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How to choose the right size for your first Handpan

Choosing your first handpan can be really challenging. What type of instrument do you need? Should you start with a cheap and easy option for newbies and then switch to a higher level, or should you start learning to play a professional drum from the very beginning? What scale should you choose? What size do you need? All these questions can make the process of choosing really overwhelming. Instead of looking forward to enjoying playing your new drum, you get a big headache.
But there’s no need to take aspirin. Let us make the process of choosing your very first handpan a piece of cake. Here’s a short and clear guide on how to choose a handpan.
The “pan” instruments include many drums like tank drums, RAV Pans and opsilon handpans, available for sale online and in music stores. They all vary in shapes and sizes. It’s like choosing a guitar – you can opt for a ukulele or choose a big rock-concert Fender.
Think of choosing the handpan size like choosing a burger. A small cheeseburger or a Big Mac with a double patty, extra bacon, and tomatoes? The bigger it is, the more you get.
The size of the drum affects the sound.
Here’s a little bit of simple physics. A handpan’s, as well as many other instruments’ sound, is based on resonance. The body of the instrument works as a resonating chamber, increasing the volume of the sound produced by the instrument. You can do a small experiment at home to see this effect.
Take a glass and hold it in your hand. Tap the glass with your nail and listen to the sound. Now repeat the steps but put the glass onto a wooden table. Can you hear the difference? The table will resonate and augment the sound.
The same thing happens when you play the handpan or the tongue drum. The only difference is that the handpan is a membrane instrument, so the sound is produced by the vibrating membrane, while the tongue drum produces sound through a vibrating tongue.

When you start something new, and this doesn’t just refer to playing music but also to any other business, it’s crucial to get good results from the very beginning to have enough excitement to overcome failures and difficulties. So there’s no need to say - a good instrument will help you get better results.

So opt for a full-size drum so as not to get demotivated by the not-so-perfect music you’ll create at the beginning.

When comparing handpans and tongue drums, you’ll see that handpans are usually bigger than tongue drums. But before you jump to clicking “add to cart”, take into consideration that the handpans are much harder to learn. These instruments require some experience of playing steel drums and hours of practice.

The tongue drum will be a better choice for you if you are a first-timer. They are easier to acquire and produce a loud sound with little effort.

Tongue drums vary in size. You can find ones no bigger than an apple. But remember physics - a bigger chamber will provide a better and louder sound. Tongue drums like the RAV Vast are big enough to produce the same quality sound as handpans as they are almost the same size (52 cm compared to 58 cm). RAV Vasts are totally beginner-friendly instruments. These unique musical instruments are perfectly tuned and their main perk is that all the notes stay in balance with each other. That means that no matter which melody you create, the drum leaves it no other choice than to sound perfectly in tune (all thanks to its patented shape and special steel).

The RAV Vasts all have the same size but vary in scale. Each scale has 9 notes that are equivalent to the number of steel tongues. This works for all the RAV drums except the double ding scale drums where one tongue (or membrane in the case of RAV Pans) corresponds to 2 notes. Which scale should you buy if you are a beginner? Take a look at versatile scales like the D Major or the D Celtic Minor. These two drums will be a good option to start as you can play pretty much any kind of musical composition. Try your hand at different scales to choose the one that suits you best.

If you think a big drum is likely to cause you problems when you try to play it, you’re completely mistaken. Despite the big diameter, the drum is much more compact than a handpan and can be comfortably placed on your legs while playing.

You can also skip on worrying about how to store and transport the RAV Vast. When shopping for the drum, take a look at the wide variety of different cases and bags designed by RAV to protect your drum and carry it safely. However, do not use the bag to store the drum as the moisture inside can induce the formation of rust. You can keep your RAV Vast on a coffee table or dresser or simply hang it on the wall.