From site member Jen:

Hi Ian,
I am writing to plant a steel drum seed in my world of music, and one that may take a few months to sprout. I previously studied Tabla for a year at the university of Oregon, Eugene and played mostly by myself- the tabla were a very wonderful and medative kind of music for me, but I'm wanting to AMP it up in my life now :) I've always loved Island style music and steel drums are calling!!

I am wondering what direction you would point someone in that can read music, is starting out on a shoe string ($) loves the idea of recycling :) and would like to get started.

I toyed around with a pan drum at the local area music store in Mt. Vernon, WA that was clearly an entry level instrument, though I am wondering about the versatility and what key to start with. Chromatic possibly??

I have internet and skype and interested in the idea of lessons down the road too if you do that sorta thing.
Thanks for your time, have a FAbuLous day!!


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  • :) ah, yes!  I still have my little notebook of talas... (the written bols to the songs?). My tabla are in Alaska, and the tabla has a cracked head (along the outer ring).  Repairable, but as you know a real chore if ya don't know how to pull a tabla head.  Iee!  I got them at a little Indan Import food store outside of Portland. The family was importing them in big shipping containers at the time.  They are pretty good quality from what I've seen in random music stores, though a bit too big for me.  Sitting on a higher cushion helped.  lol. 

    Thanks for the suggestion, I'll look for your friend Eric H, and keep ya posted here on what comes about ~ maybe even a rental if I can find one to get started.  It would be nice to get my "hands on" and find my groove with it before purchasing.  Will see what's out there!


  • Great JenMarie!  I look forward to hearing from you.  My teacher in India would write down the sylables for me of the "bols"  Do you still have tabla?

    Please feel free to share any experience or information that you find about purchasing pans, good sites to purchase, how you like a pan once purchased, etc.

    You might also friend Eric Heggie who is a fellow rhythm trekker who did purchase a pan.  He might be able to give you some pointers.  I have purchased all of mine in Trinidad, but I think he got his from PanYard which is the biggest, best known manufacturer and dealer of steel pans in the US.


  • Awesome, thank you kindly for the reply and info!!  I've got goosey bumps thinking about it.  :)  I will be in a better position to get started come fall anyways. In the mean time there is plenty to fill my ears with more music, my head with reading and to drool over my future first "chromatic" pan. haha.  I'm happy to help keep the bug in your ear about the lessons for sure!!   

    Tabla was truly a wonderful blessing and gift to be able to study (totally entry level!).  My teacher Doug Scheurell is still there at the U of O and doing some wonderful things with the music!! ... http://dougmusic.info/photo.html . I learned mostly by oral tradition, as that is how he taught in his early classes; quite a challenge for my western thinking mind at the time, but it has stuck with me over the past 19 years... music does that to ya, it becomes you.  

    Thanks again, I'll be in touch later for more.  



  • That is so great that you studied tabla!  I didn't know you could study that at U of O.  I studied tabla in India long ago.  It is very difficult!!

    If you want to be serious about the steel drum I would recommend getting a fully chromatic instrument.  Chromatic instruments are standard except for touristy ones that people buy in the Caribbean just for a souvenir.  There are also some student instruments that are not fully chromatic, but those are really meant mainly for kids or people with no musical experience.  With your experience I definitely recommend chromatic.

    Building your own instrument would be very difficult, but I won't say impossible.  The art of creating steel drums has become so sophisticated that it generally requires an apprenticeship to learn how to do it.  If you are super handy with building things and like to pound on metal you might be able to fashion a drum on your own without a teacher... but it would definitely be very very tough.  If you are interested in finding out how to make one on your own let me know.  I could possibly refer you to a book that discusses how to do it and/or refer you to the nearest person I know who builds steel drums.  He is down in Portland.

    If you are really more interested in playing the drum though I would recommend purchasing one.  Check out some of the other posts in this group for some links on that.

    As far as teaching goes, it is definitely the plan to get that going on line through this web site.  The trouble is that my summer performing schedule is very busy, so it will be very difficult to get that going before the fall.  I need more of me to make all this happen!  Stay tuned and please keep bugging me about it if you are very motivated.  I need some students willing to help me work out the kinks as I start getting the steel drum teaching on line up and running.

    Thanks for the thoughtful message!

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