Discover The Hang Drum
April 29, 2007 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Is it a wok?! An UFO?! No, it's The Hang Drum! With its distinct serene sound, Hang, as it's also called ("Hand" in Swiss German), was created in 2000 in Switzerland by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer after years of research. It's a versatile instrument that can be customized to produce many different musical scales. Want one yourself? Unfortunately, only a few are custom-made each year by Rohner and Schärer. More Hang music? Listen to the Hang radio station. More: videos | music | known artists | a beautiful Hang used by musician Alan Tower
posted by Foci for Analysis (28 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
posted by lekvar at 5:16 PM on April 29, 2007

How to buy a Hang Drum
posted by D.C. at 5:24 PM on April 29, 2007

Yikes, guess it's time to go to Switzerland.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:35 PM on April 29, 2007

i want.
posted by Kifer85 at 6:02 PM on April 29, 2007

Wow. Thanks for this post. This thing was totally made for me. I am totally buying one. Totally.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:09 PM on April 29, 2007

Its distinct, serene sound sounds suspiciously similar to the Pan to me. It seems like just another case of a white dude taking credit for inventing something that was invented before.

I don't get the hang of it.
posted by micayetoca at 6:10 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, mica, it is essentially the same idea as the steel pan from Trinidad, but it is an innovation as well, in certain ways. For one thing, it's playable with the hands, as opposed to the small mallets that you need to play the pan. And you can hold it, more like a hand drum, whereas the pan needs to be mounted on a stand.

And as far as that similarity of sound, I'd say yes and no. Naturally enough, both the hang drum and the pan are made of a piece of hammered metal and therefore sound similar, but the pan does have a characteristic attack (that 'pwaan') that's not quite present with this instrument. The hang is rather more mellow, in that respect.

As far as the racial angle ("white dude taking credit..."), well, I ain't going there...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:30 PM on April 29, 2007

Foci for Analysis, That is heaven, sublime. What a feast of a post, a treat! Thank you. I adore the sound of this instument, would love to have one, can imagine it's wonderful to play. It has a nice blend of traits of gamelan, gong. bongo and steel drum without the tinny clang. Really cool. And it's so nice there are many choices of videos/tracks to listen to as well. Seriously nice.
posted by nickyskye at 6:38 PM on April 29, 2007

The tone is different as well:

The harmonic fifths combine and produce a charming overtone music, which, in a manner of speaking, appears in the acoustical space above the playing. While with the Trinidadian Steel Pan the octave of the fundamental is the most powerful harmonic, with the Hang we give the fifth more power, with the dome shape of the tone fields. Pay attention to this, next time you hear a Hang.
posted by D.C. at 6:40 PM on April 29, 2007

posted by Foosnark at 6:44 PM on April 29, 2007

It sounds like it's tuned to produce only 4ths and 5th intervals, which would make anything sound 'serene' It would be cool if they could make one that could play more notes.
posted by delmoi at 6:59 PM on April 29, 2007

It would be cool if they could make one that could play more notes

But delmoi, you haven't considered this, quoted by D.C. in his comment above:

The harmonic fifths combine and produce a charming overtone music, which, in a manner of speaking, appears in the acoustical space above the playing.

If, for example, minor 2nds (and certain other intervals) are included in the tuning of this instrument, this whole overtone mingling that they're referring to will become dissonant. The harmonic overtones are indeed part of the whole rationale of this instrument (much as they are for the Indonesian gamelan ensemble), therefore the use of only wide intervals is essential.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:18 PM on April 29, 2007

Awesome. I saw a guy playing one outside the de Young last summer, and have been wondering what it was called ever since.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:31 PM on April 29, 2007

I've seen these played at the last couple of National Folk Festivals in Australia. Amazing sound, and quite an attention grabber. I had quite forgotten what he called it until I read this post! I kind of want one... must hide credit card...

And, I think it's `a ufo' not `an ufo'.
posted by tomble at 7:46 PM on April 29, 2007

Samples, scales.
posted by weston at 8:38 PM on April 29, 2007

It's a wok and a drum (and maybe makes noises like a UFO might).
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:44 PM on April 29, 2007

Fantastic, thanks for the post!
posted by dhruva at 8:50 PM on April 29, 2007

This instrument is wonderful and amazing and regardless of the makers intentions, it seems their method of purchase is prohibitive to the extreme.

How many totally deserving ernest musicians around the world will be kept from purchasing this instrument simply because time or finance will not permit them a trip to Switzerland?

Can they truly say that production of more than a handful per year is really not possible? I understand that quantity may not equal quality, but how bad can it be? It's a precision machined steel container for all tense and purposes? Aren't humans really good at making those?

posted by Parannoyed at 10:40 PM on April 29, 2007

Awesome. Like kickingtheground, I saw someone playing one of these somewhere (on a street in Barcelona), and have been wondering ever since what it was.
posted by chrismear at 12:05 AM on April 30, 2007

weston, I'm taking your links and hauling them off to rub them together with boodler and make myself some hang soundscapes. Thanks for saving me the google trouble.
posted by ziz at 12:27 AM on April 30, 2007

As far as the racial angle ("white dude taking credit..."), well, I ain't going there...

Sorry if I came across as an asshole, it wasn't my intention. I just thought that it was a new way to present the Pan, and that the fact that it was played with the fingertips was what took the sort of pwaaaang that the pan has. But yeah, you are right, it is another instrument and I apologize if I offended anyone with the previous remark.
posted by micayetoca at 5:16 AM on April 30, 2007

Boodler hang! Yes, please, I want some boodler hang.
posted by nickyskye at 6:04 AM on April 30, 2007

THey did have a distribution network but quickly got overwhelmed, which is why they now only accept orders in person. The instruments are hand-made and increasing production would require either hiring a whole bunch of people and greatly expanding their operation, or else building an automated factory, neither of which they were interested in doing.

But there are a couple of people who are making periodic trips to Switzerland, purchasing Hangs, and re-selling them in North America. See the first comment here. I strongly considered buying one but decided I could not afford the cost - $1600 (CAD). Though it would be cheaper if you could buy directly from the workshop in Bern.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:11 AM on April 30, 2007

hm... I'm an amateur blacksmith and percussionist. I wonder how hard it would truly be to make one of these, if I spent a summer working at it? I have a pretty solid grasp of the music theory surrounding those "resonance patterns" which is just made up jargon to sell drums.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:18 AM on April 30, 2007

Such a cool instrument, yet so hard to buy. I want, I want, I want!

Baby_Balrog - if you ever get around to building some, let me know...
posted by jazon at 10:55 AM on April 30, 2007

Ok, I've been looking at this thing all afternoon, and it just doesn't strike me as that revolutionary. Sure, in the sense that perhaps nobody's ever streamlined a steel-drum this way - but it looks like layered metals, maybe forge-welded, that produce a nice, clean resonance. Probably bronze on steel or something.
Point is, I play my bluegrass music on an instrument that was built in 1813 Vienna, by a dude who spent his whole life fine-tuning some really, really complicated stuff. This thing looks pretty simple.

I'm going for it. If it works I'll post something on metatalk and sell them to mefites for... oh, 5% over production cost. Patchouli oil and love-beads not included.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:40 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'll take 3, BB.

Wait, no Patchouli? Screw it I'm cancelling my order.
posted by lekvar at 1:49 PM on April 30, 2007


Total amateur here, but I think the difficulty comes in the exact placement and shape of the indentations. Getting the tones right is what took them years to develop. I can't imagine trying to independently come up with the same results would be all that faster.

That being said, I'll take 2 please. As soon as you get around to them.
posted by Parannoyed at 2:12 PM on April 30, 2007

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