The steelpan has been praised for its melodious music and the names 'sweet pan' and 'sweet pan music' are often used when referring to this instrument.
In order to play ‘sweet pan’ you should consider the following:
you strike the note
The sound produced when you strike a note will have an upper and lower limit. If you strike the note too hard you may not get the expected sound because the note will not vibrate correctly. The sound will be ’distorted’ and the note will eventually go out of tune.
In the same way if less than a minimum force is applied the note may not sound as it should and it is likely that you will hear the sound of rubber hitting the metal of the pan.
to strike the note
In general, you should strike the note in the centre.
If you strike the note too close to the groove or rim, you will not produce the expected sound and it is possible that you will get the octave of the note you are trying to produce.
The correct way to strike a note is by flexing your wrists. This takes some time to master as you are learning a new skill.
You should make sure that your arms and shoulders are relaxed. Your shoulders should not be hunched; if so, you will realize that you are using your elbows excessively when striking the notes.
If you are tense it is likely that you are holding the sticks too tight, and in doing so you will not be able to flex your wrists to produce the correct note.
The more relaxed you are the freer your hand and arms will be and you will be able to make the necessary movements to strike the notes correctly.
Do not hold the sticks too tightly, your fingers should stay flexible and fairly loose. Most of the sticks' weight should be between your fingers. By loosening your grip you will be able to transfer the weight of the sticks from your fingers to the notes.
Check that you are using the correct sticks for the pan you are playing. If the sticks are too small you will not be able to create enough force to produce a clear sounding note. If the sticks are too big, it is likely that the sound produced will be dampened.
If the rubber tips on your sticks is worn, the sound created will be like wood or metal on metal. This is the type of sound that you would have heard before the 1940s when pan was still in its early development stage.
This will come in time: The greater your overall hand-eye coordination becomes, the easier it will be to strike the notes correctly and in doing so you will create a better sound.
A pan that is out of tune will sound worse if played loudly and will hinder your progress as a pannist. It will also make it impossible for you to play with other pannists or instrumentalists. Get your pan tuned as soon as possible.