Difference between a Hang Drum and a Handpan
The Birth of the Hang
The names Hang Drum (actually called a “Hang“) and Handpan are quite often used interchangeably, and that is understandable. There isn’t a huge apparent difference between the two, as far as the common eye can tell. The main difference between a Hang Drum and a Handpan is simply who made it.
You see, without going into too much history, which we will go through in another article, the original Hang Drum was invented by a couple from Bern, Switzerland. Their names were Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer, and together they had a company called PANArt Hangbau AG.
Together in the year 2000, they created what the world would learn to know as the “Hang” (which translates to “hand” in the Bernese German language) or “Hanghang” in plural. And just as a quick note, it is pronounced “Hung” or “hong”.
You might be thinking by now; “What is he going on about? What does this have to do with anything.”. Just wait, it’ll all make good sense in a second.
The Hang “Drum” – The (Incorrect) Addition of the Word “Drum”
So the Hang was born and soon started to spread around niche players and in smaller circles.
In 2002, an instrument dealer in the United States, by the name of Lark in the Morning called the instrument the “Hang Drum“. This was probably in order to make it easier for people to find the instrument online and on YouTube videos etc.
The name “Hang Drum” stuck and spread like wildfire. Soon after it was used in almost every English speaking country, at least by the unenlightened or those new to the instrument.
PANArts Distaste for the Word “Drum”
This new name was not something the creators of the Hang, Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer were too happy about. In fact, they cut business with Lark in the Morning and have also publicly announced their distate of the name, in a letter from 2009 and a newsletter from 2010:
The Birth of the Handpan
So the Hang had been born and had against the creator’s will, been dubbed the Hang Drum.
So the final piece of the puzzle is; “What is a Handpan?“.
Well you see, with the rise in popularity, a rise in the demand of the instrument was inevitable. Other people saw an opportunity in this and started making instruments similar to the Hang. All these instruments that were created, came under the category of Handpans. This was in part due to the fact, that PANArt had at one point registered the term Hang as a trademark, in an attempt to counteract the usage of this term.
The End of the Hang
In the year of 2013 PANArt announced the end of the Hang. They announced that the Hang would no longer be made and that PANArt would solely focus on the development of a different instrument, the Gubal.
The original instrument was created by PANArt (Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer) in around 2000 and was called the Hang.
In the early 2002 the word “Drum” was incorrectly added, so the instrument was known to many as the Hang Drum.
As a response to the rise in popularity of the Hang, other manufacturers started making similar instruments, which all were categorized as Handpans.
The term Hang Drum is still very commonly used, especially to those new to the instrument. And it seems like it is a term that has come to stay.
So, in order to sum this up, you can’t really buy a Hang Drum. End of story. The Hang Drum is simply another name for the classic Hang, to make the instrument easier to find on websites, YouTube and in shops. In reality, the name should have ceased to exist soon after its birth, especially after the creators of the Hang expressed their distaste for the term.
However, the name is still used by many, especially websites and videos that try and get the people that have just learned about an instrument called the Hang Drum, to watch their website or video. And indeed, it might in fact be hypocritical of me to write such a post with the word Hang Drum in the title, and it is easy to question whether or not I’m just adding to the problem. I justify it, as an attempt to educate the people interested, what the difference actually is.
How to buy a Hang, Hang Drum or a Handpan
If you are interested in buying a Hang, it can be quite a tedious task, since they are not made anymore. The most common way one can get a hold of a Hang is via EBay, where they are sold from time to time. But keep in mind that the prices are often very inflated, and the quality of the sound is not always in concordance with this price (Don’t misunderstand, the quality is great, just not 10 times as good as for other Handpans).
There are quite a lot of very talented Handpan makers out there, and a quick google search will show you some of the most respectable ones. There are also sales on EBay and Amazon.
If you are interested in an in-depth article on how and where to purchase a Handpan or a Hang/”Hang Drum“, you should check it out by clicking HERE.
Down below you will find some Handpans that are on sale on Amazon. Increasing in price from left to right. The two first instruments are actually Steel Tongue Drums, since these are a much cheaper alternative to the Handpan.
(Keep in mind that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase via those, the website gets a small portion of the sale, which will help greatly in keeping it running).
www.youtube.com/watch?v=mS8eipuXYWg – Player: Daniel Waples
www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTWH1v_eJRE – Player: Rafael Sotomayor
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm83Q9UhJvw – Yatao Muisc