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Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

I was watching the New Age Trendsetters Preliminary 2013 video and it brought a few questions to my mind. I will start by admitting that I do not know as much about single pan as I would like to, and have had difficulties finding much useful information. I am looking to start a single pan band for local schools and want to be as accurate to Trinidad styling as possible.

Here are my questions:

Are most single pans set up in the same manner? I am well aware of the differences between layouts in non-single pan layouts, so I expect there to be some variation, but is there a common layout used by most of the single seconds, single guitars and single basses?

Are there other voices that I did not mention?

I notice the children playing dudup in the back, are those each tuned differently and each kid has their two notes to play to create a bass line, or are they all doing V-I in a single key the entire tune?

Sorry for my ignorance, but single pan was not discussed at NIU and I have not been able to find much information out about different layouts. If anybody can shed some light on this for me, I would appreciate it. If anybody has layout they would be willing to show me that would be phenomenal! As mentioned above, I am planning on starting a single pan band with the schools in my area in order get more kids involved in pan. I would like to stay as true to Trinidad styling as possible and your help in educating me would be much appreciated.


Matt Potts

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Comment by The Steelpan Store on February 16, 2013 at 7:37pm

Thanks Glenroy,

My goals for this project are twofold:

1. Allow more kids to be able to get into pan

2. Make it easier for the band to perform in local parades

If I can teach the kids about the history of the instrument at the same time and let the "experience" it, even better! With that being said, I am not looking for this to be 100% authentic. I would certainly be explaining that the tonality of these pans is much different from the original ones, but that this instrumentation is what lead to the development of the other instruments. Does that make sense? 

Comment by Glenroy R Joseph on February 16, 2013 at 9:33am

             I don't understand the point of the "single pan" steelband.

Are they trying to replicate the traditional  steelband of the late fifties, early sixties when we still had  "pan 'round neck", with some of the single bass pans on wheels, or is it something else entirely?

This would be the period when the transition to mobile pans began, with one or sometimes two pans on wheels, but the pans were pushed by the player with one hand, while he used the other to play.

it seems to me that the only purpose to have this class of steelband would be to retain the original steelband for historical cultural purposes, and if that is the case then the pans should be tuned similar to the pans of that era.

Using for example a modern tenor pan, would to me be as inauthentic as using a modern high performance  engine in an old car and calling that car an antique.

And BTY, back in those days, Southern Marines featured a five note bass pan. it was so loved for its sweetness and versatility, they called it "the singing bass"

Comment by The Steelpan Store on February 16, 2013 at 1:17am

Thanks Francescoli, 

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the dudup IS the bass pan and that there is not a 5 note bass instrument. Is that correct? I did happen to find some single pan layouts that coincide with what Gerard explained. If you have any layouts that you could share, that would be much appreciated.



Comment by Francescoli on February 15, 2013 at 6:43am


In a single pan band the tenor/soprano pans are the same like the large bands but the seconds and guitar pans are one pan with limited notes of an octave and above. The bass pan is one pan with mostly two notes. The percussion is standard in all bands.

Comment by Gerard Clarke on January 23, 2013 at 11:03am

Yea anti clockwise.

Comment by The Steelpan Store on January 23, 2013 at 9:32am

Thank you Gerard!

So both note orders you gave are anti clockwise?

Comment by Gerard Clarke on January 21, 2013 at 11:38pm

It should read going anti clockwise and not clockwise.

Comment by Gerard Clarke on January 21, 2013 at 11:34pm

No they are not in 5th's. The big note in front of the player is Low G then going clockwise it is Low Bb,D B F# C# low A E C Eb. On the inside is G F A G# going anti clockwise.They use two or three dudups to keep the rhythm going. It does not matter what you play as it simply keeps timing and cannot change keys.

Comment by The Steelpan Store on January 21, 2013 at 7:53pm

Thanks Gerard, that helps a lot!

Is the single second set up in 4th and 5ths, just starting at the low A?

Do bands every use multiple dud ups (two words?) in order to keep the rhythm going throughout the tune without conflict with the harmonies present?

Comment by Gerard Clarke on January 21, 2013 at 5:56am

The tenors are the normal 4th's and 5th's. Then the harmony pans are also 4th's and 5th's starting from low B and not D or C as the tenors. They are used for harmony, counter and low range melody or even to assist with strumming chords. The single second has 14notes chromatic from low A with a low G in front of the player. there may be slight differences in note positions but there is a design used by the majority. The single guitar varies and the tune boom( five note bass) usually carries low G low A C D and E in the centre. Again some may have slight variations maybe with a choice of note. The dud up is a two note rhythm pan sometimes F and A or again choice of preference as all it does is keep tempo as it cannot change keys.

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