Parts of the Steel Pan
(Steel Drums)

The steel pan (steel drum) has three main parts

  • The skirt
  • The belly
  • The playing surface/notes

Parts of the steel pan

Picture courtesy of Merrywang Publishers

The Skirt of a Steel Pan(Steel Drum)

The skirt of a steel pan (steel drum) serves several acoustic functions. It helps to determine whether a pan will be low pitched or high pitched. Therefore its length varies from pan to pan.

The lower pitched pans have longer skirts while the higher pitched pans have shorter skirts.

Compare the skirt of the high pitched tenor pan to the skirts of the low pitched six bass pan.

Skirt of a Tenor Pan

   Tenor Pan

Skirt of Six Bass

             Six Bass Pan

The Notes of a Steel Pan (Steel Drum)

The size of the notes also varies from pan to pan. The lower pitched pans have larger notes while the higher pitched pans have smaller notes

Compare the size of notes of the high pitched tenor pan to those of the low pitched six bass pan.

Notes of a Tenor Pan

      Tenor Pan

Notes of a Bass Pan

     Six Bass Pan

The size of the notes also explains why some pans have multiple drums.

For example, the notes of the six bass pans are huge! Only three notes can hold in each drum, but, if you want to play music in every key, you need twelve notes. If three notes hold in a drum, you will need at least four drums to play in every key.

The six bass pan is actually made of six drums (hence the name six bass) each with three notes and all played by one person.



>> Parts of the Steel Pan