There aren't many instruments versatile enough to make up entire bands by themselves, but the steel pan drum is a truly special exception. Developed in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930's, the steel pan drum isn't actually a drum at all, but an idiophone. The entire instrument vibrates to make the sound - not simply a drum skin - allowing it to create a range of pitches no drum could dream of. The round steel surface, traditionally repurposed from an emptied oil barrel but now often created to instrument makers' specifications, is sunken into a concave bowl shape before having any number of pitches hammered, molded and tuned into specific areas of the surface.
If you're thinking about your first steel pan, you might want to take a look at the pentatonic steel drum in G. Designed for use on a table or other flat surface, each of the 6 pitches on this pan is perfectly tuned to the pentatonic scale, so nothing sounds like a mistake. The applications of this melodic percussion instrument - from Afro-Caribbean to Jazz - are virtually endless.
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