When will you have handpans for sale in your new shop? Why is everything sold out? Every month we are only able to build a limited number of handpans. We are still very busy building custom or pre-ordered handpans. We do our best to make instruments immediately available, as well as build custom orders. It is best to check back often for updates on instrument availability and shipping times, as well as sign up to our mailing list.
How can I be notified of when there are new instruments in the webstore? We recommend checking the new shop every month for new and different scales. You can also signup up for our priority mailing list to be notified when we list new instruments.
Handpan, hang drum - What is the difference really? In the year 2000 the Swiss company PanArt invented the sound sculpture and gave it the name “Hang”. The name "Hang drum or hangdrum" is also often used for this original type of instrument. When other builders also started making the instrument, the group name for the type of instrument became “Handpan" or "Handpan drum".
What is the difference between your nitrided steel and stainless steel handpans? There are three main differences between our nitrided and stainless steel handpans. First, the sound/sustain/timbre is long and bright on our stainless steel instruments. This makes them ideal for meditative playing, sound therapy, or players that prefer long sounding notes. Our nitrided steel has a beautiful and slightly more mellow timbre that could be described as more ceramic-like, than purely bright, as with the stainless.
Second, the size of the stainless steel instruments is slightly smaller in diameter by 1 inch and overall by several inches. This makes them fit in the lap comfortably and makes them great and portable for beginners.
Third, the color of stainless steel is either a metallic or straw yellow hue, where our nitrided steel are blue/purple. This is controlled by our heating process, and is what we offer for instrument color.
The scale choices are more limited on the stainless instruments due to the instruments smaller size. Both instruments are rust resistant and require little maintenance. In extreme or harsh humid or salty environments, stainless may be a better choice for some players.
How much do your handpan instruments cost?
Our handpans come in a range of prices. Prices are based on things like sound, steel kind, artwork, number of notes and whether or not a hard or soft case is included. You can find these instruments for sale in our shop every month. Our custom instruments start at a base price of $3250 USD.
Do you ship your instruments? Yes, we ship our instruments worldwide.
I live outside the USA. Why can’t order a handpan from your store? Our webstore currently only allows transactions for customers in the United States. If you live outside the USA and are looking to purchase an instrument, we can help you complete a purchase. But you must Contact us first. Extra shipment costs, duties, taxes/import fees will be your responsibility with purchase. We always provide an original invoice for worldwide shipments.
My credit card is not working. Can I pay another way? Yes. But first, if you are having a problems, a quick call to your credit card company or bank will usually resolve the processing issue. We can also send you an invoice for payment online via Paypal. You can pay by credit, debit or Paypal account.
What are your most popular scales? Our most popular scales right now are the various D minor scales ("D Integral 8", "D Celtic" ), and the "E SaByeD" scale.
Do you have cases for the instruments? Yes. We offer both hard and soft cases as options. The Hardcases are called "Evateks" and manufactured by Hard Case Technologies in Italy. These cases are impact resistant, durable and offer great protection for your instrument during shipping or transport.
Our second option for hard cases is made by Panji Bags, from Colorado. These “Panji bags” are eco friendly and made from recycled materials. The bags over extreme protection, being specially designed for Musicians that travel a lot, especially by plane.
Our third option are amazing soft cases that are handmade by Namana Bags. These “Namana bags” are extremely comfortable for long transports with a handpan on your back. The bags are easy to store, too. In our opinion, they are the right choice for careful owners that like to be mobile with their handpan. You can read more about our case options in our blog “Hardcase vs. Soft case”.
How big is an Isthmus handpan? We currently offer two sizes of handpans. Our standard size has an outside diameter of 22 inch, with height of 11 inches. This diameter is our standard size, and allows for many scale options to be built.
Our smaller size has an outside diameter of nearly 21” and the height is closer to 9'“. This may not sound like a large difference, but when setting on your lap, the difference is drastic and readily apparent! Our customers have been asking for smaller handpans for several years, and we are pleased to offer our most popular scale on our smaller size handpas. Our smaller diameter handpans (mostly found in stainless steel) are an ideal choice for beginner players, players looking for a more portable size, players looking for a handpan that is easier to play, or players that are smaller in height or have a smaller lap to comfortably fit the standard sizes of many other handpans.
Is there a certain Hertz that Isthmus handpans are tuned in to? We tune our instruments to 440 Hz. We can tune our handpans to 432 Hz as well for special orders.
How does the climate impact my Isthmus handpan? Generally speaking, humid places requires more attention for the handpan maintenance than dry climate. If you live in a humid place, we recommend applying handpan oil to your instrument at least once a month.
Can I pickup an Isthmus Instruments handpan in person? Yes! We love meeting our customers and getting to know them is one of our main goals. A pickup for your instrument is always possible, and can be made by scheduling an appointment with us.
Are your instruments heat-treated? Yes. We heat treat and gas nitride our instruments.(Except our stainless steel series that doesn’t require nitriding). This process allows for a greater resistance to rust, while also improving some aspects of building, sound qualities and color.
Are your instruments Nitrided ? Yes. Our handpans are fully nitrided. (Except our stainless steel series that doesn’t require nitriding). This helps reduce the chance of rust and while also improving some aspects of building, sound qualities and color.
How are your instruments built? The raw instrument shells are formed using specially designed drawing tools. The tools were designed by Isthmus Instruments and they are used exclusively in the USA. In the Isthmus Instrument workshop, the blank shells are dimpled, hammered & tuned by hand, heated and tuned several times for the best stability and sound quality.
How long does it take you to build an instrument? (...Five years and counting!) Generally the process can take up to a number of weeks, from raw form to finished instrument.
There is always more to learn with this process in regards to metal shaping techniques, tuning, heat treatments, properties of materials, etc... Isthmus Instruments is constantly involved in R & D to improve all aspects of instrument making.
How often do your instruments need to be tuned? Over time (years), the instrument may slowly begin to drift out of “perfect” tuning. This is normal and can be fixed. A casual or hobby player may not need a retuning service for a few years while a professional musician may need more frequent service.
How do you guarantee the tuning of your instruments? If in the first year something happens to the tuning of your instrument in an unprecedented way, we will repair/ retune the instrument absolutely free of charge. (Any instrument that has been damaged will require a different evaluation). After the 1st year there may be a small fee. We work hard to guarantee that the instruments we build are of the most stable quality. Additionally, Isthmus is involved in ongoing material studies.
What are the best practices I can use to make sure my handpan stays in tune and in perfect condition for a long time? Play each note with a light touch and quick-off with either the fingertips or the flat area under your last (distal) knuckle. Avoid heavy- handed strikes with hands, mallets, or other percussion accessories. Always keep your handpan in a cool and shaded place, do not play your handpan under direct sunlight. Do not wear any rings when you play your handpan. Store your instrument outside of it’s protective case, or unzip the case to allow airflow to prevent moisture buildup or rust.
Can Isthmus Instruments retune my handpan from a different maker? It is recommended that you first contact the original maker of your handpan for a retuning service. If your maker is unable to provide you with this service, you can contact Jenny at email@example.com, or Shlomo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will you build me a custom scale? Yes, we want to work with you to build the instrument of your choice. There are sometimes limitations around this however, so please inquire for details.
Why did you choose the name Isthmus Instruments for your venture? Madison, Wisconsin where I live and work, is located on an isthmus. To me, conceiving of the Isthmus as a "land bridge" underplays the importance of water to the city and its people. Madison is more like a bridge connecting two incredible bodies of water; it is a special location. Like Madison and its lakes, my instruments are two bodies joined together that produce a sound some say evokes water itself.
Do you give lessons? We always give an introduction to playing the handpan to customers that come to our workshop to pickup their handpan in person. We also create free video tutorials and make them available on our youtube channel. Make sure to subscribe to receive notifications on our new videos coming out soon!
Can you help me learn handpan? Yes, you can subscribe to our youtube channel for free introductory videos on playing the handpan. Additionally, we recommend Peter Levitov’s Handpan 360 course and David Charrier’s Master the handpan course.
What is the “right way” to position the handpan when I am playing? Most handpan players find it easiest to place the lowest note in front of them, although it is recommended to try other positions as well (like positioning the highest note in front of you, for example). There is no right or wrong way to position your handpan. The more you experiment with position, the more melodic ideas you will get.
Can you play a “real song” on a handpan? Well, It depends on the song, and your instrument. Since handpans aren't chromatic instruments (like a piano with a progressions of half steps), there will be limit to what you can play using only one handpan.
So it really depends on your instrument, and the songs you’d like to play. All handpans are built in only one specific key, mode or “scale”. (The term “scale” is a bit misleading however, because most handpans don’t physically contain every single note in the key, mode or scale they are built in, but are partial expressions of that).
Fortunately, handpans are wonderfully expressive and intuitive instruments. Which makes it fun to tap into your own creative freedom when using a song for inspiration in your melody building. (If you want to get into music theory and transpose a song for your handpan(s), that may be an option!). But if you are like us, and like to make music from something that inspires you, we encourage you to go ahead and make your own renditions and have fun doing it.
Here are some great informational resources: