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The Beauty Of Steel Pan Music

By Marci Nielsen


Melodic sounds thrill the soul, sooth the mind and comforts the spirit. But sometimes rhythmic sounds are simply there to rock listeners physically as they dance to tunes that appeal to them. This is precisely what steel pan music does. The pans go through an intricate process which enables them to produce the diverse range of sounds for which they are known. The instruments that produce these awesome sounds are produced through a very intricate process that takes a lot of physical and mental exertion.

A musical instrument that has deep and immediate ties to the Caribbean, the steel pan has traditionally been linked with Calypso ad other West Indian based musical art forms. One nation though, Trinidad and Tobago, is the first that comes to mind when this instrument or the sounds it creates are mentioned. This is because this island nation is actually the literal foundation of the music.

Even though the musical genre has strong ties to the Caribbean, the sounds produced are so diverse that they can be used to create the sounds of any category of musical expressions. These musical tools are found in rhythm and blues, gospel, reggae and many other types of bands. There is no genre that they cannot fit into.

Experts make steel pans with their hands and the process requires much skill and energy. They tend to start off by selecting the ideal metal drum to make the pan. This is an important step because the drum selected will, in the end, determine the type of sound produced and anyone who listens to the music these instruments produce will realize that they create a variety of sounds.

Sinking the bottom of the drum takes place next. To do this, experts use heavy hammers to create a bowl-like shape in the drum's closed end. This is when some drums tend to burst. The ones that are prone to bursting during this step are those that are very dented, rusted or too thin. This is one reason for paying keen attention to drum quality during the selection process.

After sinking the drums, experts have to identify the areas that will produce the various notes. They do this by drawing on the bottom. The spaces that are left out are then flattened. The flattening is achieved through the use of a special tuning hammer. Experts call this the counter sinking process. Like the previous phase, this one tests the mettle of the drum being used and is a step that has to be cautiously executed.

The pans go through other stages before they are ready for use in a band. These stages are known as the grooving, setting, burning, cutting and tuning. After those steps, the drums are coated with a protective finish that helps to maintain their look and the adjustments that have been made to the surface. The traditional finish used is painting or chrome plating but in recent times a powder finish has been introduced to the process.

It is clear therefore, that the effort that goes into making one of these instruments plays a significant role in the resulting melodies that people around the world enjoy. Many do not recognize it, but the makers of the tools also help to deliver the mind blowing sounds that come from the bands of musicians that use these instruments.




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