Handpans are fundamentally not suitable for young children. Handpans are easy to damage and are not designed for the rough and tumble of a child’s play box or room. Strikes from other objects like toys will create tuning issues and in some cases, irreparable damage, that will be costly to rectify, or worse, deem your precious, expensive handpan, useless. So should you let young children play handpan?
If supervised at all times young children would sure get some pleasure from playing a handpan. But with an instrument as delicate as a handpan, there is techniques to playing that may not be mastered by very young kids, who could strike too hard or use other object and cause expensive damage.
A fully supervised child of any age could and would learn these techniques though, so we can not discount a child ability to learn how to play a handpan.
It Can be Difficult to Play for Beginners, Especially Young Children
The handpan is a difficult instrument to play for beginners, especially young children. With the delicate nature of this particular musical device and its many intricacies, it can be easy enough just playing one note without any technique at all; however, there are techniques that will need mastering when learning how to fully enjoy your new toy or as an aspiring musician whatever the scale of the handpan.
There are several ways to strike the tone fields, but never with another object. Playing the tone fields can be a delicate operation and hard strikes will in time damage the tuning of the instrument. The use of other objects to create sounds is fatal.
What Age Should a Child be Before Learning Handpan?
There is no hard and fast rule of course but I would recommend a child should be at least five years old before they are allowed to play a handpan.
It is not practical for children under the age of three, due in part that it can take up too much time and patience from both parents as well their young one who may have difficulty understanding that whilst the handpan makes wonderful sounds, it doesn’t require knocking into next week to do so.
As long as an older child has been given very clear guideline not to strike the handpan with anything but their hands, and shown the maximum amount of force that is required, along with the right technique of course, then it is fine for kids to learn handpan, they may even become the next big thing in the handpan world.
How Could a Child Damage a Handpan?
A handpan is a large and cumbersome instrument, and therefore tricky to move around for a child. Dropping a handpan is plainly not good for it, especially if dropped onto a hard object or corner of a piece of furniture.
I can see it now, the temptation to try out various other objects to see what sound they make, It is a natural curiosity of children to experiment. A handpan is not an instrument to experiment with in terms of making sounds, we already know what works best.
It would be a little like giving a toddler a Stradivarius Violin, and saying, ‘Have a bash at that and see what you can make it sound like
Even if you have handpan insurance, damage caused by children may not be covered.
Would It Go Out of Tune?
The most likely scenario of allowing a child to play a handpan unsupervised would be for some notes to go out of tune.
Retuning a handpan is not a cheap exercise. An expert will happily, [in most cases] do this for you, but it can cost $100 per note.
Have a handpan with 10 notes and knock them all out of tune and you are looking at quite a bill, especially if it needs to be couriered to the maker and back!
What Other Damage Could Occur
A handpan needs love, attention and lots of care. Keeping your handpan clean is essential to keeping it in tip-top shape.
You should never store it in a bag for periods of time, so as to avoid any moisture which is not a great mix with steel as we all know.
Keeping the surface clean, with a regular care routine and applying handpan oil helps to avoid possible rusting of the surface. Steel does rust, there is little that can be done about it, and any knocks or scrapes caused by rough play, or accidents will be difficult to avoid future rusting, especially if you live in a humid climate.
Is there an Alternative Handpan for Children
There is no such thing as a cheap handpan. They simply do not come under $1000. Some do, and it is possible to find handpans mass-produced and sold on places like Amazon and eBay, but you would still be paying $500 for something that is unplayable, even for a child.
If you are going to spend $500 on an instrument for a child, you will want it not only to be able to last but also to be able to see the child improve their skills and progress with the instrument
A $500 handpan is not fit for that purpose as they are really not worth a fraction of that price.
Aura makes a beginners handpan which is available for just under $1000 – They have managed to create this using some special techniques, or not as the case may be, and if you have a large budget for your child instrument, and don’t mind what happens to it, this could be an option.
Handpans are expensive because of the time and skill required to create one. They are not mass-produced, but built by hand, by experts with years of experience, making millions of hammer strikes to perfect the pitch of each tone field.
Other Instruments for Children?
A tongue drum is a good alternative for children. They are not as expensive and can take a little more abuse than a handpan, though they do come with their own set challenges and remain a musical instrument with tunes parts.
A drum kit is also a good option for children and can be bashed at leisure. They are less expensive than handpans but the trade-off in quality may not suit some tastes or budgets as well; they do have their own set of challenges when it comes to tuning them up too!
Percussion instruments for children are often a popular choice as in many cases, they are hard-wearing. Think metal Glockenspiel, triangle, drums and bongo.
If there is one thing children like doing, it is bashing things, so consider this before buying your child a percussion instrument, and in particular spending large amounts of money on a delicate handpan.