The hang drum, also called “Hang” is a musical instrument developed in the year 2000, by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer, in Bern, Switzerland. The creators of the instrument have also started PANArt Hangbau AG as a company through which to market the hang, and have started selling the first Hang model in 2001, after introducing it at Musikmesse Frankfurt.
Although it is usually confused with a steelpan, or a handpan, the Hang is actually a very different instrument. While a steelpan is built out of a 55 gallon, industrial drum and requires the use of pansticks in order to be played, the hang drum is made out of nitrited sheets of steel and do not require any additional items in order to be played.
The controversy around the Hang
Handpan is another term which has created a lot of controversy due to its relation with the Hang, especially when considering that the word “pan” refers to another group of instruments. Still,“Handpan” is a term which refers to a class of instruments based on the concept of the Hang, and has become the term used in order to describe all steelpan instruments that can be played using bare hands.
From an historical point of view, the Hang has seen several changes over the years. Developed in 2000 and put on the market in 2001, the first generation of instruments consisted of multiple models, each having different sound configurations.
Also, while most of the drums had eight tone fields, PANArt also offered versions with eight or seven tone fields, in 2005. Starting with 2006, the company introduced the second generation of hang drums. These had their nitride steel surfaces coated with annealed brass. They were designed around a central note and offered fewer scales.
While most of the instruments were built with the tone fields structured in a circle, there have been quite a few with the tone fields built in different patterns.
From one generation to another
The instruments from the second generation can usually be identified by the presence of individual serial numbers on the inside of the Gu opening and also by the signature on the outside edge of the Gu side of the Hang.
In 2008, the creators of the hang drum introduced a new version, under the name of Integral Hang. The new model had only one scale with 7 tone fields in the circle. The second generation of instruments essentially targeted music lovers, not musicians, allowing anyone to play the Hang.
Starting with April 2010, PANArt has started producing the Free Integral Hang as an alternative to the more exact previous model. The new model can be tuned without using any tuning devices, having shifted its focus from the precision of its sounds, to the overall harmony, in order to make the instrument even more accessible than the last model.
This has been the last Hang model produced and marketed by PANArt. The company announced that as of December 2013, they would no longer produce hang drums.