How to choose a Handpan Scale

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Do you feel utterly confused when choosing the scale of your handpan?

If you, like me, feel frustrated when choosing the scale of your hand pan drum, then let me tell you my story. Let me make the process of choosing easy for you. Follow in my footsteps and find out how to choose the best scale for your handpan.

When I was a beginner

I was a total newbie. The only things I knew were that I had fallen in love with the sound of the handpan and that I wanted to get one. I started investigating and reading everything I could find about handpans. I found that this name referred to many instruments: the Hang drum, the opsilon handpan, the RAV Vast, the tongue drum, and many others that are available for sale.

First I chose the instrument and I decided to get the RAV Vast tongue drum as it works perfectly for both first-timers and professional musicians. So when I ‘grew up’ as a musician, I wouldn’t need to change my instrument. This point was crucial for me since buying a handpan is not the same as buying a newspaper. I had been saving money for this purchase and wanted to cherish my drum for years. I also chose the RAV Vast as it’s much more affordable than the average handpan. It’s also easier to learn to play the RAV Vast than a handpan. Still, if you want to play the handpan, the RAV provides multiple options with their amazing RAV Pans.   

How to understand which scale you like

All the RAV Vast scales are classified according to the musician’s mastery level (it’s marked in each drum’s description), so it’s really easy to understand which one you need.

If you are a total newbie like I used to be at the beginning of my journey, I recommend you to take a look at the following scales. These are easy beginner-friendly scales (yet a really good choice for professional musicians as well) and are the most affordable options too.

  • The D Major is the most popular among beginners. The sound is really cheerful and the scale is one of the easiest to learn. The notes sound harmonic in any combination, meaning you can start creating pretty good melodies from the get-go. Besides, this steel tongue drum goes perfectly with other instruments, especially guitars, so this scale will keep working for you even after you’ve evolved as a musician.

  • The Celtic Minor and B Celtic Minor. Both scales are calming and peaceful. They are reminiscent of the song of wind chimes. Choose one of these drums if you want to create a moody and relaxing ambience perfect for reflection and meditation while playing.

  • The Pygmy provides an alternative sound. It’s deeper and sounds like a big bell. This drum will work for you if you are looking for a sound that will be close to the handpan’s. It provides an excellent opportunity to create contrasting compositions and is often the choice of professional handpan players.

When I became experienced

I could have kept on practising with the first RAV I got, and that’s what I was doing. However, after some time, when I became experienced at playing the RAV Vast, I decided to give some new challenging scales a try. So the question of choosing the scale came up for me again. What scales was I choosing from?

  • The B Onoleo is one of the hardest scales to learn, and the most ethnic one. If you like the traditional melodies of ancient Egypt and are ready to experiment – take a closer look at this scale.

  • The Low Pygmy is the king of kings and a real black pearl in the RAV Vast collection (and also the most expensive one). This drum can perform in both major and minor modes (E minor / C major / A Minor / G major) but it works best for playing slow. This enchanting scale will be a great addition to your yoga or meditation sessions.

  • As for the RAV Pans that represent the classic handpan sound, I recommend taking a look at the F Pygmy RAV Pan. This drum requires advanced playing skills as it has 11 notes instead of the usual 9 (2 additional notes are placed on the bottom of the drum). It has a deep acoustic sound that handpan lovers will appreciate.

Choosing a scale is like finding your perfect partner. You’ll never know before you give it a chance. So my recommendation is to listen to different scales and try them if you have the opportunity in order to find the one that suits you best!