Something amazing has happened. For the first time, there has been built a specific handpan for beginners. In a revolution for the instrument, the Beginner Series of handpans has been built specifically for people looking to buy their first handpan.
There is a wide choice of handpan makers in the US now and newbies have always asked why are handpans so expensive? so let’s find out. What is the best handpan for beginners and where can I get it?
The best handpan for beginners is specifically created by Aura in New Jersey [US]. Offered at under $1000. Made from low carbon, a slightly different process producing 7+1 notes is used creating aesthetic defects that don’t affect the quality but create an affordable entry-level handpan.
My favourite scale of the series if the F Integral
So, let’s introduce you to the Aura beginner series of handpans, and explain exactly why this is the best choice for your first handpan, why avoiding budget handpans is a thing of the past, and where you can now get one.
The Aura is produced in the US – For readers from Europe, you can expect to add around maybe $500 in shipping and taxes, and you would be better served by visiting the EUROPEAN SECTION of this article, further down the page.
How Much does a Handpan for Beginners Cost?
Below are examples of the cost of this beginner’s specific handpan including shipping and taxes.
In the US, where the handpan is produced, you will be able to pick it up, including shipping for under $1000.
In the UK and Europe, you have to consider additional shipping costs, insurance, and import taxes but below I present the estimated values in local currencies.
What Is The Beginner Series Handpan?
The Beginners Series has been built especially as an entry-level handpan for first time buyers to be able to avoid the high cost of owning a handpan for the first time.
Special processes have been created to cut the cost of production including no extension of the tone field beyond 7 notes and removing some extra treatments and processes which improve the aesthetic of the instrument.
Although I would very much argue that the latter could be viewed as an enhancement as you will receive a handpan with unique coloring that has not been enhanced to conform with a standardized appearance.
What Scales Are Available?
|C# Integral||(C#), G#, A, B, C#, D#, E, G#||<$1000|
|C# Mystic||(C#), G#, A, C#, D#, E, G#, B||<$1000|
|D Celtic Minor||(D), A, C, D, E, F, G, A||<$1000|
|D Major||(D), A, B, C#, D, E, F#, A||<$1000|
|E Voyager||(E), G, B, D, E, F#, G, B||<$1000|
|E Hijaz||(E), B, C, D#, E, F#, G, B||<$1000|
|F Integral||(F), C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, C||<$1000|
|F High Gong Low||(F), C, D, F, G, A, C, D||<$1000|
Why is the Beginner Handpan so Cheap?
Aura has created a process that enables them to produce their high-quality handpans at a cheaper price specifically for beginners by cutting out some manufacturing processes that take time, and therefore add to the sale price.
None of these processes affect the sound quality of the instrument as you will see in the videos below,
1. Limited 7 Note Scales
Since the birth of the handpan and the subsequent development and pushing of boundaries over 20 years, you can purchase ‘mutant’ versions of the instrument, including, in some cases, over 20 tone fields.
Whilst it is wonderfully interesting to see how many notes you can have on a handpan, the production of each of those tone field take thousands of hammer strike which of course take time and add to the cost.
The way a handpan looks aesthetically does change from maker to maker, but only in the color of the steel, and quantity of tone fields at most. But in the vast majority of cases, it is a standard look where specific aesthetics are unnoticeable.
You may even have seen handpans with decorative string rim covers. These can look great on the instrument, and Aura has used this trait in one of the cost-cutting processes.
So let’s look at how the Beginner series handpans have approached aesthetics in creating an affordable handpan for beginners
Cutting Corners – Or NOT as the Case May Be
When creating handpan two separate steel shells are joined together creating the top and bottom domes. Where the two shells meet, they are trimmed down, evened out, and smoothed. Again, another process that when working with steel takes time and adds to the labor cost of producing the instrument.
In the case of the Beginner series, this process is eliminated by adding a rubber covering that sits around the untreated rim, to hide what lies beneath. Again, this element has no bearing on the sound of the instrument so does not decrease the quality.
This is a small compromise to the look against how much money it will save on the final purchase price of this handpan.
You can still consider buying a different style cover for the rim which is readily available in Facebook groups. You’ve got the extra funds now you’ve found this handpan, or you could even have a go at making one yourself to your own design.
Most handpans you will see with consistent coloring of the steel will have been treated specifically to create that consistency.
The process for shaping and tuning a handpan includes a heating phase that often will reveal different colors of the original steel. Generally after shaping and tuning the steel is reheated and treated to gain a consistent color across the instrument purely for aesthetic reasons.
This second step of heat treatment is avoided for the beginner handpans to eliminate the extra time and labor cost involved along with the additional fuel costs in the heating process.
3. Custom Built to Order
Jon at AURA will create the beginners Series handpan to order,
This allows them to be created in a timely fashion within the normal workshop workflow, ensuring waiting times are kept to a minimum.
Should many orders arrive at once, then obviously these times may be extended, but for Jon Antzoulis to be totally transparent with all customers, it is advised to also be subscribed to the newsletter, so effective communication can be made.
A swathe of orders may create availability issues, as may be expected with such a terrific deal, so subscribe to the newsletter in the link below to be kept informed of current fluctuation of waiting times.
Once the process is underway, you can expect to have your handpan in your hands within 4-6 weeks, [subject to heavy order levels] which is a considerably shorter waiting time than for a custom build elsewhere.
Best Handpan for Beginners in Europe – Where to Buy
The beginner series handpans from Aura can be shipped from the US to anywhere in the world.
This will of course incorporate additional costs for shipping, but across Europe this will probably add around $200 to the final price.
What you should make yourself aware of is the further additional cost of import duty when purchasing from the US into Europe.
In some cases, this can be around 25% of the total price including the instrument, shipping, and any insurance you might also want to add.
Example cost to ship to Europe
|Tax @ 25%||$268.75|
At the current Exchange rate, this is what it means for European Buyers
So even with shipping and tax, you will still be able to buy a top-quality handpan for less than $1500
but what if you are in the UK or Europe and want an entry level priced handpan. What are the best handpans in the UK & Europe for beginners?
The best beginner handpan in Europe comes from Dean Richardson at Zephyr handpans in the UK. Offering nitrided steel instruments in 24 scale choices, they offer the best quality handpans at under £1500 and available to order
If you are in the UK or Europe, you should also consider Zephyr Handpans, where the standard range will come out at a comparable price.
Dean Richardson, the owner, and maker of Zephyr’s has grown a huge reputation in creating some of the finest handpans in Europe and you’ll be hard pushed to find another UK maker [Meridien perhaps], that are recommended as often as Zephyr.
AURA Beginner Series vs Zephyr Standard Comparison
Taking shipping costs and taxes into consideration it is worth doing a direct comparison of beginner handpans, just to see how AURA and Zephyr compare side by side
Note: I have used the following exchange rates which were current in January 2021 when last updated
|Spec||Aura Beginner||Zephyr Standard|
|Cost in US||$875||$1728|
|Cost in UK||£1000 inc Shipping||£1275|
|Cost in EU||€1125||€1544|
|Color||Possible Discoloration||✅ No Discoloration|
|Order||To Order||To Order|
|Lead Time||4-6 Weeks||Enquire|
While the AURA is the right choice if you live in the US, you can see the benefit of an extra couple of hundred Euros or Pounds in terms of what you will be getting for your money if you order from Zephyr in the UK.
The AURA is the right choice if you are in the US, as the Zephyr doesn’t translate as well cost wise, but for UK and European based beginners, you have the option of either buying from America, or from Zephyr in Hampshire in the UK.
With all this in mind, let’s take a closer look at Zephyr Handpans in the UK to provide you with a bit more information on the standard range, which for a couple hundred more pounds or Euros, might be a better fit than the AURA.
Zephyr Handpans Standard Range
One of the most highly regarded makers of handpans in the UK also has pricing at a point where they are perfect handpans for beginners too.
The Standard Nitrided Steel 8+1 Zephyr handpan, is a truly beautifully crafted instrument, with a pure and astounding tone and available in no fewer than 24 different scales compared with the 8 scales available in the AURA Beginner Series.
Why You Should not buy Handpans from Amazon
Whilst many people may have bought handpans from Amazon and be perfectly happy with them and have many hours of enjoyment from them, they fall into 2 camps.
- Just happy with what they have with little desire to get the very best from this remarkable instrument
- In complete denial and do not want to admit to screwing up!
It is true. Amazon is proliferated with sub-standard handpan products which in many cases are not going to sound any better than a misshaped trash can lid.
For more information and the dangers of buying cheap handpans, take a look at my budget handpan guide, which is now being updated to include info on the handpans featured here.
What do the AURA Beginner Handpans Sound Like?
Thankfully Aura has produced video previews of each of the handpan scales produced in the series so you can listen and get a feel for the one you connect with the best.
Once you have decided you would like to own a handpan and become a handpan player, the next consideration is which handpan scale to choose.
This list of available scales for the beginner Series, should help you find one you like.
C# Integral – (C#), G#, A, B, C#, D#, E, G#
C# Mystic 7 – (C#), G#, A, C#, D#, E, G#, B
D Celtic Minor 7 – (D), A, C, D, E, F, G, A
D Major 7 – (D), A, B, C#, D, E, F#, A
E Voyager 7 – (E), G, B, D, E, F#, G, B
E Hijaz 7 – (E), B, C, D#, E, F#, G, B
F Integral 7 – (F), C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, C
F High Gong Low 7 – (F), C, D, F, G, A, C, D
What are the Best Handpans in the World?
The best handpan in the world is subjective. What one player will prefer to another can and will most often differ.
There are many scores of makers around the world now, and I have produced several lists that can help narrow the choices down, if your budget is bigger and you want to consider a more expensive option
Since 2001 buying a handpan for less than $2000 was a risk that more often than not would result in an inferior quality instrument, and in many cases, something that was actually useless.
The beginner series handpan provides the opportunity for first-time buyers of the instrument to purchase a good quality handpan for less than $1000 + shipping when located in the US, and still a more affordable options for European and UK based beginners.
If you are buying from Europe I can not recommend the Zephyr instruments more highly
My first handpan cost me $3000, and whilst I was super happy and have bought and sold a few more since I would have loved the opportunity to have bought a handpan made for beginners.
Now you have the chance to buy your first handpan at a great price with the assurance that you’ll not be buying a dud and wasting your money.
Finally – Learning to Play
Once you have bought your first handpan, you may want to learn how to play it properly.
Spending a lot of time with your handpan is a great way to get to grips with it, as are handpan lessons, but did you know it can take only 20 hours to become a really good handpan player?
This guide to learn to play handpan will help