Probably the most simple handpan instrument combination is two handpans tuned to complementary scales. Coordinating other instruments with hanpans can be difficult because each handpan is tuned to a specific scale that cannot be adjusted (without a great deal of effort).
That being said, there are beautiful handpan instrument combinations that musicians have explored over the years. Ultimately, the best combination is subjective, but some are easier to pull off than others. In the following, we’ll showcase some videos as well as offer some tips on how to combine a handpan with different instruments.
“Music is the space between the notes.” – Claude Debussy
Handpan and Guitar
Guitars are fairly simple to tune, so ensuring the guitar is tuned to the handpan shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. D minor makes a great handpan scale choice if you intend on playing with guitars.
The following features a great guitar handpan duo in F# Minor from Kabeção, a Portuguese handpan sound explorer, and João M Nunes, a Portuguese composer and street artists self-trained in classical guitar. The result is haunting and captivating!
Handpan and Didgeridoo
Didgeridoo is a natural fit for the handpan. In fact, a handpan of any scale is easily paired with a didge. Plus, if you’re extra talented, you can simultaneously play the digeridoo and handpan.
The following features Fabian Küpper, a self-described multi-tasking-busking from Germany.
Handpan and Sitar
Sitar and handpan has a meditative and haunting quality unlike any other instrument pairing. It’s also one of the more difficult handpan instrument combinations to pull off. The sitar will need to be tuned to the handpan because sitars are traditionally tuned for each song played. They are almost like handpans in that they are tuned to a specific scale or raga, to use the correct terminology. To combine with a sitar it’s best to choose a handpan based in C, C#, or D.
I could listen to the following handpan sitar combo all day.
Handpan and Flute
It’s no surprise that woodwind instruments play well with handpans. Just about any kind of flute from the pan flute to the ney flute is a great combination.
The following is a nice handpan basuri flute combo:
Handpan and Harp
This strings and handpan combo works wonders for the senses. Luminescent is a well-known harp handpan combo featuring Coralie Guathier on harp and Pierre-Olivier Bolduc on handpan. Their videos are very well produced and an all around pleasure to watch.
Handpan and Djembe
Handpan combines well with pretty much any percussion instrument. The djembe is a regular go-to for busking duos and handpan ensemble performers.
The following features David Kuckhermann, a handpan player and multi-percussionist based in Germany, and Naghmeh Farahmand on the Tonbak, a traditional Iranian drum played in folk and classical music.
3 Tips for Combining Handpans with Other Instruments
- Make sure the instruments have compatible notes. For example, D minor and F major go great together because they have the same notes. Also, a didge in D, F, G, or A would work well.
- Consider the loudness of the instruments. Drum sets and even a djembe are often too loud for playing with a handpan without amplification.
- Simplicity is often just as beautiful as a complex virtuoso performance.