How to Fix an Out of Tune Steel Pan Note


A Magnet can be a Steel Pan Players Best Friend

This is the first in a series of blogs and videos we are calling “Tricks and Tips for Steel Pan Players”. One of the most useful tricks is for a steel pan player to carry an ordinary refrigerator type mallet. . This is the type of magnet your local pizza shop hands out for you to put on your refrigerator. What do you do when a note on your steel pan goes completely out of tune?  What if you have a performance tomorrow or you just want to be able to  practice your steel drum without hearing the annoying sound of an out of tune note?  You call your tuner, because you know never to attempt to tune your steel pan yourself.  One wrong hit and your instrument may never be the same.  But what if the steel pan tuner lives hundreds of miles away or is not available to tune your steel drum before you need to play it. Fortunately, more often than not, when a note goes out of tune on a steel pan, it goes sharp. This is where the magnet comes in. If you place a magnet on a steel pan note that has gone sharp, you will notice that the pitch will drop. Most of the time, you will not be able to make the note sound as beautiful as a steelpan tuner can when he tunes your instrument, because he is also tuning the harmonic overtones series of that note.  You can, however, bring the note into the correct fundamental pitch so that at least the right note will sound when you play it. First, determine how much of the magnet you need to be able to lower the pitch so that the note sounds in tune. Use a pair of scissors to cut the magnet to that size. Then, while playing that note over and over on your steel pan, move the magnet around with your other hand to find the spot where it sounds the best. There is usually one spot where the sound will be somewhat brighter and more beautiful. Memorize that spot and then turn the steel pan upside down and place the magnet in the identical spot on the underside of the note. It’s not a perfect fix, but at least you can play your steel pan without a wrong note sounding.  When your steel pan tuner is available to tune your instrument, remember to take the magnet off of the underside of the note before he starts tuning your steel drum.


We have Instructional Books available now, in addition to many accessories