Extended Techniques

Extended Techniques are performance methods that involve unconventional, unorthodox or non-traditional ways of playing a musical instrument to obtain unusual sounds. However, these techniques can change over time and become part of the mainstream as new musical experiments or ideas are being put forward.

Examples of extended techniques used by pannists:

Playing the pan upside down or from the underside (the belly). These techniques were popularized by Lennox Sharpe in the 1980's. However, playing a pan upside down is similar to playing the original steelpans when the playing surface was convex. These techniques could also be considered as an 'old fashioned' way of playing steelpans.

Playing without rubber tips on the end of the sticks. This should only be attempted by skilled pannists as this style of playing could cause your pan to go out of tune.  A variation on this theme was illustrated by a pannist at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester in the early 1990's.The performance included playing with rubber tips, a combination of rubber tips, non rubber tips and no rubber tips in the composition. This technique dates back to before the 1950's when steelpans were played with wooden sticks. 

Playing in front of the pan instead of behind: This form of showmanship was popularized by Lennox Sharpe in the 1980's.

Not allowing the sticks to freely bounce off the notes. This will create a dampened sound, thus expanding the tone of the instrument. The sound produced will be similar to the sound that is heard when first learning to play a steelpan by striking a note. Great care must be taken as this can put the pan out of tune.

Playing with your fingers instead of sticks. Although this technique is often used when practising, it has now become popularized by pannists playing on the E-pan or PHI.

Playing a pan with four sticks (two sticks in each hand). This is a skill that is popular with accomplished pannists who play solos on the frontline pans. By using four sticks, the pannist can play the melody and harmony, melody and counter melody or extended chords simultaneously, thus creating a polyphonic sound.

These techniques are usually performed by very experienced pannists who have a good understanding of the pan tuning process. This knowledge along with the pannist's dexterity allows them to master these techniques with minimum effort and without any effect on the tuning.