Which instruments?

Chrome steel pans for RASPO image by Julia Brazil

This chapter explains the range of steel pans, how many pans you will need, what to expect from a starter set, where you can buy the best quality instruments and how much they cost.

Which steel pans?
A typical steel percussion orchestra has a balance of melody, rhythm and bass instruments.

You can set up a steel band with as few as five instruments adding more later.
CultureMix offers ideal tailor made starter sets including a five piece set made up of a six bass, a cello or guitar set, one pair of double seconds and two tenors with all the accessories including stands, sticks, cases and covers. We will also deliver and set them up for you.

A larger budget will get you a set of ten to twelve steel percussion instruments plus a drum kit and percussion.

Accessing instruments can be quite daunting as the best steel pans are handmade by skilled pan makers in the UK and Trinidad.

Where to buy?
Steel pans can be ordered direct from Trinidad or through the few UK-based music equipment suppliers connected with manufacturers in Europe and America. This method can take up to six months from order to delivery.

For example:
• 4 x tenor pans (melody)
• 3 x double seconds (melody and/or rhythm)
• 2 x guitar pans (countermelody and rhythm)
• 1 x cello pans/treble guitars (countermelody and rhythm or bass)
• 1 x tenor bass
• 1 x six bass.

The drum kit, congas and a selection of hand percussion creates the engine room, vital for keeping the beat.

Another option is to source the steel pans from reputable organisations who will work with you to plan the whole project.

At CultureMix we offer expert advice, instrument guarantees, tutors, tuners and related ongoing support with testimonials from satisfied schools and music services.

How much?
Costs for steel pans vary enormously between suppliers, as does quality. The more expensive instruments are crafted from thinner materials by reputable tuners, and finished with a high-shine chrome or more durable powder coating. Heavier, painted pans cost less.

The steel pan industry is fairly new so it is important to work with a recommended organisation who have experience of providing good quality equipment to a growing market.

Whichever choices you make it will cost from £8,000 to £20,000 to buy a set of instruments with accessories which will last twenty years or more. Added costs include specialist tutors, training and recommended annual tuning.  

Chapter 4 – Setting up the Steel Band