Many of us associate the sound of steel pans with the beach and sunny days in the Caribbean, but who knew that the process of making the instruments was totally lovely in its own right? Steel pans are percussive instruments that originated in Trinidad. In the early days, many were created from oil drums and other discarded metal objects that had been tuned to make different sounds. In a video titled “Steel Pan Drum—Evolution of Sound,” craftsman Michael Perkins demonstrates the surprisingly beautiful process of making and tuning a steel pan drum.
Perkins, who owns FancyPans Steel Drums in Eugene, OR, trained with drum master Ellie Mannette, who is widely regarded as the "Father of the Modern Steel Drum." The practice of making a drum involves first hammering a bowl shape out of the top of a steel barrel, and then marking out where specific notes will go. In a multistep process, the drum maker carefully hammers the steel to create the notes, and eventually tunes the drum with a strobe tuner. The video condenses this complex, detailed process into two and a half minutes, and it’s fascinating to hear how the sound of the hammer on the drum evolves as Perkins refines the steel. Watch the video to see how Perkins makes a steel pan to go from this:
You really need to be able to hear the sound to get the full effect, so check out the whole video below.