Music Briefs: Handpan Music


A handpan is a musical instrument from the percussion family. It is a steel drum played with the hands, therefore the term “handpan.” The instrument is typically convex in design, with a central “ding” or “note” surrounding a series of more minor tuned sounds.
Handpans are renowned for their rich, resonant sound, and a wide range of musical genres put them to use:

  • Meditation music: The soothing and meditative tones of the handpan make it a popular choice for ambient and meditation music, creating a calming and healing atmosphere.
  • World music genre: The handpan’s percussive and melodic qualities make it well-suited for world music genres, such as African, Latin, Middle Eastern, and Indian music.
  • Experimental music: The handpan’s unique sound attracts musicians in experimental and contemporary music, where artists explore unconventional sounds and textures.
  • Film and game soundtracks: Composers and filmmakers have employed the handpan in film scores and soundtracks to evoke specific moods or create a sense of otherworldliness.


History of the handpan instrument

Felix Rohner was the first recognized player of the Trinidad Steel Drum, a musical instrument that gained popularity in Europe in the 1970s. With a thorough understanding of steel drums, he and his business partner Sabrina Scharer founded PANArt, an organization well-known for producing dented musical instruments, in 1990. It wasn’t until 2001 that Felix and Sabrina officially unveiled the “Hang” steel drum in Musikmesse Frankfurt in Germany.

However, the founders didn’t want to mass produce the instrument, so there was a limited supply each year despite a high demand. As a result, in 2007, other instrument makers in Europe and the United States began to release various versions. They referred to these versions as the “handpan” rather than the “Hang.” There are presently over 100 manufacturers of handpans worldwide.


Handpan Music Characteristics

Handpan music crosses typical genre limits, making it an adaptable instrument in various musical settings. Its relaxing and atmospheric tones are ideal for world music, ambient, and new-age genres. Check out some of the distinctive features of handpan music:

  • Melodic Resonance: The handpan produces rich, resonant tones. Its euphonic character enables artists to compose appealing and harmonizing songs.
  • Expressive Dynamics: One of the most striking features of handpan music is its expressive dynamics. Musicians can produce a wide range of dynamics, from gentle and delicate notes to louder and percussive sounds.
  • Meditative and relaxing vibes: Meditative and relaxing settings are often conducive to handpan music. The instrument’s peaceful and tranquil tones make it ideal for generating soothing soundscapes, making it a popular choice for meditation, yoga, and ambient music. Also, playing the handpan involves a direct physical connection between the musician’s hands and the instrument. This physical element evokes a more spiritual and intimate feel.
  • Emotional expression: One of the main attributes of handpan music is its expressive range. Thanks to the many possibilities for playing the instrument, songs can convey emotions and narratives without requiring lyrics.


Pond5 Examples of Handpan Music

Listen to the tracks dedicated to the genre and get inspired for your next production.


Submission ideas

  • Submit tracks in length between 2-8 minutes long.
  • Generally, handpan music can range from around 60 BPM for slower, more meditative pieces to 120 BPM or even higher for compositions with a livelier and more rhythmic character.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with a combination of handpan with other instruments, such as woodwind instruments like flute or clarinet or various ambient electronic keyboard pads, that add to the relaxing factor as well as complexity and richness of the handpan music.



  • Take advantage of the 50-keyword limit and add both broad and specific keywords. Please do not use a recognizable band or artist name!
  • We also encourage you to submit separate :15 and :30 versions of these tracks for social media use.
  • Don’t forget to add HANDPANP5BRIEF among your keywords so we can track down and promote your content.
  • Please note you can apply tags to existing tracks in your portfolio.

Top Image: A Musician’s Hand Playing The Handpan With Other People by Wirestock .

Don’t forget to check out our other Music Briefs articles.