"Steelband", Steeldrum" and"Steelpan"

What are these actually?

Well now: a "steelband" is a band that uses "steeldrums". Below you see a number of instruments that are part of a "steeldrum-set"

A set of "steelpans"

A "steelpan" is a single instrument. In the following section we show you how one makes a "steelpan"!



Our 'Point of Departure': the "raw oil drum"

We start with an oil drum as our base material

There are all sorts of steel drums and vessels being used in the industry.

However, what we need is a common oil drum (made of carbon steel). Some of these are made with a lid or detachable top or with a fill/drain opening.

Therefore, we can only use the bottom of the drum as our base material for a steelpan.




The "sinking" of the drum bottom begins

The Bottom is being shaped (being made concave)

The bottom of the drum is being hammered down by about 7 1/2 to 8 inch by using a short handled mallet.



After approximately 10-12 hours the 'pan' takes on its basic shape

Carol works on her first "solo pan"

{If you place the cursor over the picture you will see its title. You can also 'click' on the picture to obtain an enlargment}

When drum bottom depression has been achieved (at 7 1/2 inch), the "tone fields" are marked off using chalk. A solo instrument will have approximately 30 tone fields covering 2 1/2 octave.

Now the chalked lines will be engraved using a small punch, so that separate segments develop: these will become the "tone fields".

Notice the marking of the tone fields The 'pan' is cut off the drum using a cold chisel Heating and (controlled) cooling affects the correct hardness of the steel

Now the steeldrum is cut off at the correct hight. The remaining side of the drum functions as a sounding board.

The steeldrum, also known as steelpan, is hardened by putting it into a fire and rapid cooling by immersion in water. This must be done carefully in order to achieve the correct hardness of the steel.

The tuning is started Tuning is being continued. This can take weeks.

After cooling, the real job of tuning can be started. The engraved tone field segments are tuned to the correct frequency using various hammers and endless patience. As said before: a solo instrument features 2 1/2 octaves, and is tuned chromatically. This tuning takes approximately one month. It is a lengthy and very precise job to knock the material in the tone fields back and forth to yield the correct tone (concert pitch).

After the chrome bath  the tuning needs further refinement

After the instrument has been sanded clean it can be chrome plated, after which additional tuning is again in order. Then the instrument is ready and is mounted in a stand, care being taken to ensure that it is suspended freely.

The steeldrun player takes his position behind the instrument and uses two sticks that have a rubber covered top.


Felix Walroud with one of his self-made steeldrums

Now the performances can start.


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