The notes on steelpans are arranged in a complex design. When you look, it seems as though there is no order at all. Hence when playing you would have to rely on your memory to recall where the notes are positioned.
If you have not played a steelpan before it is difficult to know where to start. Detailed below are some common approaches when first starting to play steelpans:
· A tutor may ask you to explore the pan(s) by playing all of the notes at will in order to familiarise yourself.
· You may start by learning a scale (usually the C scale).
· You may start by playing a melody that you are familiar with.
· You may be asked to play a single note several times before moving on to another note, and so on.
The early steelbands learned to play by rote. As the instrument developed, the notes were identified by marking them with numbers or their letter names. This led to some pannists playing from music scores.
Playing by rote encourages you to think about the notes you are playing. In addition you become aware of dynamics and develop a willingness to explore.
Music literacy allows you to learn different musical styles and rehearse by yourself. However, music notation and its imagery do not correspond with the note arrangement on steelpans.
Wherever the starting point, there will always be some form of learning by rote.