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How to Set Up a Steel Band

This guide explains how to set up your own steel band in easy to follow steps with clear information on how to get started, where to find good quality instruments, how to nurture pan tutors and ways to sustain your new steel band for long term posterity.

When local musicians from the tiny Caribbean island of Trinidad created different notes on a discarded oil drum in the early 1930's they could never have imagined the worldwide popularity and growth that was to follow.

Now steel bands have sprung up in all continents, and in the UK there are many towns and cities with a set of steel pan instruments (steel drums) either in a school, as part of a community project or a steel band.

CultureMix Arts is an organisation specialising in all aspects of steel pan music.
We offer advice on setting up your own steel band and provide:
Instruments, from affordable starter sets to tailor made bespoke.
Accessories including stands, PanStiX, cases and storage solutions.
Tutors for workshops, demonstrations and presentations.
Tuners to help keep your instruments in tip top condition.
Training for those considering a creative career.
Steel Bands for your function or event.

Our showcase orchestra RASPO, widely promotes steel pan music with it's ensembles (steel bands) entertaining audiences at all types of events.

But what makes steel pans so popular? In my experience the two reasons that stand out are its immediacy and accessibility. Similarly to a piano, a simple phrase on steel pan is quick and easy to learn.

The steel pan instruments are welcoming and approachable for all age groups and abilities making it relatively easy to produce music that is satisfying to the player.

Download this FREE Birthplace of Steel Pan Poster - see Related Links top right

Download this FREE Birthplace of Steel Pan Poster - see Related Links top right

A steel ensemble is a three piece steel band with percussion

What is a Steel Band?

Steel bands come in a variety of shapes, sizes and combinations to convey the musical sounds of the Caribbean.

This chapter explains the difference between steel bands, steel ensembles and steel percussion orchestras. More...

Girl playing pan

Why set up a Steel Band?

Schools set up steel bands as an ideal group-learning activity enhancing cohesion and diversity.

This chapter outlines the reasons and the benefits of setting up a steel band in your school. More...

Bass pan detail

Which Instruments? - How many pans do I need?

Find out about the range of steel pans and what to expect from a starter set. More...

Steel pan steel drums

Where can I buy Steel Pans? - How much do they cost?

We offer some helpful hints so you can get the best instruments at the most affordable price. More...

Steel pan case

Accessories & Maintenance - Looking after your Steel Pans

Keep you steel pans in tip top condition with regular tuning and vital accessories. More...

Mary on drums

Setting up the Steel Band - Organising the Project

This chapter is a practical step by step guide to setting up the steel band. More...

Pan hands close up

Handling Steel Pans - Playing Techniques

How to handle your instruments safely, hold your sticks correctly and other tips... More...

TASPO detail with Sterling Betancourt on tenor pan

Steel Pan Facts - A Summary of Useful Information

Want to know more about the steel pan instrument? Click here for a quick list of useful facts. More...

Dudley tuning

How Steel Pans are Made - Tuning and Blending

Making, tuning and blending steel pans is a craft requiring a good ear, the right tuning tools and plenty of patience.

Skilled tuners are a rare breed who spend years perfecting their craft. Read more about the process... More...

"CultureMix kept me informed every step of the way and the quality of the instruments is second to none"

Sarah Cooper - Head Teacher

Oxford Gardens Primary School, London

Set up a Steel Band


With the help of this comprehensive guide, setting up a steel band for your primary, secondary, special school, college or group couldn't be easier.

Steel Pan Notes

C Tenor notes

The notes on the steel pan instruments have a range similar to those on a grand piano.

This graphic shows the standardised note layout for a tenor (melody) pan starting from low D.