Hang Drum vs. HandPan | What is a Hang Drum & what’s the difference?

When I started getting interested in handpans, it took a while to understand the difference between a hang drum and a handpan. While the answer is very simple, there remains no direct answer to the question. So I thought I would explain.

What is a Hang Drum? – The Hang® [pronounced Haahng] is the name of the original instrument we now know as a handpan. Created by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer of PANArt fame; ‘hang drum’, was then the loose term adopted by players for all handpans. They are distinctively different from modern instruments

PANArt actively refuted the term Hang Drum and tried to prevent the Hang term from being used for other instruments by trademarking the term Hang® to identify specifically their own creation.

So what is the Difference between Hang Drum and HandPan? – The difference between Hang and Handpan is just the trademarked name from PANArt. Arguably, the instruments are based on the same principle. But almost all players will not use the term Drum

Another PANArt Hang Drum on eBay
PANArt Integral Hang on Sale on eBay

So ‘hang drum’ is a propriety eponym. A brand name used generally for all similar instruments. Much like ‘iPod’ being used as a name for other brands of mp3 players.

Propriety Eponym

A successful brand name or trademark that has come into general use to refer to the generic class of objects rather than the specific brand type, without the exclusive rights to said product being lost by the parent company.


A More In-Depth Look Into Hang Drums.

So now we understand a hang drum is a term used to describe, generically and arguably incorrectly, a handpan, let’s take a closer look at the original Hang®

The Hang handpan is hugely sought after as only around 4500 were ever created before PANArt stopped producing them and moved onto other projects.

As the original handpan, Hang is in high demand and very limited supply. The HANG has become a rather elusive and very expensive instrument to own.

The rate at which the Hang was produced was prolific in comparison to handpan production today.

A quick look at this video shows just how quickly Felix could hammer a PANArt Hang into shape.

Felix Rohner creating a PANArt Hang Drum

You wouldn’t want to be the next-door neighbor huh?

The video of an original PANArt Hang Drum being made is a true insight into the genius of the creation of this instrument.

Whilst newer handpans can have far more notes available for play and be more versatile for musical creation, there is still something very attractive about the original Hang.

The raw technique of creating the notes seems far removed from the more tool led process that we see today. Even with thousands of hammer strikes and fine-tuning it still seems remarkable just how quickly Felix was able to change the note and have the Hang sounding perfect.

There were several developments of the Hang prior to the end of production as you can see in the image below.

By Ixkeys – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Note how by the 5th generation Integral Hang from 2008 the difference from the 1st generation some five years earlier had changed markedly.

1st Generation Hang

The original and most expensive hang to buy second-hand today was available between 2001-2005. These are now the most sought after handpans and can be identified by a signature from Either Felix Rohner of Sabina Schärer on the inside of the Ding. This first creation was available with either 7 or 8 note fields.

What is the Low Hang?

This was an instrument in the first generation where the notes were considerably lowered hence the name.

2nd Generation Hang

The second-generation Hang came along in 2006 featuring a brass finish making them look quite different from the original. The brighter surface was very attractive. The model name was not written on the Hang in this production although a serial number was. Most 2nd generation Hangs were created with seven tone fields in addition to the Ding.

Integral Hang

The first Integral Hang became available in late 2007. At this point in time, it became a very strict model structure with just one tuning available with seven tone fields around the Ding all tuned exactly the same.

The Ding on this occasion had a brass coating making ti stand out from the dark upper section. Once again, each was serialized with a number, dated and signed.

What is the difference in price between a Hang and a HandPan?

If finding and confirming the originality of good condition, well-tuned Hang, you can expect to pay several thousand more dollars. Expect to find an Original Hand for somewhere between $6,000-$11,000 on the market, depending on the model.

Whereas, a new Handpan from the scores of makers available today will start at around $2,000 upward depending on the scaling and number of notes you require.

Second-hand Handpans can still cost several thousand but can be found for around the $1,000 mark if you are lucky.

How to Buy a PANArt Hang Today

You’ll not be finding any newly made Hang today, so the second-hand market is your only option. There are many places on the internet where Hang owners trade and sell.

eBay is one place you can find listed PANArt hang drums, but I would be very wary of parting with several thousands of dollars without confirmation of whether the instrument was genuine PANArt or not.

If it were to be located close enough to make a visit then I would strongly recommend that course of action. Otherwise, I would advise considering many of the new handpan makers out there who have very good instruments for sale off the shelf, or bespoke created to your specification.

How Much Does a Hang Drum Cost?

You will be lucky to find any sort of PANArt Hang available to buy second hand for less than $4,000. The most recent search I made on eBay threw on up at $11,000. If you can find a genuine one at the lower end of the price scale, and compare it to what you could have made specifically for you, the latter option becomes quite attractive.

Where Does the Hang Drum Originate From?

Felix Rohner and Sabrina Schärer created the first Hang in Switzerland around the year 2000. They went on to create several versions as listed earlier in this article and stopped production altogether in 2013.

Plainly the Hang is a development based on other steel drum instruments. I’f you are looking for earlier information on Steel drums and their origin, take a look at the Steel Drum section of the website.

Does a Hang Sound Better Than a HandPan?

That is very subjective, some might claim they do, others might claim not. They are the same instrument, albeit created by different makers.

I am not fortunate enough to own a PANArt Hang to provide a comparison but luckily YouTube is always there to help out.

This video provides the subtle differences in sound from no fewer than seventeen different hand pans including six different PANArt Hangs. They include three 1st generation, a 2nd Generation, and two integral Hangs.

Comparison of 17 different Hangs and Hanpans

0:21 to 12:49 Cover the PANArt instruments. (Click on the time stamp to listen to individual Instruments or watch the whole video above)

  • 0:21 PanArt Hang 1st Gen Hijaz
  • 1:35 PanArt Hang 1st Gen Aeolian
  • 3:50 PanArt 1st Gen Low Hang
  • 6:30 PanArt Hang 2nd Gen
  • 7:55 PanArt Integral Hang
  • 10:59 PanArt Free Integral Hang

12:50 to 28:19 runs through a further 10 instruments from various makers including SpB, Pantheon, and Innersound

  • 12:50 Pantheon Steel Halo Genesis
  • 15:12 BellArt Bells
  • 16:18 Baby Caisa
  • 17:03 Caisa
  • 18:18 SpB C# – G# B C# D# E F# G# B
  • 20:37 SpB G/C Harmonic Minor Variation
  • 21:53 SpB F Integral 9
  • 24:33 Sunpan
  • 25:39 Spacedrum Custom
  • 26:39 Innersound D – A Bb D E F G A
  • 28:19 Innersound D – A B C D F# G A

The Only Hang Drum is the PANArt Hang.

So, just to reiterate, there is no such thing as a Hang Drum. This is an incorrect term than PANArt tried (but largely failed) to stop the use of by getting a trademark on the Hang® which is their exclusive instrument.

Hang Drum is often used by vendors or second-hand sellers, not always purposefully to mislead, I might add, to sell a HandPan.

There is a Hang, which is a PANArt product, and there are HandPans, and that’s it.

Only it isn’t it at all. Another common name used is the Pantam, and we have a newer handpan going by the name of ‘Tongue drum’. Both of which are for other discussions on another day.

Here is hoping that whatever you are looking for, be that a Hang or a HandPan, you find exactly what you want, connect with it, and make beautiful music together

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