1. What is a Handpan?
A handpan is a musical instrument made of various types of steel that is played with one’s hands. It contains multiple notes that are all tuned to a particular scale to which the instrument is designed and built. The steel is shaped and sunk into two domes/shells around which oval (or sometimes circular) areas are hammered to create multiple tone fields, each representing a single note. There can be anywhere from 8 to 20+ notes, and they commonly range from B2 to F5, though can sometimes be found outside of these ranges. The shells are eventually glued together to form a ‘UFO flying saucer’ and pan style shape. Note that Celestial Sound uses Ayasa Nitrided shells.
Due to the nature of the tuned scale and the limited selection of notes, the handpan is a very friendly instrument for beginners to music. One does not necessarily need to know anything about music or musical theory in order to produce a pleasant sound.
The Handpan is also an instrument that belongs to both the rhythmic and melodic elements of music, and is therefore commonly referred to as a tuned percussion instrument.
2. How do I get a Handpan?
There are numerous manufacturers around the world, and as the build process is by hand, most high quality manufacturers are only able to build 30 to 80 pans per year. Therefore it is common to come across waiting lists for an instrument.
Celestial Sound offers artisan hand made handpans of the highest quality, no expense is spared in the materials or time it takes to create such instruments. We currently have a waiting list, however from time to time we do have Flash Sales where instruments will be available for immediate purchase. Our email subscription family list will be the first to be notified of these or you can see the webstore or make an enquiry for further details. Your pan may be picked up from Melbourne, Australia, otherwise shipped worldwide at the customers expense.
3. What are the benefits of buying a brand new Handpan vs second hand?
Having the opportunity to purchase a brand new handpan locally made in Australia carries many benefits to it. Not only do you receive an instrument that is hand crafted especially for you, in a scale of your choice with accessories of your choice, it will be of pristine timbre and aesthetics. The best part is you will have the peace of mind knowing that we will forever have your back. Our instruments carry a lifetime warranty, VIP servicing (discounts and priority wait times), trade ins and ongoing support (including exclusive offers to workshops, festivals and events).
What this all means is that retuning your instrument has never been so easy, so you could always have a wonderful sounding instrument!
Sometimes Celestial Sound may have available second hand instruments for immediate purchase, often as a result of a trade in by our customers, for example. These instruments will usually have been refurbished which includes a retune, clean, oil and any necessary repairs required. Any second hand Celestial Sound instrument sold like this will carry its original warranty and VIP servicing.
On occasion, private individuals may also sell their personal instruments through second hand market platforms, such as the Australian Handpan Market - Buy/Swap/Sell on facebook. Although Celestial Sound has initiated this page, it does not hold accountability for the quality of the private second hand instruments sold here.
Whilst some of these instruments are made by reputable makers from around the world and will sound beautiful, beware that some may not be in tune or of a comparable quality. It is always best to ensure you can either see the instrument in person or in a video before purchasing.
If an instrument requires a retune, Celestial Sound may be able to complete this depending on the original maker of the instrument. Retunes start at $150.
4. What are the benefits of buying a Handpan locally vs from abroad?
There are not many Handpan makers here in Australia. Celestial Sound is the biggest and most widely known Handpan maker in Australia, and our customer base stretches even to New Zealand, where we have made it easier than ever for our Kiwi customers to land a brand new Celestial Sound Handpan in their laps.
But this by no means suggests that we are the only option, there are many incredible Handpan makers from all around the world, and as such some players like to opt for these exotic instruments.
There are a few things to consider when purchasing from abroad, first and foremost, there are a lot of dodgy scams happening currently in the Handpan world. Nice sounding and high quality Handpans simply cannot be made cheaply, not with the current technology. And so often people are searching for the cheapest option to begin with and are invariably disappointed with their results. Some don't even receive their instrument at all, whilst others receive an instrument that is of significantly poorer quality than they were promised or expected. Note that instruments like this cannot be retuned and repaired in order to make them sound nice, these instruments simply just weren't built properly and cannot be 'fixed', and cannot even be improved without essentially being rebuilt, by which time it'll be cheaper to buy a brand new one. Celestial Sound is unable to repair or retune such instruments.
Therefore the tuning is another thing to consider. If you are considering to purchase an instrument from an international maker, it is a good idea to do some research first and find out how you will be able to service this instrument ongoing. It is not an ideal situation to have your international instrument go out of tune only to find that the only place to tune it is back where it was made, this can make for a very costly retune experience. There are many international makers that Celestial Sound will be able to work with and repair or retune, but this depends on the maker and the material. You are welcome to contact us to learn if we can retune your international instrument, or your proposed instrument before you purchase.
It is therefore ALWAYS recommended that you purchase from a reputable maker, one that can guarantee their work. This way if there are any issues with the instrument, it will be sorted by the builder, and Celestial Sound may even be able to help in this regard. We have performed warranty repairs for many instruments made by our international affiliates.
5. What’s the difference between a Handpan, Pan, Hang ©, Pantam, Copula, Sculpture and Hang Drum?
The Hang © was the original handpan and was invented in Switzerland by a company called PanArt © in 2000. It’s developers took inspiration from the Steel Pan instrument, which they were also manufacturing at the time. The Hang © became available for sale to the public in 2001. This is a patented name for their instrument and can only be used if referring to an original PanArt © instrument. PanArt © have gone to great lengths to identify and take legal action against many manufacturers and musicians for breach of the use of the word Hang ©. So please be careful when using the word Hang © and ensure you are actually referring to the instrument made by PanArt © and not an instrument made from another maker, otherwise you may also fall victim to PanArt’s © legal team.
Since the invention of the Hang ©, there have been many manufacturers that have attempted to further develop the instrument. Given the copyright of the original name, they have come up with many other names like Handpan, Pantam, Copula and less specifically Sculpture. These are currently all interchangeable, and depending on the region, one name may be more common than another. Pan is simply a nickname for the instrument.
Hang Drum on the other hand, is an incorrect term that many people use through the confusion of the term Hang © with a Drum. It’s not just a drum being so elaborately tuned! The instrument is inaccurately labelled a “Hang Drum” by the handpan industry.
6. Why is a Handpan priced so?
The creation of each handpan requires many hours of detailed physical labour, a highly specialised skill set, expensive customised machinery, and considerable research and development. For this reason, the price of any given instrument reflects not just the cost of the raw steel material, but also the cost of the time, effort and equipment that was necessary in order to craft such quality, artisan instruments.
Celestial Sound are committed to producing the highest quality instruments. For this reason, no expense is spared as we source the best materials from around the world to ensure the reliability and consistency of our instruments.
7. How many Handpan scales are there and why does Celestial Sound have different names?
Countless handpan scales exist, in a variety of keys. There could be hundreds but without a single resource that has collected them all, it is difficult to know for certain.
Even more confusing is the fact that many different manufacturers refer to their instrument scales with different names even if it is an identical scale to another manufacturer. For example the E Kurd vs the E AnnaZiska vs E Aeolian. They all have exactly the same layout of notes: E / B C D E F# G A B.
Due to there being no standardised naming conventions, and to take the opportunity to pay homage to the goddesses of various cultures, Celestial Sound has chosen to wipe the slate clean and rename each scale after a goddess that could best represent the theme of that scale. We've also gone and labelled all of the common names in the community for these thematic scales to help avoid confusion. In this way we can summarise each scale by emotion, colour and feeling, so that each customer can enter the world of music without feeling overwhelmed. After all the Handpan is a fantastic gateway instrument into playing music.
For those that appreciate music theory, don't worry, we also provide a short synopsis of what you can expect from each scale in terms of keys and collaboration. So everyone can find what they're looking for.
8. There are so many scales, how do I choose one?
There are literally hundreds of Handpan scales out there, and countless variations there of. So it's no surprise that choosing a scale can be such a daunting process. We believe whole heartedly that owning a Handpan isn't just about owning an instrument, it's about immersing into an experience. One that may most likely change ones life!
Therefore helping our customers choose a scale is one of our biggest focuses! We take pride in asking the right questions and steering our customers to find the scale that best resonates with them in hope that they may receive an instrument that will share their home for many years to come.
We've developed this page to help provide some valuable information about selecting a scale, click here to read more.
9. How to choose a matching scale?
We get asked this question a lot, how to choose a scale that matches another Handpan. It's a difficult question because there are multiple answers, and first you must decide what your intention is with the matching pair. There are hundreds of scales and as such, exponentially more possibilities to match them, so we have put together a bit of a run down explaining some of the most common causes to match instruments.
10. What's the difference: RAW vs NITRIDED vs STAINLESS STEEL?
This is a question asked often and can be a difficult one to answer and give someone a clear idea of the differences without presenting examples of each instrument to directly compare. Everyone is different and as such there is no "better" material, as opposed to ones preferences over another. It is worth noting that these are not the only materials used to make Handpans, but they are by far the most commonly seen.
Raw is the traditional material which usually refers a low carbon content alloy mild steel that is "raw" as the name suggests. I.e has had no treatment per say to stiffen or improve resilience to rust. This material was used for many many years by steel pan makers, whom sometimes then would chrome or paint their instruments. It is still used today by many handpan makers.
Nitrided is by far the more common material and this is simply a raw shell that has undergone a hardening process called gas nitriding. This process of heating in a sealed gas chamber causes the shell to form an outer crust that mainly case hardens the surface, but also introduces an element of rust resistance. Note, this does not introduce a additional material to the surface, but instead causes the outer surface of the raw material to change in it physical properties with the reaction to the nitrogen gas.
Stainless Steel is simply as the name suggests and is an increasingly more popular material to use in Handpan making. It hasn't gone through nitriding and comes as is. Stainless is inherently stronger, but more elastic, and has a higher resistance to rust than the other two materials above.
Real world application, what's the difference? Below are some common characteristic differences that are usually found between the materials:
Sustain: Traditionally Nitrided instruments will have the least sustain, Raw usually in the middle and Stainless Steel the most sustain.
Rust Resistance: Stainless is said to have the most rust resistance, followed by Nitrided then Raw being the most susceptible to rust.
Timbre: Nitrided tends to have the warmest sound, well balanced lows and highs and commonly finds itself leaning towards a more ceramic sound. Raw can often teeter between the two, and sometimes may sound slightly tanky, meaning a lot of stray frequencies. Stainless Steel can easily sound very bright, and have an emphasis on the higher end frequencies.
Dynamic Range: Nitrided tends to be more or less the all rounder, it is isolated enough that it has the potential to be more percussive and emotive, you can easily play soft or hard and anywhere in between. Raw can be more resonant and loose which means it'll also like to play soft but wont be as isolated for percussive play. Stainless takes this to the next level, it is so resonant that its almost impossible to play percussively without exciting the notes, it doesn't isolate easily and tends to be a lot louder than the other two, so playing softly is challenging.
Stability: When it comes to instruments staying in tune, by far Nitrided is the most reliable. Its stiffened surface lends it to maintain its tuning over time and also resist rough play more than the other two. Raw material is soft and can easily drift over time or suffer from heavy hands. Stainless, although it is stronger, is a lot more elastic, and therefore tuning tends to suffer over time as it always wants to return to it's original form. It's worth noting that if Stainless is built very well, then it could technically be more stable than Nitrided, however not many makers have mastered this stability in Stainless and so hence it will require more regular tuning.
Note Range: The range of notes is relatively similar on Raw vs Nitrided, sometimes Nitrided can reach higher notes. This is where Stainless Steel really has it's benefits. Being a harder material, it is possible to stretch the material further to therefore obtain much deeper and lower notes. For example, most makers would comfortably build as low as B2 on Nitrided or Raw, very few have successfully stretched down to G2. Whereas it is possible to go as far as E2 on Stainless, though not many can achieve this.
Look: The look of all instruments can dramatically vary based on so many factors. For Celestial Sound our Nitrided instruments have a grey metal look, whereas our Raw have colours heated through the metal, like purple, blue and gold. Our Stainless Steel have a more copper orange tinge.
11. What should I know about 432Hz?
432Hz is a common question that makers get asked a lot. Sometimes you might even see some instruments in videos or for sale that are written as 432Hz.
But what is 432Hz and what does it mean?
432Hz simply refers to the frequency that the instrument is tuned to. The frequency (written in Hertz/Hz) is the exact measurement that any given note is tuned to, this is how us tuners can accurately tune the Handpan and have it sounding very melodic and harmonious with itself and all the frequencies within any given instrument.
432Hz specifically refers to the A4 reference note, meaning it implies that the A4 is tuned to 432Hz. In concert pitch, which is by far the most common reference, A4 is tuned to 440Hz.
So how does this affect the sound of the Handpan?
Well looking at these numbers, therefore 432 being 8Hz lower than 440 means that the A4 432Hz will be very slightly lower/deeper in pitch than the A4 440Hz. If you played A4 432Hz along/simultaneously with an A4 440Hz they would not sound congruent with each other. Meaning they would sound out of tune together.
What are the benefits of 432Hz?
There are many people that believe that 432Hz carries with it more healing properties that the standard 440Hz. Without delving too deep, and without conferring any bias either for or against, there is little evidence to support that 432Hz NOR that 440Hz are better than one another. In fact there are indeed other reference ranges apart from these too that we wont cover here.
It is important to note therefore that, given then is little evidence to support the medical or healing benefits of either frequency application, we must consider the practicability of the two. Given that 432Hz is an incredibly uncommon reference, you may find it quite challenging in the real world to find any other instruments in 432Hz that you will be able to play alongside. Without knowing the exact figure, it would be reasonable to say that 95% or even more of all instruments out there will be tuned to concert pitch (440Hz). So unless you have absolutely no intention at all to jam or play along with any other instruments then it is highly advised to stick with the standard concert pitch instruments.
Does Celestial Sound make Handpans in 432Hz?
Whilst we strongly discourage it (pending your specific circumstances), it is possible to make a custom order to 432Hz. However it is VERY important to note that an instrument built to 432Hz CANNOT be retuned to 440Hz once it is built. You must also be aware that this instrument will not be able to collaborate with any other instrument that is tuned to 440Hz, it will only be able to collaborate with other instruments in 432Hz.
Celestial Sound also offers no returns or change of mind once the instrument has been templated. There are potential implications to certain aspects of the warranty and Devotion as well, for example we may not be able to offer trade in at the time.
12. How do I look after my Handpan?
Handpan care is an important and often understated requirement. Handpans are delicate and should be treated so. They are hammered into tune and therefore any kind of rough play or beating with any hard object can easily put the instrument out of tune. They are made of steel with a hollow chamber and therefore temperature, humidity and altitude can have an influence on its tuning. They are also susceptible to rust, some more so than others.
13. Retunes? What happens if my Handpan goes out of tune or is damaged?
14. What is Celestial Sound's refund policy?
At Celestial Sound we strive for the highest quality instrument, sparing no expense on material, skill or time and effort to ensure this. And to back our intentions, we do have a return and, if necessary, a refund policy for certain circumstances.
Before you pay for your instrument and it is shipped, you will receive a high fidelity video of the exact instrument built for you in order to approve and accept the instrument. In this approval phase, it is your responsibility to ensure you voice any concerns you have with the instrument as this is the point when we can work towards rectifying any issues you have noticed.
Once your instrument is approved and shipped, and you notice any issue at all with your instrument once it arrives, please contact us immediately so we can work towards rectifying this. If it is damaged in transit and you did not opt for shipping insurance, then we will work closely with you to try and rectify the issue and ensure all parties are happy with the result. If you do not contact us within 14 days of receiving the instrument, then it may be difficult to ascertain the origin of the issue.
We cannot offer any refund for a change of mind, this includes your initial deposit. Under no circumstance can we offer a refund of your initial deposit once your instrument has been started, we may offer a replacement instrument at best.
In any case, we are committed to the support and collaboration with all our customers, so please don't hesitate to reach out should you have any concerns with your instrument.
15. Where can I enrol in Handpan lessons and workshops?
16. How can I safely travel with my Handpan?
It is highly recommended that you use a hard case to transport your instrument, whether it is in the car, train or plane. A soft case will not provide adequate protection from an impact or compressive force.
Celestial Sound is the Australasian distributor for Hardcase Technologies because we believe they are the most protective and versatile case on the market.
Depending on the size of your case, you may be able to safely take your handpan as carry on with most airline carriers. This is possible with the Small Turtle and the Medium EvaTek. The Medium EvaTek is specifically designed and engineered to fit on most modern airline overhead compartments.
Alternatively, if you wish to check it in, Celestial Sound strongly recommends that you use either a FlyRoll or an Evatek FlyKit or the Fly hardshell insert if you already have an EvaTek to ensure your Handpan is kept safe when being placed in the plane’s cargo.
Be aware that many airline staff are not educated about Handpans, in fact many people have never even heard of a Handpan. Don't be shy to explain to them the rarity and value of the instrument and express that it is delicate. Sometimes they may ask you to check the instrument in, we STRONGLY advise you to not check your instrument in if it doesn't have one of these check-in approved cases.
17. Where can I get accessories for my Handpan?
18. What happens if my Handpan is lost or stolen?
We recommend you take photos of your instrument, in particular if it has any distinguishable characteristics like decorations etc. Make sure to photograph the serial number/s and the case.
If your instrument is lost or stolen, the first step is to notify the relevant authorities. Next is to notify Celestial Sound or the original manufacturer of your instrument. This way, we will be able to flag it and if we come across it then we will follow up.
Another good idea is to reach out to the online Handpan community on various platforms from Facebook and Instagram and share your story and images of the instrument and the case.
19. How can I find other Handpan players in the community?
A good place to start is to join two popular Facebook groups,
These established Australian communities have been growing for a few years.
PanOz Festival is organised by Jeremy Diffey, Adrian Portia and Celestial Sound's own Tim Tom. It is held just outside of Apollo Bay every January, and there are multiple workshops, performances and opportunities to try out and purchase handpans on site.
Another resource for buying and selling a handpan is the
There are other Facebook groups that are open to the worldwide community, as well as many festivals around the world. Simple searches will list these.
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