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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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True Glenroy.


Time and tide wait for no man.  Considering the innovative growth since the 1940's when the Bamboo Tambour buss and the Steelpan was born, when you relate that to other musical instruments, that is rapid and a testament to the remarkable creativity and ingenuity  of the people of T&T.  To think that there would not be a development covering amplification to an electro version, just as other musical instruments have seen, ignores man and his quest to invent and the necessity this conversation provokes.  Now to suggest the latter would somehow negate and replace the former also ignores the reality.  The Steelpan is perfect in its imperfection.  Both will continue to exist side by side and/or by themselves depending on the venue and the choice of the panist themselves.
To give some historical perspective, it appears Tripoli was the first known to amplify in the 1950's, followed by Bertie leading the Highlanders in the 1960's.  I can not find any recordings of Tripoli's amplified pans, but these are some recordings of Highlanders using the Bert-fone.  Every Valley Shall Be Exalted and If I Loved You.
Miking the instrument(s) whether for live or recording sessions has been known to be troublesome, but for TrueTrinis that just presents a challenge which is not insurmountable.
Missing from this conversation is the work of the renowned pioneer pan scientist Dr. Anthony Achong.  He is now based in the USA, but he must be reachable somewhere on the "electric" grid.  His input would benefit the topic, if someone in the know can track him down.
The journey of pan can not, should not and will not be abated by wishful thinking or nostalgic desires.  Progress is Progress.  The piano, organ, guitar and drums amongst other musical instruments have been done it, so why not electrify the steelpan?   Is it less deserving?
This information is coming to you via the WWW-Internet 2014AD, just in case you are not aware. ;-) 

Electrified pan came and went .... here is a picture of Joylanders in 1994 playing pans "electrified" by me when working on that project solo at the time. This is on the road Carnival Tuesday night. If you look closely you will see the wires coming from the Double -Second. It was also done with Tokyo in '87 using a different method. A group of us later formed a company (Lectrapan) but none of the techniques really took off - market factors primarily.



2. Achong published a book in Sep 2013 called: Secrets of the Steelpan: Unlocking the Secrets of the Science, Technology, Tuning of the Steelpan . Its on Amazon, eBay etc. Just Google it.


Brian, the road to get them to understand that electro-pans are not a threat to replace the acoustic steelpan is a hard hill to climb, but not insurmountable.

Permalink Reply by Brian Copeland on March 24, 2011 at 8:52pm

Answer: Change the format ... Penta Rhapsody went on the road using PHIs and did not have that problem.

Lesson 1: Change is constant. Adapt or die

Lesson 2: Our big mistake. It was never only about the pan ... we keep forgetting the pannist. Stalin: Is de pan weh gone, but de panman stay! 


With regards to Dr. Achong, I was looking to see how is other works (unpublished?) relate to the topic. 

Sci-tech pan talks open today 

Pan Science Conference attracts world scholars

To see and discover how his "steel-less electronic version of the classical steelpan" sounded when his mathematical equation formulas were transferred into pan sounds.

Is he retired and resigned from the steelpan life?

Hey! Forgot about that response. I still pretty much feel that way.


I do not know of Anthony Achong's whereabouts these days. We last saw him at the STeelfest Conference in early 2012. I do know that he spent a lot of time putting his book together which may explain his low profile in the last couple of years.

Hopefully he'll resurface at some point.  Strange but even some of his "Achong" family are at a lost.  I hope his efforts don't disappear in a mysterious fire, Like Bertie's Bert-fone did.  Wonder if there was ever a prototype of his "steel-less electronic version of the classical steelpan" as proof-o-f-concept? 

I think he did an analog electronic prototype at the 1st Steelpan Conference in TnT ... back in 2002, I think.

Would be interesting to see how his "analog steel-less electronic version of the classical steelpan" performed.  For history sake, I hope it makes it into the Steelpan Hall Of Fame, whenever PanTrinbagoHQ sees the light-of-day, eh...

Iza Trini Abroad, and had to experiment in order to give the pan a voice on the stage next to some very noisy counterparts such as amplified guitars, basses and the sort.  I hope someone here will improve on my ideas.  My quest for answers began here, so I cannot even say "my ideas".

thanks corey,everything you said makes sense to me now especially the popular use of the sm57 by sound men.I do appreciate your explanation about the advantage of micing above instead of below which Ive been doing with average success,but now thanks to you  I have the necessary knowledge to improve my performance.Thank you for that and a big thank you to WST for making this knowledge available to panmen all around the world...

I'm glad for that. When I go to a gig and say to the sound man "I have my own mics... they are very good at picking up the pan without the inherent problems of reflection and feedback that 57s do with this instrument", once upon a time they would be skeptical.  But they now are willing to trust me and my confidence.  I've used my cheap mics in front of very large crowds alongside all the expensive gear they preferred, and it all worked!  It's improving with every show I do.  Hopefully it will for you too.

Hi Corey:

In the context of avoidance of peripheral input, what do you think of the use of contact microphones for that purpose, which purportedly pick up only the instrument?

Thanks,  Peter


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