To Main PageBack to INDEX     
  ARCHIVE COPY - 2nd Edition

Research Papers - Steeldrums

  Brene, Switzerland
 Research - Posters and Papers On-Line
 A new Material leads to another Sound On-Line
 The Technology of a New Rawform On-Line
 Hardening Steel by Nitriding On-Line
 The Dome Geometry On-Line
 A Systematic Tuning Process On-Line
 The Pang Instruments On-Line

ARCHIVE COPY - Abridged 2003
The Steelbands (Pan) of Trinidad and Tobago ARCHIVES Database
eEd -
UP to TOP     

PANArt AG - Switzerland - Musical Instruments - The steeldrums


The Pang instruments are all made of gas-nitrided steel. The stronger material led to a new shape and new edge conditions which allowed the construction of these new resonance bodies. A series of new instruments has been developed.

1. Introduction
THE PANG instruments have been developed by PANArt in the last five years [cf 2000]. They are all made of gas-nitrided steel, some of them based on a new rawform.
The appearance of the dome was the beginning of new tuning [techniques], because the elliptical dome determines the ratios of the partials. The tuning process begins in the centre of the shell; with the construction of the dome. When the navel [== dome] was born, we immediately began to study the function of the dome of the gong. It was exciting to see gong tuners at their work. We observed that they charged the gong with clay, and we realised that they damped vibration modes to control the frequencies. Step by step we began to understand their shapes, their manipulations to change the stiffness, and how to get the "Onkas" oscillations.
We met gamelan tuners and exchanged our knowledge, [after which] we realised that the [] [way forward for the development of the steeldrums simply supported shell structures,] lies in the harmonic tuning of the three lowest [orders of their vibrating] modes. We decided to follow the law of the dome, which centralises energy, and to forget to tune the higher [order] modes harmonically. [These higher modes,] due to the dome, [produce frequencies] much higher than the second octave; and we appreciated the warm sound, with a good intonation, [that nonetheless results].
Studies of the tabla showed us the art of tuning a drum. Tabla tuners solve the problem of many disharmonic overtones [] by putting a stiff mass in the centre of their drum. The form of this mass brings together pairs of higher modes, so that we can consider the tabla as a harmonically tuned drum.
Timpani, bells, the singing saw and many other instruments, revealed to us the [fundamental] laws of musical instruments. Explanations [of their vibrational characteristics has been further provided in collaboration with] physicists and other scientific personnel.

The Pang orchestra is a group of individual musical instruments. Some of these instruments can be integrated into the steelband artform. Others find their place in new formations. PANArt will continue to develop the sound of steel.

2. Pang Bells
The sound of cowbells belong to the European countries within the Alpine region. The bells that hang around the necks of cows, sheep and goats are made of iron or bronze. Big bells of iron have a dark sound; bells of bronze a long-ringing bright sound.
The original reason why farmers spent a lot of money to get nice bells, was to protect the animals from bad ghosts, and to find them easily in the fog or by night. Some farmers hang the bells at their houses to show how rich they are. In summertime the cows of many different farmers stay on the mountains until the first snow reaches the Alps, then they come down. Then you can hear a big cowbell orchestra coming down; and the sound of brilliant bells, and dark bells, is heard from valley to valley.
Pang bells are made from a hardened deepdrawn form. They are usually tuned to an octave and a fifth. The tuner changes the stiffness of the rim to get bells of a full octave range. The strike tone corresponds to the (3,0) mode. The bell is excited with a wooden hammer layered with leather or rubber. The leather hammer produces a brilliant sound; the rubber a warm sound. The bell player has to give a short strong impact horizontally on the rim. A Pang-glockenspiel consists of 12 bells arranged in two whole tone scales.

3. Tubal
The Tubal has a range of 3 ½ octaves (from A1 to D5). It is a percussive instrument consisting of individual notes. The shells have a thickness of 1.0mm to 1.5mm, and they are clamped in a cylindrical resonance body and tuned in a ratio of 1:2:3. The resonance body is closed with a bottom of polymer (Styropor) which has a round hole. With this bottom the Helmholtz resonance can be tuned and the bottom itself is vibrating. The eigen-modes of the skirt are damped with the bottom. The mallets are made of light spruce wood, with a rubber core and some layers of felt. The instrument is placed on a rubberlike material to avoid the loss of energy in the ground. The Tubal tones are arranged in whole tone scales.

4. Orages
These cymbals are made of gas-nitrided steel of different qualities. The combination of sound and crash is very interesting. The differ to bronze cymbals especially through their radiation. Due to the higher speed of the bending waves [in steel], lower frequencies are louder.
The Orages are hammered on an anvil after nitriding to work harden the material. The different sounds originate from the different diameter, thickness, steel quality and hammering. The dome stabilises the form; and changes in curvature influence the shifting of energy.

Integrated layout of Ping, Peng and Pong steeldrum instruments of the Pang type - Fig 1
Fig.1 - Integrated layout of Ping, Peng and Pong steeldrum instruments
Of the Pang type
5. Ping, Peng, Pong
These are the names of three instruments which are new members of the steelpan/steeldrum family. Their notes are hammered into a spherical shapes which recouple with their neighbours. The singing character of these harmonically tuned instruments is produced with a tremolo. They may have the place of a choir in a Pang orchestra. These three instruments are related to each other, not only in material and tuning, but also in their layout. The layout is based on two whole-tone scales which are distributed symmetrically over two resonant bodies: The musicians find the notes in the same co-ordinates in all instruments. This integrated layout has been developed by PANArt and is a Standard in the western part of Switzerland. (fig.1)

The dome geometry demands a new art of playing. The place of energy impact is the dome. The mallet has to stay longer on the note to transport more energy into the body. We use mallets with rubber and felt. The construction of the mallets influence the colour of the sound, because the attack on the stiff shell produces noises which can enrich the timbre. The Pang choir produces a warm sound, but needs [] a controlled touch to keep the harmonic correctness.

6. Pung
Pung are made of cylindrical resonance bodies. The skirt gets a stiffer form made by a metal former. The dome is not a mass concentration like in many Buckelgongs, but a centre of energy impact. The shoulder is larger than in Buckelgongs; which enables stronger radiation of the fundamental. A strong impact on this instrument produces a bright sound, or even a crash. A soft impact produces a warm harmonic sound. They are played with the backside of the fist.

7. Hang
A musician, who visited our factory with an Indian gatam, gave us the idea to develop an instrument in steel which could be played by hand. The hang was born. It consists of two hemispheres of gas-nitrided steel fixed together. The notes are tuned on the upper hemisphere; in the lower hemisphere there is an opening. The instrument is played on the knees or on the floor. Seven to nine notes are harmonically tuned around a central deep note. This low note can excite the Helmholtz resonance when it is played in a certain way. The frequency of the Helmholtz resonance can be changed by varying the dimension of the opening with the knees.

Copyright: © 2000 - PANArt Ltd - 07 December 2000 - [Original] Webdesign: F. Stoessel, Berne

      PANArt AG
Engehaldenstr. 134
CH-3012 Bern
Tel: + 41 (0)31 301 3332

eEditors Note: The informative papers of Rohner & Schärer, once available on the WWWeb, went Off-Line when the authors changed their business environment. Now, with their kind permission, these papers are presented here through The Steelbands (Pan) of Trinidad and Tobago ARCHIVES Database.
Changes: Where applicable; additional notes or diagrams may have been added for clarity - [As indicated within square brackets].
English-British spell-checking, [2nd Ed] retranslation to the original English text, and editorial to some section-names; has been applied.
eEd - - November 2003

Compiled & Processed by Islands Research for:
The Steelbands (Pan) of Trinidad & Tobago

IRL on SeeTobago Org

[2nd Ed] © 2003: - 20031031 - 1m20071228 - 2m20140615
Historic Update: 16 November 2003; Last Update: 29 June 2014 02:13:00 TT
Processed by: JdeB - Islands Research

To Main PageBack to INDEX