Paul Vo, Acoustic Synthesis, and Revolutionary Handpan Sounds

It is still hard for us to believe the sound in the following video is actually coming from the handpan even when we are in the same room as it much less in a video. We have done what we can to show that the sound is in fact coming from the handpan by dropping sand on the vibrating membrane as well as muffling the sound at times. The voice you hear was prerecorded and then driven into the vibration of the note membrane utilizing a magnetic field generated by the device.  The device itself makes no sound. It only creates a silent programmable magnetic field.

All sound is coming from the actual handpan membranes in the video! 

Back Ground on this Project

Mark and Josh have been thoroughly intrigued and excited to collaborate over the past few months with Paul Vo of Vo Inventions.  Paul is a brilliant inventor and product developer who’s work has resulted in the  Moog Guitar, the VO-96 and the VO Wond, which all utilize Paul’s patented vibration control technology to influence and activate the vibrations of ferrous guitar strings.  The popular Ebow is another example of a device based on different technology invented by Greg Heet and patented back in 1979. Paul’s new technology is uniquely capable of controlling individual harmonics of vibration in a predictable way.

Mark and Paul met each other in 2014 at a local musical instrument builders concert in Asheville, North Carolina. They were very curious by each other’s work and discussed the potential of collaboration some day. That day finally arrived in later 2016. After initial discussions between Mark, Paul and Josh about the physics of the Saraz as well as Paul’s other magnetic oscillators, Paul designed and built a prototype magnetic oscillator that is cable of driving the vibration of a handpan.  Currently referred to as the “Saraz Sonic Driver” or “Harmonic Spider”, the device is similar to his other inventions, which are capable of using a programmable magnetic field to activate and drive vibration in ways that are not possible with any other physical force.

We are not the first to use a magnetic oscillator on a handpan. Years after Thomas Rossing’s Holographic Inferometry research on the Hang, we saw Marty of Sunpan use an Ebow like device to activate the fundamental and harmonics on one of his instruments. Similar technology has also been used on an Innersound. What makes our prototype magnetic driver special however is that we are not limited only by activation of the most prominent frequencies within a note such as the fundamental and harmonics. This device is programmable and can actually drive an enormous range of frequencies and complex timbres into the membrane of a handpan.  Paul refers to this technology as “Acoustic Synthesis”, which is taking a digital signal to program a magnetic field that can drive ferrous material vibration.

Basically, the magnetic driver can turn the handpan into a speaker.

While the speaker is limited by the physically possible vibrations of a handpan note membrane, we have discovered to our great surprise that the membrane is in fact capable of far more vibration and complexity than we ever imagined possible even as builders of these instruments.

Paul Vo, Acoustic Synthesis, Harmonic Spider Magnetic Oscillator

After Paul finished the prototype, he came over to Josh Rivera’s studio for the initial demonstration of what it can do.  Within the first hour of Paul’s demonstration, we heard things come from the handpan that we had never imagined including isolated harmonics that are never prominent enough to be heard beyond the underlying timbre of a note.  What was even more surprising and exciting was being able to speak into a microphone and hear our voices come out of the handpan membrane.  We quickly realized that we could drive the device with an enormous array of inputs including other musical instruments, Pro Tools plugins, Ableton Live or even a sound file such as an MP3. This is where Josh’s background in recording engineering become incredibly valuable once again.

Josh, Ableton Live, Magnetic Oscillator and Saraz Handpan

Josh has since clocked dozens of hours exploring what is possible with Pro Tools and more recently with the seemingly limitless options of Ableton Live.  However, he has barely begun to explore what is possible with this novel interaction of a programmable magnetic field driving vibration and therefore sound through a Handpan membrane.  One thing that we find fascinating is how strongly the vibration is driven through the membrane. While we can somewhat muffle the sound, we have never succeeded in completely muffling particularly the higher frequencies even if we cover the entire handpan with a pillow or blanket.

We have also barely begun exploring how to utilize this device on any Handpan much less design a Saraz that is specifically tailored to the device.  It appears that brighter instruments are easier to drive for certain signals but can also have greater distortion while other signals sound better on more controlled instruments.

In the video above, two Saraz were used. Mark’s voice, the Star Wars Theme and John Lennon’s Imagine were recorded on a 21″ diameter C# Minor Saraz that had a relatively controlled center note membrane. We found that we got the clearest signal from this instrument particularly for the prerecorded segments of Mark’s voice. You may have noticed that the driver has two legs on the dimple. We did this in order to further control the particularly active vibration of the long axis.

In the MIDI clip with Josh and Mark, we used a 20″ Diameter F# minor Saraz. For this signal, we found that the driver worked best with all of the legs in the interstitial area around the center note while the driver was placed over one side of the long axis about where Josh drops the sand. This instrument was a bit more bright and seemed to pick up the MIDI signal with more clarity and prominence relative to the more controlled notes that we had available. In this clip, F#4 activates the membrane the most, which Mark plays numerous times on the keyboard. This is the note that gets the sand most excited as the center note is an F#3 with an F#4 octave harmonic on the long axis. When we played the F#4 on the MIDI keyboard, it also strongly activated the side note F#4 as well as the highest C#5 note even though the driver was not near either of those notes. At 3:48-3:49, Josh briefly mutes the side F#4 which is on the far side of the instrument from the camera. This cross activation of multiple notes is likely due to the coupling of the specific instrument. A similar dynamic happens in the beginning of the video when Mark is speaking. The note that he briefly sings to show the activation of the sand is C#4 while the center note is a C#3 with a C#4 octave harmonic on the long axis of the membrane.

In all of the video, the Magnetic Driver is not actually touching the membrane, hence why it has six legs to elevate it above the membrane.  If it touches, it will vibrate against the membrane and rattle. The closer it gets to the membrane however, the stronger the drive and signal due to the magnetic field being closer to the ferrous membrane.

We have also used the device on numerous side notes which of course also activate.  We have also attached the driver to the bottom shell of the instrument and been able to activate all of the notes on the top shell, however it requires much more amplitude than this first prototype device is designed.

We have months of further research to do before even considering if this is a viable commercial product to offer within an already small niche art form. However, this technology has already inspired a lot of creativity and novel ideas that go far beyond sound production.  Even at this early stage of research and design, we have been so astounded by such revolutionary sounds coming from a handpan that we have felt overwhelmingly compelled to share it with the world.  As you might imagine, we will be publishing many more videos of  Saraz being played along with the almost endless signals that can be utilized to drive this magnetic oscillator.

Wishing you all the endless inspiration and imagination,

Mark, Josh and Paul

 

January 2017

Happy New Year from the Saraz Family

Revolutionary Handpan Research at Saraz
Mark and Josh have been very excited to collaborate with Paul Vo of Vo Inventions.  Paul is a brilliant inventor and product developer who’s work has resulted in the  Moog Guitar, the VO-96 and the VO Wond, which all utilize Paul’s patented vibration control technology to influence and activate the vibrations of ferrous guitar strings.

After initial discussions between Mark, Paul and Josh about the physics of the Saraz as well as Paul’s other magnetic oscillators, Paul designed and built a prototype magnetic oscillator that is cable of driving the vibration of a handpan. Currently referred to as the “Saraz Sonic Driver” or “Harmonic Spider”, the device is similar to his other inventions which are capable of using a programmable magnetic field to activate and drive vibration in ways that are not possible with any other physical force.

Basically, the magnetic driver can turn the handpan into a speaker.

Paul Vo, Acoustic Synthesis, Harmonic Spider Magnetic Oscillator

The signal can be activated by a microphone, playing other amplified musical instruments, utilizing Pro Tools plugins and Ableton Live, or simply playing an MP3 file.

More details on the project and a video of perhaps the most revolutionary sounds to yet come from a Handpan can be found HERE.

Updated Offered Scales

We are now building the Saraz in three different sizes. In addition to our original 21″ diameter sound sculpture, we are now building the Saraz with a smaller 20″ and 19″ diameter.

Why three sizes?

The internal resonance of every handpan is ideal for some notes and not for others. With three sizes, we are able to offer a wider array of scales with a more appropriate internal resonance. This means that we are now able to offer notes such as Bb4 within G minor, F# Major,  Eb Minor scales and more. Whereas Bb4 sounds absolutely horrible on a 21″ diameter instrument, it sounds absolutely beautiful on a 19″ diameter instrument.

Saraz instrument diameters are indicated either beside a particular scale layout or in the description of the scale on our Offered Scales List

19", 20" and 21" diameter Saraz handpans

Saraz Production
2017 is already looking to be a great year for Saraz production. We have received a great response to the recent opening of our waiting list and are already finishing instruments for the first accepted requests. So far, the process has been the most manageable method we have yet explored. Information about submitting a request for a Saraz can be found HERE.

We will also continue to offer a limited number of immediately available instruments on our website.  Many of these instruments are new scales that we wish to explore and add to our offered scales list. We often announce these sales on our Facebook page at
www.facebook.com/SarazMusicalInstruments

These instruments sell very quickly, however there are services that will track and notify you of changes to the page. These sales as well as links to web page tracking services can be found HERE.

Thank you again for your interest in the Saraz! We truly can not build instruments without you.

We wish you all many blessings and endless inspiration in 2017!

The Saraz Family

 

Tuning Handpans, Hang, and Pantam with Steel Vibration Wave Interference

A common struggle for Singing Steel Tuners is dealing with certain frequencies that are impossible to stabilize. There appears to be multiple reasons why this can happen. One reason that is covered in another post is wave interference in the resonance of a chamber.   Another reason that we have found appears to be due to wave interference within the vibration of the steel. When different notes share the same frequencies and are in close proximity on the instrument, wave interference appears to be increasingly likely. One note is activating another note, which then reactivates the first note. When both notes start emanating the same frequency in close proximity, there can be an inherent wobble if the two wave forms do not align appropriately within the steel vibration.  We have seen this dynamic lead to as little as a 2-5 cent wobble or as much as a 30-40 cent wobble across different builder’s instruments.

phase shift diagram

Some tuners accept a little wobble that many players are unlikely to notice while other tuners detune frequencies to find the best place between stabilization and too far out of tune when this situation occurs.  The dynamic is often stronger and more obvious on material and shaping methods that inherently lead toward greater activation while the dynamic is sometimes weaker on material and shaping methods that lead toward more controlled and muffled instruments. Heat treating recipes, stress relieving, note border and interstitial design can also significantly effect this interaction of vibrating waves.  Within our current building methods, this dynamic has lead us to simply avoid the scenario whenever possible by not offering scales in certain layouts and orienting our notes in certain directions as is common in Steel Pan architecture.

After four years of building the Saraz across multiple materials, shaping methods and designs, we have found that this situation is common in at least four scenarios.

Adjacent Fifth Scale Degrees 

When two notes are aside each other that are a fifth scale degree apart, they will share a similar harmonic if each note is tuned with the typical octave and compound fifth. An example is having an A3 and E4 aside each other as side notes on a handpan. Each note has an E5 harmonic. It is the compound fifth harmonic of the A3 and the octave harmonic of the E4. We have found that about 80% of the time, at least one and sometimes both of these notes will have a slight wobble, specifically due to the harmonics creating wave inference within the vibration of the steel between each note. When the two adjacent notes are lower in the scale, the wobble tends to be 2-4 beats per second while when the two adjacent notes are higher in the scale, the wobble tends to be much faster. This seems to mostly only happen when the two notes are adjacent. If these two notes are across the instrument from each other or have another note between them, the wave interference does not seem to happen nearly as often.

A common scale form that typically has an adjacent fifth scale degree is the Pygmy scale, which is a pentatonic minor scale. Because of this inherent wave inference, we simply do not offer any layouts of the Pygmy scale. While this situation often occurs on pentatonic scales, there are some pentatonic layouts that avoid it.  Although we do not offer the Pygmy scale, we offer numerous hexitonic minor scales that add one additional note positioned so that it eliminates the adjacent fifth scale degree from happening in the layout. This also gives the player one additional note to explore in the minor scale. If the player wishes to play the Pygmy scale, all the player has to do is leave out the additional note of the scale.

Center note harmonics and side notes

Another situation where we have found that wave inference can happen in the vibration of the steel is between the center note harmonics and side notes that share the same frequencies. For example, a G3 center note tuned with a traditional G4 octave harmonic and D5 compound fifth harmonic might create wave interference with the fundamentals of G4 and D5 sides notes. This is much more likely to happen if for example the G4 fundamental side note is near or pointing toward the G4 octave harmonic of the center note.  Similarly, if the D5 fundamental side note is near or pointing at the D5 compound fifth of the center note, wave inference is more likely to happen. The same can also be true with a D4 if it is pointed toward the D5 compound fifth harmonic of the center note because the D4 side note has a D5 octave harmonic.

fine shaping after note pressing

This is the primary reason that we turn certain notes more parallel to the rim of the instrument and away from the center note. These side notes are the notes that also have the same frequency as the center note harmonics. Additionally, we always try to position the center note so that its harmonics are emanating 90 degrees away from the side note with the same frequency. When considering the angle of all emanating frequencies, we tend to position our notes so that similar frequencies are emanating parallel to each other instead of emanating toward each other.  While turning a side note toward the rim takes up far more space, we have found that it is a worthy trade for consistently more wave stability in the sustain of notes that tend to activate each other and lead to wave interference if not positioned in this way.

Shoulder tones and harmonics of side notes

Another place we have found wave interference is between tuned shoulder tones of the center note and harmonics of side notes. This is basically the same dynamic as the other two situations above. Depending on what frequencies the shoulder tones are tuned to and which notes are closest to them, there can be wave interference. An example is a C#3 center note with a C#6 tuned shoulder tone. If there is a C#5 fundamental with a C#6 octave harmonic near the position of the tuned shoulder, it can lead toward wave interference. Of the four examples listed, we find that this situation is the least common, however it does occasionally happen.  At Saraz, we tend to detune our shoulder tones approximately 10-20 cents because when they are perfectly in tune, they tend to scream and sometimes dominate the instrument with a bit more brightness than we desire. This detuning is likely the reason why we do not experience wave interference very often between our tuned shoulder tones and sides notes.

Port tuning of the fundamental

At Saraz, we typically tune the fundamental and two different harmonics into our ports. The other harmonics are typically a third scale degree and a fifth scale degree of the port fundamental, which creates a chord. A common example of a Saraz port tuning is E5 fundamental with G5 and B5 harmonics.  We tend to find generally great wave stability with the port harmonics, however the port fundamental can create significant problems.  The wave form of the port fundamental seems to be a strange animal relative to any other frequency on a Handpan. If there is a note membrane fundamental with the same frequency anywhere on the instrument, it will tend to have horrible wave interference. For example, if the port is tuned with a D5 fundamental and there is a D5 note membrane fundamental any where on the instrument, the note membrane will have wave interference and an inherent wobble that is very noticeable.

Often, the port fundamental also influences other notes with a harmonic that is the same frequency. For example if there is an E5 port fundamental, it will often create a bit of wave interference and wobble on an E4 note with an E5 octave harmonic.  This is often not noticed if the instrument is played in the lap because the player’s legs are muffling the port, however it becomes more noticeable when the instrument is played vertically or put in a stand where the port can freely resonate.  At Saraz, we do not offer any bottom notes with harmonics that share the same frequency as the port fundamental because the wave interference tends to be much stronger than for notes on the top shell. We also often detune the port fundamental approximately 15 cents to decrease the amount of coupling between it and other notes with the same frequency.  Some builders have avoided this dynamic by tuning a port fundamental lower than any note on the instrument. One example is to tune a D3 or Eb3 port fundamental on an instrument where the lowest note membrane is an F3.

Scale Layout Design

People often ask us for scale layouts that we do not offer.  The four scenarios explained above in addition to Resonance Wave Interference are the primary reasons why we only offer Certain Scale Layouts and do not build other scale layouts that we know are likely to lead to inherent wave interference. We feel that avoiding wave interference dynamics when possible in the architecture leads toward an instrument with inherently greater wave stability and therefore higher quality.

Handpan, Hang, Pantam resonance and wave interference

While the Handpan owes much of its development to its parent, the Steel Pan, there are some qualities of the Handpan that are inherently different. One of these qualities is how the two instruments resonate.  

Unlike the Steel Pan, Handpans typically have an additional steel shell glued onto the bottom of the top shell, which creates a resonant chamber.  In many ways, this resonant chamber is part of the magic of the Handpan sound. It also often creates a Helmholtz tone, which does not exist on a Steel Pan. This tone is typically in the range of C2 – G2, which is lower than most handpan notes. On a Saraz, the helmholtz is very often in the range of Eb2-F2 depending on the size of the shell and design of the port. The helmholtz can usually be flattened lower by placing one’s hand over and inside of the port. If the instrument is in one’s lap, the helmholtz can be changed by adjusting one’s legs to let a specific amount of air flow into the port.

 

helmhotlz formula and diagram

 

One of the negative side effects of the typical handpan chamber is that it also creates a resonance problem with specific frequencies. While some people have referred to this as an “impedance” issue, it is perhaps more appropriately called “wave interference”, ”Phase Cancellation”, or Phase Shift”.

 

phase shift diagram

 

A number of variables influence this wave interference.  Chamber height, port depth and especially chamber diameter have a significant influence on the equation because of their reflective quality. Simply put, each sound wave is bouncing off of the chamber and specific frequencies have just the right wave length to create wave interference as they reflect back from the steel and do not align with the same frequency still coming directly from a note membrane. While differences in chamber height and port depth can shift the range of these frequencies slightly, chamber diameter is by far the most influential variable.  At Saraz, we built 21 inch / 53.34 cm diameter instruments until early 2016.  On this size shell, Bb4 has the most intense wave interference in our note range, particularly as a fundamental of a note. No matter how well the note is tuned, there is typically about 20-50 cents of wobble in the sustain of the note. Bb4 harmonics such as the compound fifth of an Eb3 or Octave of a Bb3 also wobble around 5-25 cents in the sustain of the note. Covering the port with one’s legs or placing the instrument in a stand can also affect the intensity of this wave instability.

Additionally, air temperature and elevation influence wave interference. This is because the air pressure within the chamber is affected by temperature and elevation, which in turn changes the length of each sound wave. A great example is a note just on the edge of a wave interference range such as A4 on a 21 inch diameter chamber. At about 80 degree F / 27 C, an A4 note typically sounds pretty good if the note is positioned well on the instrument. However, below about 60 degrees F / 16 C, the wave interference often becomes more audible. Even colder and it usually becomes even more obvious. Part of this appears to be due to the note sharpening further toward the peak of the wave interference range at cooler temperatures while some of it is due to the change in wave length of the note frequency.

We spent years trying to over come wave interference on our 21 inch shell. A small piece of open cell foam will often help, however this is only because it is muffling the frequency along with many other frequencies on the instrument because it is absorbing the sound instead of allowing it to continue reflecting.  We found after many experiments that closed cell foam and neoprene are better options because they reflect more of the sound waves instead of absorbing them, however they still muffle the instrument somewhat. We have seen other builders use a piece of thin aluminum glued into the chamber to create a new point of reflection with some success.  With each of these “baffling” methods, there is often a very specific position that is most effective, however rarely does it completely stabilize the wave interference because the sound waves are still bouncing all around the chamber.

For these reasons and in pursuit of higher quality, we took a new direction with the Saraz in early 2016. We radically changed our offered scale list to exempt the worst ranges of wave interference on our original 21 inch instrument while also developing two new sizes of Saraz handpans to explore previously uncharted territory with much more inherently stable chamber resonance than previously possible on our original size instrument.

 

19", 20" and 21" diameter Saraz handpans

 

In 2016, we gathered a lot data about wave interference across our three sizes of instruments. We often discuss  wave interference within “primary” and “secondary” wave interference ranges because there is more than just one range on any particular size chamber and each range varies greatly in its intensity.

We consider the primary range on each chamber size to be the main frequency in our note range that has the most wave interference. The range appears to extend at least 150 cents when the frequency is the fundamental of a note so there are usually two fundamental notes that are affected.  They are as follows:

19 inch/48.26 cm – C5 is closest to the peak wave interference while B4 is also affected.

20 inch/50.8 cm – B4 is closest to the peak wave interference while Bb4 is also affected.

21 inch/53.34 cm – Bb4 is closest to the peak wave interference while A4 is also affected.

We no longer offer any of these notes as a fundamental on each of these size Saraz. We also do not offer notes with an octave harmonic or compound fifth that is the frequency closest to the peak wave interference on each size chamber.  For example, on our original 21 inch diameter Saraz, we no longer offer Eb3, Bb3, Bb4 or A4 notes.

As an octave or compound fifth harmonic, the range of wave interference is smaller  than as a fundamental so the second note listed by each chamber size is usually more stable as a harmonic. For example, Bb4 wobbles on a 21 inch diameter chamber as a fundamental, octave or compound fifth while A4 wobbles mostly as a fundamental and specifically at colder temperatures. A4 is mostly stable as an octave or compound fifth harmonic on a 21 inch diameter chamber however it will begin to wobble audibly if it is only 10-15 cents sharp of standard tuning.

While the primary range is the most audible, the secondary ranges are considerably more subtle and often completely inaudible. The secondary wave interference ranges also appear to be smaller on each size chamber probably because we do not tune fundamentals in their higher frequency range. These frequencies tend to wobble about 3-12 cents and can often be stabilized without much negative affect to the instrument by using a very small piece of closed cell foam  or neoprene “baffling” in the correct position near the rim of the inner chamber.

19 inch/ 48.26 cm – G#5 and sometimes A#5, C#6 and D#6

20 inch / 50.8 cm – G5 and sometimes A5, C6 and D6

21 inch / 53.34 cm – F#5 and sometimes G#5, B5 and C#6

The first note listed for each chamber size typically has 5-12 cents of instability without baffling on every instrument while the other three notes listed for each size are a bit unpredictable. They may have up to 5-8 cents of instability on some instruments and absolute stability on other instruments. Perhaps this is due to the angle and position of the note membrane as well as other variables like differences in chamber height, port depth, and air temperature when we gathered this data. Either way, we consider these frequencies to have acceptable wave interference that is much more subtle and inaudible relative to the intensity of primary wave interference ranges so we still offer all of these frequencies on each size chamber.

For perspective, very few people can hear within 5-10 cents of tuning deviation, however an oscillating wave is a bit more audible. Less than this range may appear as a slight wave in the sustain that might oscillate 1-3 times in 5-7 seconds of sustain or it may not oscillate at all. Many tuners purposely “stretch octaves” or detune notes because perfectly standard tuning has a sterile sound due to imperfect wave alignment and also because coupling increases as the sound waves become more perfectly aligned. When one dives into the fine details of true wave alignment, one will find that frequencies such as a major or minor second scale degree align at 4 cents sharp of standard tuning while other scale degrees align better at 2, 6, or even 17 cents from standard tuning.  At this level of detail, the art of tuning and the preferences of the tuner become increasingly more influential on the sound. As players and builders, we feel that all of the secondary ranges are within this gray area of tuning style and signature.

In summary, wave interference is extremely common on MANY handpans from MANY makers. A  small percentage of handpans made have 100% completely stable resonance unless they avoid at least all of the listed frequencies in the primary wave interference range. Even then, there are other inherent building complications, which we will discuss in other posts, that may make a frequency unstable. Whether one calls it “impedance”, “phase shift”, “wave cancellation” or “wave interference”, it is one of the many inherent complications in building handpans that can have a noticeable effect on the sound and quality of a specific instrument.

 

 

B Sharp, E Sharp, C Flat and F Flat

c sharp mixolydian mode on treble clef

About once per month, we have a considerate visitor to our website write to inform us about typos in the list of notes on our scale list. The most popular scales that receive this attention are C# Mixolydian, F# Major, and F# Harmonic Minor because these scales contain an E#.  

Most people with a basic understanding of music know that the black keys on a piano are considered the “sharp” and “flat” keys. They also know that there are two pairs of white keys on a piano that do not have a black key in between them. These two pairs are B / C and E / F. 

So E#?  Isn’t that simply an F? Indeed, it is the same frequency.

http://www.basicmusictheory.com/e-sharp-note

So why would one write it as an E#?  

When properly writing scales, the same letter is never used twice.  For example, in the scale of C# Mixolydian, the scale is properly written with an E# and F#. For this reason, the “F” note is known as E#. The same is true in F# Major and F# Harmonic Minor, which both have a major 7th scale degree, known as E#.

In time, we will release a C# major scale with a B# and E# as well as a Eb minor scale with a Cb note 😉 

A great source that we regularly use for referencing scales is

http://www.basicmusictheory.com/

2016 Offered Scale list

Happy new year everyone!

2016 is already proving to be filled with the fruits of much research and development!

After months of preparation, we are now building the Saraz in three different sizes. In addition to our original 21″ diameter sound sculpture, we are now building the Saraz with a smaller 20″ and 19″ diameter.

Why three sizes?

The internal resonance of every handpan is ideal for some notes and not for others. With three sizes, we are able to offer a wider array of scales with a perfect internal resonance. We are also able to offer notes such as Bb4 with resonant perfection. Whereas Bb4 sounds absolutely horrible on a 21″ diameter instrument, it sounds absolutely beautiful on a 19″ diameter instrument.

The following video is of Josh playing our first 19″ Saraz, a G minor 10 with both a Bb3 and Bb4.

Our Scale list has changed significantly in the last month. We are now only offering scales that resonant perfectly within each sized chamber. Diameter is noted either beside specific layouts or in the notes under each scale category.

Wishing you all a great year!

-The Saraz Crew

Recent Developments

2014 has been a very busy year for the Saraz Crew. Evolution, development, research and design seem endless in this art form. For the last six months, we have focused on refining our note architecture and forming methods. We are excited to now be using our fourth generation of note forms. It took us over 130 instruments to develop our preferred shape, depth and size of 25 different dimples as well as find exactly where to place a well defined note border on each of the 25 notes that we offer in our range. Precision is very important because even a few millimeters from ideal can create significant problems during tuning as well as alter the timbre and balance of a note and overall instrument.

We have also returned to exploring fully hammer shaped instruments and are now offering the option to everyone on our waiting list to chose between having their Saraz built on rolled shells fabricated by Pantheon Steel or on fully hammer shaped shells fabricated by the Saraz Crew. The subtle differences in tone and timbre are addressed on the Q&A page of our website.

Due to our focus on research and development over the last 5 months, our production has been much slower than we expected for 2014. One of the most difficult parts of this job is predicting when an instrument will be finished. We have learned to simply stop answering the question. Even during shaping and tuning, it is still hard to know how an instrument will turn out until after it is glued and tuned again. Our focus for the Saraz is on the highest quality possible for each instrument. Our focus is not on the quantity of instruments we can produce so we sincerely appreciate the patience of each person on our waiting list. We promise that we will finish our current waiting list in time and then take additional orders.

A new member of the Saraz Family

Although our 2014 production has been slower than expected, we do expect to increase production significantly in 2015 for one very exciting reason. Those of you that follow us on Facebook and handpan.org probably know that Josh Rivera recently joined our team as a second tuner. We have known Josh for a few years and were excited to learn that he started exploring building and tuning steel in 2013. During his visit to HangOut USA, we briefly discussed if he would be interested in joining our team. This lead him to visit again in October, spend 2 weeks in Pan City and tune two Saraz. We could not have been happier with his skills and enthusiasm. He truly paid his dues while learning this skill over hundreds of back breaking hours of hard work. Beyond being able to do the job, he is a positive, uplifting and charismatic person that fits in well with our team. As though that wasn’t enough, he has a great ear from his past experience as a recording engineer and is also a very talented percussionist and musician that has been playing Handpan far longer than anyone else on the team. Many future Saraz videos will feature his skills.

A few people have asked if Mark and Josh will begin signing each Saraz. The Saraz is a creation that comes from a collective of artists beyond just the tuner. Neither tuner would be able to achieve what they do without the precision and skill of the shaping team. For this reason, “Saraz” is the only appropriate signature. Mark and Josh have spent a lot of time together trading techniques and tuning tricks. Each has learned much in the process. We all feel very confident that Josh’s work will maintain the same level of quality as our most recent instruments as well as help us to continue evolving our work further and further long into the future.

Saraz Foundation

THE SARAZ FOUNDATION

As many of you know, we also created the Saraz Foundation last month to handle the sale of our immediately available instruments. All of the profits from these sales sponsor music education, environmental sustainability, and most importantly a healthy, happy, and balanced seventh generation of life on planet Earth. Organizations we have supported from these sales can be found on our website. The list will continue to grow over time.

As 2014 nears it’s end, we are very excited about the year ahead. We are preparing for a couple recording projects, a new website, collaboration with some great organizations, at least four handpan gatherings, a few new chromatic sets, further double sided instrument development and of course the endless evolution of each one of a kind Saraz. We are also deeply appreciative for every person that is interested in the Saraz because we truly cannot do this without the people that support our creative efforts. Sincerely, thank you for your interest!

We wish you all many blessings, endless inspiration, and happy holidays,
The Saraz Crew

July 2014 Updates

We are finally taking a sigh of relief after weeks of celebration.

HangOut USA and the Asheville Percussion Festival were absolutely amazing events!!! Huge thank you to Rusty and Imani as well as River and crew for organizing each event!!

6 saraz handpan chromatic set from 2014

During HangOut USA, we finally accomplished a 2 year dream of building the chromatic set of handpans that are in the photo above. The endeavor was actually one of the primary motivations for ever starting to build handpans. Mark joined Peter Levitov and Maxime Le Royer to write a composition on the chromatic set of 6 Saraz and performed it on Friday night of HangOut USA.

The set spanned C#3 – D5 leaving out only Bb4 as a fundamental (although it was represented in 3 places as a harmonic). A huge thank you goes out to each person on the Saraz crew that made this dream a reality! We are looking very forward to building our next prototype chromatic set and continuing the endless exploration of composition possibilities that are opened by two full octaves of western notes.

During our exploration of the chromatic set, we also extended our range of offered notes. As though we don’t currently offer enough scales, we will be adding a few more scales to our list in the near future. First, we will add some scales with a C#3 center. Many of these will be limited to 8 total notes on top because of the size of the C#3 while additional notes can be added to the bottom shell of the instrument. The following instrument confirmed that we are not far from also offering F#3 as a side note.

The chromatic set also included the first Saraz with a Eb3 in the center. Along with a Bb3 on the side, the instrument had two Bb4 harmonics. With the use of internal baffles, we achieved excellent clarity and sustain of each note and harmonic even though this frequency is the hot spot of our chamber impedance. After some additional tests, we will likely open up a number of scales with Eb3 as well. Here is a video of our first:

Finally, we also recently built the first Saraz with a G#3 in the center. This is the highest note yet in the center of a Saraz built from a rolled shell. We were all particularly excited about this instrument. This hexitonic variation of C# minor was raffled off at HangOut USA.

Because our waiting list has grown more than big enough, we are no longer accepting requests for instruments until further notice. If you would like to be informed about when we will be accepting requests, please sign up on our mailing list.

After a month of fun and festivities, it’s time to get back to hammering in preparation for HangOut UK!!!

Wishing you all many blessings and endless inspiration,

The Saraz Crew