Number of notes, size and price are decisive
Should I go for a 8, 9 or even 14 note handpan?
One thing right from the start: A general judgement, a better or worse is neither possible nor appropriate when it comes to the question of the correct number of note fields of a Handpan. Every correctly tuned Handpan sounds breathtaking with a little technique and practice!
The special sound of Yatao is created by the speed with which Malte and Alex play the instruments. The video below is a wonderful example of what a breathtaking sound is possible with an 8-tone Handpan:
In general, it can be said that the complexity of an instrument increases with the number of its sound surfaces. On the one hand, complexity describes the sound possibilities available to you with the higher number of notes. By using up to 16 instead of 8 notes, completely new and exciting harmonies and sound sequences become possible. You are more versatile and flexible when playing with others, and you can also give your virtuosity a truly new expression. On the other hand, complexity also describes the much more demanding use of the instrument - for example, tones lie on the back of the instrument. This makes it both more difficult to reach them and to strike them cleanly, the smaller diameter does not make this any easier.
In the following video you can see that Malte has a higher freedom of sound and thanks to a higher number of tones he can play more complex melodies.
Certainly, crafting an instrument with a higher sound density requires significantly more effort during production. Most Handpan makers don't offer instruments with more than 14 tones for specific reasons. Crafting Handpans with more than 14 tones requires meticulous tuning and shaping of the metal, increasing the difficulty of the manufacturing process. Therefore, a Handpan with more complexity understandably tends to have a higher price tag.
Handpan diameter - small or big?
Traditionally, a Handpan has a diameter of about 53-56 centimeter. On the one hand, this makes the Handpan a relatively large, some might say sometimes unwieldy instrument. On the other hand, it is exactly this large sounding body that enables the typically pleasant and full sound. It is a special feeling to feel the hardly noticeable vibrations and the oscillations that are spread over this large sound body. For some time now, various makers have been trying to create these Handpan-typical timbres with a smaller sounding body. The smaller brothers and sisters of the traditional handpan are thus perfectly suited as an introductory instrument for children, teenagers or anyone who prefers a more compact instrument that is also easy to travel. There are not many manufacturers who can produce such Handpans. We are very happy to be able to present you here regularly the Mini-Handpans by Leaf in the Yatao-Shop.
Handpan price - expensive or rather a bit cheaper?
Prices for Handpans vary greatly depending on the maker, region, brand reputation, number of notes and quality. However, the price of a Handpan does not always reflect the quality of the instrument. Prices usually range from 1000€ to 2000€ for an "8 Noter", which means that there are 8 notes around the central note in the middle "Ding". Instruments with more notes, for example also on the lower shell, are often much more expensive since they are harder to manufacture. Usually there is a basic price of 8 or 9 notes and each additional note costs 100€ - 200€ more.
Since the market is still young, used but well-kept instruments which are still in tuned or freshly tuned, are usually sold at almost the original purchase price.
For those who don't want to spend so much money, there are so-called "tongue drums". They have vibrating steel tongues that are cut into the surface, sound a bit duller and softer and have a much longer sustain (reverberation). Our recommendation for a tonguedrum is the Russian-made RAV Vast.
In the last years of giving workshops we have learned that taste could not be more different and that we often try too much to find perfection. We find it more easy to also go with one's intuition:
What do you feel when you hear the sound of the respective Handpan? Which design do you feel attracted to? Listen to your feeling when you make your choice, then your playing will also be fulfilled by it.
Take your time and make YOUR choice. Your friends, family and even we can't help you with what feels right and suitable for you.
To give you a small overview and share our assessment, we have written an orientation text for each Handpan scale and manufacturer. If you have any further questions - don't hesitate to write us!