Do Handpans Need to be Retuned? | Please do not DIY!


Here I take a look at the process of how to retune a handpan. Under no circumstance should you ever try to retune your own handpan, you will live to regret it. Consult the original maker in the first instance or a professional maker as an alternative.

How to retune a handpan? – Contact the original creator of your handpan if known. They will 100% be the best person to undertake the task. If this is logistically impossible, then get in contact with someone more local. They will need to inspect and agree to take on the job.

Below I will explain the tuning process and retuning process, what is involved and things that can cause your handpan to lose tune on one note or more.

How often does a handpan need retuning?

A well-cared-for handpan may need tuning only after five years, a less respected pan may need a retune tomorrow if you drop it down the stair today. There are a number of variable factors that will determine how often your handpan will need a tune-up.

Lower quality handpans may need tuning more often

Lesser quality handpans will almost certainly need retuning more often than a really good quality one. The build and original tuning methods may determine that with normal play, an annual tune may be appropriate.

Some good quality handpans can last up to 7 years before a retune.

There are claims that some handpans have gone 7 years with regular play and still sound perfect. I would expect that they may be fractionally off, but not by enough for the ear to detect or perhaps the player has been accustomed to the very slight change in tone.

How to save your handpan from retuning

  • Don’t play it too hard
  • Don’t leave it in direct sunlight
  • Don’t let it get too cold
  • Have a regular care plan
  • Store your handpan correctly
  • Don’t let the neighbors kids loose with it
  • Don’t drop your handpan

Please refer to the handpan care guide for more tips on how to look after, clean and extend the life of your precious handpan.

What can cause my handpan to go out of tune?

There is a myriad of things that can happen to a handpan to cause it to go out of tune. These can be from misuse, accidental damage, improper storage, travel, or simply day to day play over time wearing your pan out of tune through normal use.

It is pretty obvious which ones will cause the greatest damage, but if you own a good quality handpan, you will almost certainly, barring accidents have an instrument that stays in tune for a really long period of time.

If you misuse it, do not dry or clean if it gets wet, or take normal care, the chances are your handpan will deteriorate quicker.

Handpans do not come cheaply and it would be a surprise if someone did not treat their instrument like the family baby. If you have bought a cheap handpan, then do expect to need to retune it more frequently. Which will rack up added expense and really highlight the false economy of going for a sub-par, budget handpan.

Not all budget handpans are bad, and some bring a great deal of joy to people. I have a guide on budget handpans that will help you choose a cheaper version while avoiding the many pitfalls that befall someone looking for a cheaper alternative to a $2000+ handpan.

Always try to get your handpan back to the original creator for retuning.

This is not always the easiest thing to do, especially if you have bought from abroad and had your order shipped internationally. It is something to consider before buying your first instrument.

If you are buying second hand, be sure of the maker of the handpan and consider this too. It may be that it will require an immediate bit of maintenance and a retune. Whether that be by the original maker or by someone more local. There will be at least the retune costs attached, and possibly shipping too.

I don’t know who made my handpan, will someone else retune it?

Quite possibly. Some makers are not too keen on retuning others’ handpans. This is not unreasonable of course and the makers prerogative. Some will, however, depending on their schedule and availability.

Expect the maker to want to inspect and assess the condition of the handpan before agreeing to undertake the retune job. And be prepared, after this consultation, to be told that the job will not be taken.

It is nothing personal, it may simply be that the maker is not prepared, or able to retune the particular handpan in question.

All is not lost, get onto a handpan community like handpan.org or try a facebook group and ask around for anyone in your general region who may have found someone to retune theirs.

How much does it cost to have a handpan retuned?

Generally, a maker will retune their own handpans more cheaply than other creators, if at all. But, retuning can start at around $75-$100 for a very quick and simple job. I will not quote a price for any maker in particular, as I can not speak for any maker or particular job requirement.

If for instance, someone has knocked a note out of tune and then had a bit of a DIY moment trying to retune it themselves, it is very likely the entire handpan will be out of tune now, and will require a serious amount of work, and in turn expense.

What is involved in retuning a handpan?

It will depend on how much work is required to get it back in tune. The one thing you can be sure of is that if you stick around and are able to watch the process, you are not going to like it. Your handpan is about to be set upon by a hammer.

You will get that feeling that someone is using that hammer on your kneecaps. If you can stand the sight, it will be a revelation to watch a professional doing the job they do with such skill and expertise, but it really is not a pretty sight.

The fine-tuning of a handpan is a delicate process, even though it may not look or sound like it. Depending on how finely or deeply your handpan is out of tune, different levels of attention are going to be required. A complete reshape of a note might even be needed for an extensively damaged handpan, and it is likely that each note will need a slight touch-up along the way.

How long does retuning a handpan take?

The length of time it will take to retune a handpan will be a direct result of just how out of tune it is, or if there is any other superficial damage to the handpan. It may take one hour, or you may need to leave your handpan with whoever is retuning it for several days.

You also have to consider what the current job list the maker might have and when a retune can fit into the schedule. Chances are you had to wait a long time to get your handpan in the first place; exercise the same level of patience to have your handpan returned sounding as good as new.

Will my handpan sound the same after it has been retuned?

The answer to the question is, of course, no, because it was out of tune before and now it should be tuned perfectly again. But I get the point. You may feel it sounds a little different because the chances are you would have been playing the handpan as it went out of tune and for a little while after, so you may notice a slight difference in that regard. be assures though, your tuner would have restored your handpan to its original scale and notation set up, and it should be just fine.

Can I get my handpan retuned to a different scale?

No. Buy another one. By the time the job has been undertaken, it would have taken as long, if not longer to do the job and you will still have an inferior version of the handpan you previously owned.

If you decide you do not like the scale you have or want a change, either buy a new handpan or sell your existing to buy afresh.

Someone is advertising a retuned handpan for sale – Will it be any good?

I will admire anyone who advertises a handpan and openly states it has been retuned, as if everything is ok, then this is not necessary. A different situation I know, but you wouldn’t say a piano or guitar had been retuned when selling, so there really is no reason to do so with a handpan.

In fact, I would have a small concern if this was mentioned as I would take it as the seller making excuses for a poorly performing handpan, prior to taking your cash and handing it over

SteveM

I enjoyed the unpitched appeal of percussion prior to discovering handpans in a 'moment' I was experiencing. I've been writing ever since.

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