Before you purchase a tank drum (steel tongue drum) or a Hang® drum (handpan), you often wonder what the difference between these two instruments is, and which of them is better. Now, it’s time to give a detailed answer to this question.
First of all, we should underline that Hang® is a registered trade name of a musical instrument made by PANArt Hangbau AG. Therefore, all analogues of this instrument made by other manufacturers should be properly called handpans.
A tank drum and a handpan are apparently similar and quite different at the same time. They are similar mainly due to their fascinating sound that appeals to listeners. Most people, who have seen and listened to a tank drum or a handpan for the first time, compare their shapes with flying saucers, and their sound seems absolutely ethereal to listeners. Both instruments are very easy to play: you do not need any musical education to learn to play them – having the sense of rhythm will be enough; moreover, you can develop it in case you lack it. Both instruments are tuned in the same way, so their tuning modes are mutually adaptive.
The five main features making these instruments different are their sound, shape, size, design, and price.
Sound is the first and the most important feature that makes people love these instruments. After having heard the way a tank drum and a handpan sound, it may seem they are similar, especially if you haven’t listened to them live, but on the Internet. In reality, they sound completely different.
Tank drum sound reminds of church bells or Tibetan singing bowls, that is why many of our customers associate it with something sacred and cosmic. The sound of each tongue is long and sustained: when you beat a tongue, its sound attenuates evenly, repeatedly reflecting inside the tank drum body, and spreading outside. Tank drums are perfect for musicians looking for new original solutions in music, as well as for those who are just interested in self-development, yoga, and various spiritual practices, like Yoga Nidra or Shavasana. Many people play the tank drum to relieve emotional and mental stress at the end of a working day.
Handpan sound is not similar to the sound of bells or Tibetan singing bowls. Like a tank drum, it also has "cosmic" sound, but its nature is more like water drops falling: it is much more intense during the first few seconds than in the subsequent time, therefore its vibrations fade unevenly, and you hear its typical echo sounding like "Pew-Pew-Pew". In fact, you’d better listen to this instrument once live or with headphones than try to imagine its sound.
Shape Both instruments look apparently similar: they both consist of two metal bowls. Different manufacturers can use various metal and steel brands, and different fabrication methods, but the sense is always the same: you get two hemispherical halves combined together and resembling a flying saucer.
The upper half of a tank drum has metal-cut tongues.
The tongues start vibrating when being banged, and spread around a sound wave having the frequency they are tuned at. As a rule, a tank drum has a hole in its bottom, which is made to avoid excessive resonance in the instrument’s body, which is usually heard as humming.
The way a tank drum looks doesn't always matter. Some manufacturers like such evident resonance, so they do not even make a resonating hole. Anyway, such holes can be found in every steel tongue drum produced by Kosmosky workshop, including tank drums for sale.
A tank drum can also be double-side. In this case, tongues are cut on both its sides. The thickness of steel used for tank drum production is usually 2 or 3 mm, which means that such instruments are quite durable, undemanding in use, and also suitable for small children. By the way, if you have an angle grinder, a jigsaw, and an old propane tank, you can make a tank drum yourself. As you know, a heartily hand-made gift is always delightful, especially if it is a gift to yourself.
A handpan has no holes and no tongues. The sound is produced by vibrations of its hollows, the so-called "tonal areas" or membranes . Due to fast vibration attenuation, a handpan doesn’t get any excessive resonance.
The process of handpan tuning is quite time-consuming and diligent. Its metal thickness is no more than 1.5 mm. So if you want to buy a Hang® (handpan), or you are a proud owner of such an instrument, we strongly recommend you to protect it from falling, and keep it away from small children who may instantly turn your handpan into a bunch of metal. There are just a few craftsmen who are able to repair such instruments, so you may spend much time to find them, and your handpan repairing will cost a lot.
As well as tank drums, handpans can be double-sided.
Tank drum sizes are quite different. The most popular variants have a diameter of 22, 30, and 35 cm. Depending on different manufacturers diameters may vary by 1-2 cm downwards or upwards. Therefore, the larger a tank drum size is, the heavier its weight gets. A tank drum of 22 cm made in our workshop weighs approximately 1.5-1.8 kg, a steel tongue drum of 30 cm weighs from 3.5 to 4 kg, and the one of 35 cm has a weight from 5.5 to 6 kg. Weight may vary depending on the instrument’s body dimensions and engravings.
A handpan’s diameter is usually from 55 to 60 cm. Given that these instruments’ height is from 20 to 25 cm, a handpan can be considered quite bulky.
A handpan is much larger than a tank drum. Such a size difference is not accidental as a certain surface area of the instrument is required to make the handpan membranes sound. The given surface area is ideal for the large size a hanpan has. If its size was the same as a tank drum's, there would only be just one or two membranes on it.
Handpan workshops don’t particularly indulge their customers with a variety of designs. The instruments are normally made in dark colors, like black, dark copper, and dark blue. They are sometimes covered in paint, but any paint can actually affect the sound to some extent, so keep it in mind if you want to buy a handpan.
As for tank drum designs, they are much more diverse. Some craftsmen experiment with tongue shapes, some others paint them mono-color, there are also guys who apply airbrushing techniques (but a thick layer of paint isn’t good for steel tongue drums).
Over a few years of continuous experiments, we have come up with the ideal (in our opinion) shape and position of tongues, and these features still remain unchanged. We pay the greatest attention to tank drum engravings, steel processing methods, and its coating with colored varnishes, paints and glitter (which gives a very cool effect to tank drums with no engravings). You can actually order a customized engraving pattern based on your sketch or choose a ready-made one. We also offer tank drum baking so that it shimmers with space-resembling colors, and engraved surface polishing to highlight the pattern on the general background. Tank drums with no engravings can be carved and have beautiful hatchings in the shape of a spiral or frosty patterns. As you can see, there are plenty of design options, and they are regularly replenished with new ones.
It is the most delicate issue for those who are about to buy a tank drum or a handpan.
Prices for handpans start from about $1000 (without delivery) and more. It is relatively inexpensive for such an instrument, and prices like that are often specified by experienced manufacturers with lots of real reviews.
Tank drum price usually depends on its size, tongues number, and design. Low-end models normally cost from $200 to $300, but the sound quality can be either good or bad. Thus, when choosing a steel tongue drum or a handpan, pay maximum attention to their sound. You will never be satisfied with a pleasing to the eye but horribly tuned instrument. A high-quality double-side drum having deep sound, individual design, and developed according to your sketch will basically cost up to $400.
We’ve tried to tell you about the difference between these instruments in detail. If you want to listen to the way our tank drums and handpans sound, go to the "Sound" page or visit our YouTube channel (don't forget to subscribe to it!).
If you find it difficult to choose a tank drum model and its tuning mode, watch our video "How to choose your first tank drum" or just contact us. You can choose and buy a tank drum on the "Store" page. Our video tutorials are available on the "How to play tank drum" page.
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