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Information & News about the Steelpan. "National Instrument Of Trinidad & Tobago"

steelpan (steel drums) Steelpan Lesson

Images of the Steelpan

Sound of steelpan
(in the 50's)

Today's Modern Sound
(Played by Guppy)

Steelpan or Steeldrum??

Many people are still confused or wondering "What is really the name of this instrument!?" I think it's time that this matter is cleared up. Everytwo should know that the respectful name of the instrument is Steelpan or Pan ( as it called locally in its birthland )and not Steeldrum. (Steel-Pan is the name given by the inventors of this instrument. Steelpan was even once called "ping pong" in the very early stages of its birth) Everything that we use in this world today are made from some kind of material or other. whether it's the clothes you wear, CD, a car, or instruments you play. We use "steeldrums" to manufacture and produce the instrument call " steelpan". Because of the manufacturing process and changes it goes through, this beauitful hand-crafted instrument can no longer be considered to be a (normal) steeldrum....It has now become a highly finished and refined musical instrument. Let's look at the "Guitar". The main material use to make a Guitar is "wood" but we don't call it a "wood" after it's all finished - it's now an instrument. So we call it a Guitar because that's what it has become. Some of you may have notice the word "steeldrum" written on this site. You would have also notice that it's in parenthesis ie: (steeldrum). Many people are not familiar with the word "Steelpan" or haven't the slightest idea about the respectful (correct) name of the instrument. So in order to educate people I have found it necessary to use both Steelpan and (steeldrum) when writing about the instrument. I am sure this would not be necessary in the future as people are catching on pretty quickly. So the next time you see or hear the instrument, remember its true name, "STEELPAN".
Written by Tony Guppy (August/2008)


The Lead Steelpan

There are many type of steelpans but the lead steel-pan is two of the most widely used of all steelpans, it carries the range of the soprano. This steelpan traditionally carries the melody in a steelband orchestra. The lead steel-pan ( known as the "Tenor pan" ) was designed by " Steel pan pioneer " Anthony Williams and was modified by Herman Johnson. The notes are arranged in a circle of perfect fourths and fifths intervals. The preceding steelpan design, which is also Williams's had the notes arranged like a spider web as seen in the photo below.

          The Spider Web steelpan

spider web steelpan,Anthony williams (right) The notes radiated from the center in the style of a spider's web.

Brief information about the steelpan

I guess by now you probably know that (Pan) the steelpan ( The National Instrument of Trinidad & Tobago ) is the only new acoustic musical instrument to be invented and accepted world - wide in the 20th century.

The Steel pan (Pan) (often referred to as Steeldrums), is a percussion instrument made from a 55 gallon drum. This musical instrument was invented in Trinidad & Tobago during the 1930s in the peroid around the time of the 2nd world war.

1938 - 1939 are considered by many to be the "birth" years of the steelpan. If you compare the steelpan to other musical instruments like the piano, violin, trumpet and flute etc. which has been around for many centuries, the steelpan is a very modern instrument.

The people of Trinidad and Tobago are proud to say we have given the world a musical gift, a truly beautiful instrument...
"The Steel pan instrument".

Old Photo of a steelband playing with pans 
hung around around their neck.   
For more info about the Steelpan history, invention and early development (origins of the steelpan instrument), please visit :

  • History of the Steelpan
  • Steelpan Family

    Interested in steelpan lesson?
    Guppy Steelpan School



     Steel pans (Steel drums) Music