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Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

I wanted to share what works for me... to bring my pan on stage and not be drowned out by the conventional amplified guitars and the sort.  Also, to dispel the myth that you cannot mic a pan without feedback.

I added a picture of my rig, and yes, I am wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt.  I play lots of his songs, but make no mistake I let my audiences know where pan is from.

Why is feedback such an issue when micing a pan? The pan surface is highly reflective, and we are still experimenting with techniques and mic placement. If you mic a pan from below, and you are near a monitor, reflections off the pan come into the mic quite easily.  If you mic from above, you may be pointed directionally in front of a monitor or driver as well.  Also, it seems that a regular mic needs a lot of gain to get a good signal relative to the rest of the stage, but the more you add, the more unwanted sounds from around you are picked up.  And then there is a question of technique to use when you mic a double second... would one mic work?

When micing a steelband, and there is less need for stage monitors, setting up room mics in front of the band is a good way to go... less chance of feedback.  But what about on a loud conventional stage?

The mics I use are inexpensive Apex 185s (Apex is a Canadian company, so may not be available in the States or abroad), a matched set of pencil condensor mics.  They have a very narrow pickup pattern (off-axis rejection) which allows me to angle each mic towards the bowl of my pan from above, and it will pick up those vibrations from a bit of distance (instead of micing from below with the mic a half inch from the bottom of the pan), while it rejects sounds from the sides.  Feedback is negated as the mic's pickup pattern is focussed on the pan, and not in the signal path of any speakers.

I've also used them with my tenor, and am convinced this style of mic is the way to go.  If you are shopping for mics, look for something that will pick up sound from what you point the mic directly at, but will reject sounds beside the mic.  The guy that demonstrated these mics for me snapped his fingers in an orbit around the mic, and the sound was only picked up in a narrow path directly in front.  It was cool.

What do you use?

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In the end the pannist has to be happy with the sound s/he hears - the sound system should enhance the sound, but only if that is desirable and acceptable. This could happen with cheap mics or super-expensive ones. With all of that you are still at the mercy of the person behind the controls.  


The max SPL is important as the peaks of a note strike in the 1st few milliseconds are so high that they could actually cause distortion in the mic itself. To reduce the effect if using a mic with a lower max SPL, you would have to pull the mic back from the pan. That would be more of a sound engineer's nightmare because, as you know, this increases the chance of feedback. Mics with higher max SPLs allow for closer placement if so desired.


Good idea! 

Another issue is the ability to see the pannist playing the notes on the pan.   Sure it's audible but to actually witness the pannist moving through the scale with such agility and  professionalism is a wonder to behold!  We need to hear and see how this instrument is played and how diligently the pannist executes the music on this wonderful, indigenous  instrument of Trinidad & Tobago. 

How can this be accomplished...by attaching small mirrors to the pan...by setting up mirrors on stage?  Both mics and mirrors are needed to appreciate the fullness of this instrument.

Blessings to the pannist and the pan!

That's one of the things I enjoy about TnT Panorama coverage!

Sidd It is you who said that all that is needed is the "pan sound" now you have the perfect pan sound what do you think we should do with the REAL pan? We have succeeded in bringing the oil drum full circle, we took it and made it into a instrument then we extract the sound from the instrument now we are ready   to turn back into a oil drum and garbage can. I know that there are Trini people out there that will never allow that to happen because they invented something beautiful.

Sidd, for ah moment you had me worried .

Sidd, you are wasteing your time trying to explain your case. As the great Boogsie Sharpe said to me also, Panman doh like change! But change is inevitable!

If you want to be crucified go ahead!

Bertel: It doh matter if they want change or NOT. Change WILL HAPPEN. Yuh see the post PJJ put up with the high school marching band in America (BREAKING TRADITION) and adding enough HITECH to make yuh deaf.

I am sure that in five years time all dem strictly acoustic college and high school marching bands will be using the latest TECH and blending it in with the DRUMS and HORNS. Not to mention how much the students will learn about the latest technology.

Things WILL NEVER BE as it was! Did you remember when we were younger? It is WE who changed the Pan to what it is today! What do we expect the young people to do now? Are they going to leave it as is? WAKE UP FOLKS!!!  AND ALL THEY KNOW ARE COMPUTERS!!!

Sidd, If yuh played with Spree Simon yuh played before me. I approach everything you write with an open mind but you throw me off when you say things like "Then and only then it will be completed in a true sense" this implies that the pan is incomplete,  who says that in order for the pan to be complete it MUST be developed digitally, time? The way I see it is the Pan is complete as it is. MY concern is the Steelband, steelbands ruled until amplified music was introduced so the answer to the steelband dilemma is to remove all amplified music and let them roam again.

It will take big men in high places with BALLS to make this happen I hope there is still some left.

Cecil, the Steelpan is complete as it is? RUBBISH!!!!!

Bertel, What's needed to make the Steelpan complet my brother?


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