How to Layout a Steelband
(Steel Drum Band)
How steel pans (steel drums) are set up for a performance is important. It is very frustrating to rehearse for hours and then have a performance ruined because one section overpowers the other.
Start by using the guidelines below and then do a sound check. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the layout. Remember they are only guidelines. You need to make sure the audience hears the best sound possible from your band.
If this set up does not work for you, change it. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your players and set up the instruments accordingly.
Guidelines for Laying Out a Steelband (Steel Drum Band)
The following guidelines apply to both conventional and single pan bands
- Place frontline pans the closest to the audience
- Place the mid-range pans in the row behind the frontline pans
- Place the background pans and engine room in the back rows furthest away form the audience.
- Place the seconds (alto) pans in the front row closest to the audience (their sound does not carry as well as the other frontline pans).
- Place the bass pans all on one side of the band. (This produces a concentrated and cohesive bass sound.
Split the bass pans into two and place one half to the left and right of the band. (This produces a stereo effect and can be very effective if you have strong bass players.
- Quadrophonics pans are the only pans where the players do not face the audience. Quadrophonic pans are very tall and if the player faces the audience, they will not be seen. This is considered a little impersonal. Most audience members prefer to see the performers as well as hear them. Remember this when you layout a steelband.
Instead, the quadrophonic pans are placed at the sides of a band with the players facing in, towards the center of the stage. This way the audience will at least see the profile of the pannists.
The layout of the pans in the panyard should be identical to performance layout. If this is not possible, make sure that the members of each section are placed together and can hear and interact with each other.
Layout of a Medium Size Band
TC-Triple/4 Cello Pan
Engine Room Instruments
DT-Double Tenor Pan