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Steelpan (also known as Pan or Steel drum, and sometimes collectively with the musicians as a Steelband) is a musical instrument and a form of music originating in Trinidad.

The pan is a chromatically pitched percussion intrument made from a 55-gallon drum of the type that stores oil, and is one of the newest musical instruments to be invented. Drum refers to the steel drum containers from which the pans are made; the instument is correctly called a pan (and pans are not, technically, drums).

Table of contents
1 The Pan Family
2 Construction
3 Origins
4 See Also

The Pan Family

There are 10 instruments in the pan family:


Pans are constructed by pounding the top of the oil drum into a bowl-like shape, known as "sinking" the drum. The drum is "cooked" over a fire and allowed to cool. Then the notes are laid out, shaped, grooved, and tuned with a variety of hammers and other tools. The note's size corresponds to the pitch - the larger the oval, the lower the tone.

The size of the instrument varies from one pan to another. It may have almost all of the "skirt" of the steel drum cut off and around 30 soprano-range notes; or may be use full-length drum with 3 bass notes, in which case one person may play 6 such pans. The pans may either be painted or chromed.


The music developed from playing any metal objects that came to hand - from buckets and dustbin (trashcan) lids to paint cans and biscuit tins. The style became became popular in the late 1930s. The first record on a pan band in the press was in a report of the Carnival in the Trinidad Guardian dated Tuesday, February 6, 1940.

Early bands were essentially rhythm bands. However during the 1940s discarded 55-gallon steel oil drums became the preferred type of pan and, perhaps noticing that constant drumming changed the tone of the pans, techniques were developed to tune them to enable melodies to be played. Elliot Mannette is credited as the first to use the oil drum in 1946. By the late 1940s the music had spread to neighbouring islands.

In 1951 the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) took the music to the Festival of Britain in the United Kingdom - pan music still features in the annual Notting Hill Carnival.

During the 1960s the tuner Anthony Williams developed a pan - the fourths and fifths - that has since become the standard design used today.

See Also

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