How To Steel Pan Drum

For the lover of tropical music the question of how to steel pan drum may come to mind. Learning to steel pan drum involves understanding the metal bowl shaped instrument and the placement of the different tones. Using the soft hammer mallets to strike the areas takes practice in developing the speed and touch technique.

To Play a Steel Pan Drum you will need:

  • Pan Drum
  • Soft drumming mallets
  • Note placement chart for steel pan drums
  1. Understand the drum. Before you learn to steel pan drum, you have to understand how the instrument is designed. Traditionally, the steel pan is hand pounded with precision to form three layers of sound divots. Modern drums are machine made for more accurate tones. These divots each provide a separate tone when struck with the mallet. The layers create three circle ascending toward the middle of the pan to form three layers of octaves. The outer most layer are the lowest octaves. The center layer are the middle and the inner most areas provide the highest octaves and highest pitch.
  2. Learn the notes. To learn to steel pan drum, you must learn the notes on the instrument. The outer layer consists of seven whole notes, three sharp notes and two flats. The wholes are located on the right side of the drum and the sharps and flats upon the left. The second layer within the drum are the same notes at one octave higher. The center only includes four notes, 'E" "E flat" "F" and "D". An instructional video will be helpful with the discerning of these notes as would be an accomplished player of the steel pan drum.
  3. Practice. The only way to truly  learn to steel drum is to actually play. Practice working the mallets to strike the divots lightly and to make trills and other tropical sounds. Listen to songs played on the drums and mimic the runs you hear.