How to Develop a Smooth Roll 
on the 
Steel Pan (Steel Drum)

The ability to roll quickly and evenly for extended periods is one of the hallmarks of a great pannist. It will take time and consistent practice.

Initially one wrist will be weaker than the other and will require more attention. If you are right handed, your left wrist will usually be weaker and vice-versa.

Rolling exercises, when done regularly, will help you develop an even roll.

Rolling Tips

  • Make the rolling exercises a part of your regular routine. You can use them as warm up exercises at the start of your steel pan rehearsals.
  • Always be conscious of your roll no matter what you are playing. Focus on getting an even and smooth roll at all times.
  • Doing rolling exercises as a group makes it more fun and competitive. For example, see who can roll the longest without becoming uneven.
  • Roll exercises can also be done away from the instrument, for example in your lap while watching TV.
  • Do more of the roll exercises with your weaker hand.

Legato Rolls

Musical notes often have to be played legato (i.e. smoothly and connected). This means the pannist will have to move from one note to the next without breaking the roll. To do this:

  • Roll the first note for the prescribed time.
  • Move one hand very quickly to the second note and start a one handed roll on the new note while the other hand continues to roll the first note.
  • Quickly remove the hand on the first note to the second note to continue the roll.

This technique takes practice, but once mastered, will produce a refined sound and expand your ability to accurately interpret and execute music. 



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