Purchasing a Beginning Steel Drum

I have a couple of questions about steel drums, as I am now motivated to buy one to plunk around with in
my spare time:
1.    There are lots of brands out there, Fancy Pans, Panhandler, Vista Pan, Steel Pans, Roseman, Steel Trini
etc.  Which would you recommend for a beginner?   (I don’t want to spend a ton but want a decent one)
Unfortunately I do not have a lot of experience with these beginner pans.  However, it seemed like the Vista Pans on the ship were fine and I looked today at the price and it is around $500 for a black painted pan.  Did you find some cheaper then that?  If you didn't mind the vista pans you played on on the ship and that is a competitive price I guess I might recommend going with Vista since it is a known entity to both of us.
2.    I see they are available in several ‘Keys’s,,,i.e. “C”, “G”, “F”  Which do you recommend?
Can you direct me to the specific page where it says this?  The type of pan that you want to get is one that plays in all keys, like what we had on the ship.  If it truly says available in certain keys then you don't want that type of pan.
3.    I noted there are ‘Soprano, Tenor, Lead Tenor, Double Tenor,,,,Again which would you recommend?
Soprano, Tenor, and Lead Tenor should all be pretty much like the one you played on the ship in that you only need one drum to play all the notes and you have several octaves.  One drum may differ from the next in terms of where the notes are places in the drum, however.  The pattern that you want is called "4ths/5ths", "circle of 5ths", or "spiderweb" pattern.  I would also recommend one with a middle C as the lowest note.  That would be exactly the same as the one you played on the ship.  On the Vista Pan site the you will find two diagrams on this page:

I recommend that you get an instrument with the notes laid out as they are in the diagram on the left, labeled "Tenor or Lead: C."

On this page the drum that you played on the ship would be the "Low C Lead Hi-Gloss Black - $499.00"
4.    Finally, how many ‘Notes’ should the drum have?  I am thinking 12 or 14??
If you are serious I would recommend that you look for a drum with at least the same number of notes that the ones on the ship had, i.e. around 29.
Thanks for all your time on the cruise.  I throughly enjoyed the lessons and it got me back into percussion.
Also, FYI, I spoke with the Cruise Director Steve and told him what a marvelous job you did and how
talented you are.  He said that Holland was fortunate to be able to get you on board.
Sincerely, (Bongo Banger Ron)

You need to be a member of rhythmacademy to add comments!

Join rhythmacademy

Email me when people reply –


  • Norm found an interesting product on CD ROM which is supposed to offer a steel drum simulator for your PC.  Here is the discussion:


    Norm Kern's Comments
    Musician and World Music Guide. Explore the world through music.
  • Hi Robert,

    Here is a google search I did for steel drum applications:


    Try clicking on that and looking at some of the links.  There are applications for Ipads, Iphones, and for Android phones.  Do you have a smart phone?  If you do download one and try it please let me know how it works for you.

    I'll keep looking for something that will just run on a regular laptop.

    Search the world's information, including webpages, images, videos and more. Google has many special features to help you find exactly what you're lo…
This reply was deleted.