With so many types of steelpans in existence, only an experienced and versatile pannist can move freely amongst the pans.
If we take the tenor pan:
The majority of pannists learn to play on the 4ths and 5ths tenor. However, there are two versions of this pan: the high and low tenor.
Another popular style of tenor is the Invaders tenor. This pan is designed with its lowest note B below middle C, middle C or D above middle C.
The notes on this pan will vary from 24 to 29 depending on when it was made and the pan maker.
This issue is consistent throughout the pan family.
When you move from one steelband to another, you may find that the pan you play has a different note configuration and this could be a problem.
This is also an issue for steelpan tutors as each school they visit may have a different note configuration of pans. This is because many schools have very old pans and cannot afford to upgrade their instruments. These pans could have been made by the steelpan tutor in order to drum up interest at the time and would have been the cheapest way to purchase the pans.
The different types of note configurations have reduced over time but due to continual steelpan innovation it will always be an issue.