The Steel Drum
At first the drums were simple biscuits, pitch-oil tins, or dustbins or their covers, without tuned pitches. Gradually, through experimentation and redinement, pitches were added by pounding in and out the top surface of the drums, and drums of varying depths were created to produce different ranges.
Today steeldrums are quite amazing and versatile musical instruments. The small tenor pans may have up to 32 different pitches. Pans are played with rubber-tipped sticks and are tuned eight by ear, with a tuning fork, or with an electronic tuning device. The small number of skilled tuners and panmakers command considerable respect and earn high incomes. Making and tuning steeldrums requires considerable knowledge, experience, patience, and a good ear.
The Tenor Pan, also known as the melody pan or the ping-pong approximates the soprano voice and plays the melody. It has from 28 to 32 pitches and is about six inches in depth.
There is a wide variation in the types of steeldrums used in a given ensemble, depending on the occasion and the personal preference of the bandleaders and arrangers.
The Double Tenor is a set of two tenor drums, which play harmony and counterpoint and are about one-half inch longer that the single tenor, the second pan is the alto voice range and about eight inches in depth.
The Double Second plays rhythm and has about sixteen pitches. It is about fourteen to sexteen inches in depth and is played in pairs.
The Bass Pan is the full size of the oil drum and plays rhythm in set of six or nine, arranged on stands either horizontally or vertically, the Bass Pan has two, three or four notes.