpan maker. Read the testimonials and reviews left by customers regarding their customer service and handpan quality. Check their return policies and warranties.

Consider Second-Hand Options

Second-hand handpans can offer good value. However, inspect them in person if possible to verify their condition and tuning. You should ask the second-hand retailer about the handpan’s history! Ask the retailers questions about any previous repairs and owners.

Flexible Payment Options

Certain handpan steel drum sellers offer installment plans. Look for interest-free options to avoid additional costs. This can make higher-priced handpans more accessible.

Caring for Your Handpan

Maintenance Tips

You should know that a stainless steel handpan requires less maintenance; however, it does still need regular care. Wipe your handpan steel drum every time you’re done using it so it doesn’t have any moisture and salt left.


When you store your handpan in a room temperature place, you are preventing it from any potential damage. Use a padded case for added protection during transport. Avoid leaving your handpan in extreme temperatures, which can affect its tuning and durability.

Regular Checks

Periodically check your handpan for signs of wear or damage. If you notice any issues, contact the maker or a professional for advice on repairs. You should regularly maintain your handpan so you can prolong its life.

Additional Tips for Buyers

Join Workshops and Gatherings

Attend handpan workshops and gatherings to learn more and try out different handpans. These events often have makers who can offer special deals. You'll also get the chance to meet other players and exchange tips and experiences.

Patience Pays Off

Avoid impulse buying. You should take your time to find the right handpan steel drum. Finding the ideal handpan steel drum is an investment into your musical future so be patient!

Customization Options

Many makers offer customization options for their handpans. You can choose specific scales, finishes, and even custom engravings. While custom orders may take longer, they can result in a handpan that perfectly suits your preferences.


Choosing the right handpan steel drum involves careful consideration of many factors. When you understand the basics of a steel drum, research on it thoroughly, compare prices, and decide on critical features, only then you can find the perfect instrument. Whether experienced or just starting out, having the right steel drum for your handpan will bring you years of musical enjoyment. Buy from established and well-known sellers and consider second-hand options. Remember: take good care of your instrument to keep it in an optimum condition. Happy playing!

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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