Handpan drums are fascinating percussion instruments that produce a distinctive ethereal sound that can add depth and character to any composition.
They aren’t the easiest instruments to get your hands on, however, with many of the best manufacturers making them to order and having considerable waiting lists. But you can get your hands on a pretty good quality handpan drum more quickly online if you wish. We’ve picked the five best handpan drums that you can order online today to arrive at your door in just a few days.
We’ll also take a look at what exactly handpan drums are and what to look for when choosing a handpan drum.
Product Quick Links
- Happybuy 22 Inch Handpan In D Minor
- Handpans by Panniverse 9 Note D Kurd Minor
- Novapans Handpand 9 Note Kurd Minor
- As Teman Handpan Drum in D Minor
- Lark Music Handpan in D Minor
What Is A Handpan Drum?
This is a drum so-called because it is played with the hands!
It is a convex steel drum with a top steel drum sheet that is normally tuned to nine different notes, eight circling around the outside and one, “the ding,” in the middle. The most common configuration is a D minor scale, with D3 in the middle and the following eight notes around the outside, running clockwise from the top: A3, bB3, D4, F4, A4, G4, E4, and C4. They can also be tuned to other note configurations, for example, major, natural minor, harmonic minor, Hijaz, Mixolydian, etc.
The top drum sheet is connected to a bottom drum sheet with a hole in it to allow for resonant sound. When put together, the drum looks a bit like a flying saucer or two woks. They usually measure around 22 inches in diameter and 10 inches deep.
The drum is highly sensitive and usually played with the fingers and hands while in a seated position. When small mallets are included with the instrument, this is for testing the harmonization and tuning rather than for playing.
The drums are often gold, but other colors such as silver, blue, and black are also popular. This is not just indulgence, though: The nitrided gold coating is designed to prevent rust.
The modern versions of the drum, also sometimes called a steel drum or tongue drum, are modeled on the Trinidad steel hang drum but flipped upside down. They became popular internationally from around the 1990s and are a bit of a collector’s item.
If you want a drum from a specialist maker, there is often a waiting list. But there are also more affordable handpan options available to buy online. You can expect to pay between $400 and $1,000 for a decent handpan drum.
Best Handpan Drums You Can Buy Today
This standard 22-inch handpan from Happybuy is one of the most affordable handpan drums you can buy online.
It’s made from the same durable nitrogen steel material as its competitors and is a nine-note instrument tuned to D minor. Each note has been checked with a tuner to minimize fluctuations caused by the manufacturing process. It doesn’t have the same gold coating as some other options, which helps keep the price down.
This is a complete set that comes with a carrier bag, a folding stand for the drum, and soft mallets for harmonization, turning, and a bit of experimentation. Choose from brown, blue, and gray options.
This handpan drum from Panniverse is one of the most popular drum options on the market and is at the higher end of the affordable range.
Another traditional 22-inch drum, you can choose from a gold drum with a nitrided gold coating or options in blue or black. This is another complete kit that comes with a case and stand.
As well as a standard nine-note drum, they also do a specialist 12-note drum in silver. This will appeal to anyone looking for something different and more versatile.
If you are looking for guidance and instruction when learning the handpan drum, rather than just experimentation, this option from Novapans is a good buy.
They offer a standard 22-inch drum with either a nitrided gold or silver coating to protect against rust. In your kit, you get the drum, a carry case, stand, cleaning cloth, and mallets for harmonic testing.
You also get access to a collection of online tutorials and even 121 sessions with an instructor if you wish. This will appeal to people who thrive with a structured and formal approach to learning.
These stunning drums are at the more expensive end of the affordable market, but are well worth it if you want something beyond a minimalist design. There are 12 dynamic design options to choose from here.
The 22-inch drums are made from a nitrogen steel material that has received fire heat treatment. The steel has been decorated, and the drum is closed with an attractive braided rope seal.
When you buy the two-piece drum, you also get a carry bag, stand, cleaning cloth, and mallet. Basically, everything you need in one convenient package.
This affordable handpan from Lark Music is slightly larger than standard, measuring 22.8 inches, and produces a deluxe sound.
Turn to standard D minor with a nine-note configuration, it comes in a dramatic black with a carry case for easy transport.
What To Look For In A Good Handpan Drum
If you come across a handpan drum available to buy, how exactly do you assess the value of the instrument in front of you? Here are a few things to consider.
The size of the drum affects the sound it produces, so unless you are looking for something to produce a very specific and different sound, you should choose a standard size drum.
The standard size for a handpan drum is 22-inch in diameter and 10.2 inches high when the two parts of the drum are connected. Anything that is more than a few fractions of an inch bigger or smaller than this may produce a different sound.
Most standard handpan drums will come tuned to D minor. This means that the note in the middle is D3, and then around the outside clockwise from the top are A3, bB3, D4, F4, A4, G4, E4, and C4.
If you are planning to follow online tutorials or teach yourself from books, this is the best choice, as most material will reference this tuning arrangement.
But handpan drums are pretty intuitive instruments, and anyone with a bit of music knowledge should be able to figure them out. If that is you, you can try other configurations. The following are also commonly available:
- Aeolian – G (center) C, D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb, C
- Voyager – E (center) B, D, E, F#, G, B, D
- Penta C – E (center) A, C, D, E, G, A, E
- Hijaz – G (center) D, F, G, A, Bb, C, D
- Pygmy – G (center) C, D, Eb, G, Ab, C, D, Eb
You can also get handpan drums with more notes. The 12-note drum is the most common configuration after the standard nine-note.
Check the tuning of a drum before you buy. You’ll need a small mallet to hit the drum in the right places, and then an automatic tuner.
If you are a learner, check out our guide to reading drum sheet music here.
The drums should be made from a nitrogen steel material to ensure they don’t rust over time. They will sometimes be coated with a nitrided gold or silver covering, or something similar in another color to provide additional protection.
Thinking of recording with your handpan drums? Check out our recommendations for the best drum mics here.
Handpan drums tend to be one of the hardest instruments to get your hands on quickly, so you need to know how to assess the quality of a drum when you do come across one. Hopefully, our guide tells you everything you need to know.
If you do want to get your hands on a drum and don’t want to wait for one to be specially produced for you (or pay the premium price tag), check out our list of five great handpan drums that you can buy online today and have it arrive at your door within a couple of days.
Do you play the handpan drum? Do you have any tips for buying or playing? Share them with the community in the comments section below.