Frequently Asked Questions


What if my steel pan gets wet?

It is very important that your steel pan is wiped dry with a cloth after playing. This will keep the finish looking good and your instrument will last a very long time. Even if it does not appear damp, there may be moisture in the air or perspiration that can cause a steel pan to start to pit. Eventually the pits grow bigger and the pan may start to rust. Keep a cotton cloth (t-shirt cloth works well) in your steel pan case for this purpose. If it gets wet from rain, it needs to be completely wiped dry before putting it away. This will keep it from rusting!

How can you sell quality pans at such a low price?

Our mission has been to offer the first truly affordable high quality steel pan instruments in the US. Because these instruments are not a common item yet, companies selling them have been charging very high prices or selling scaled down versions lacking the lower pitched notes that give a steel pan it’s thrilling full bodied sound. With fewer notes and no lower tones, these are more suitable as tourist mementos or musical toys and typically give only limited and short term satisfaction to the player. VistaPan, on the other hand, sells only full-size, 23 inch diameter steel pans made by the best craftsmen available. These are high quality instruments with excellent sound quality that have standard tunings with all of the notes. With our fair prices, we are selling a high volume of instruments and accessories, which in turn allows us to keep our prices low. You can easily find steel pans for sale on the internet that are much lower in quality and more than twice the price of our pans.

Who makes your pans and where are they tuned?

Our pans are made by the most reliable and talented craftsmen available in Trinidad, where the steel pan was invented and where the overwhelming majority of the best makers and tuners reside. They are handmade by our teams of skilled artisans who each have individual specialties in sinking, grooving, prepping and tuning. This keeps the costs low while maintaining a quality product. The final tuning is done by a master tuner in Trinidad. We have three shops in Trinidad and each shop produces only the steel pans in the steel band instrument family that the craftsmen at that shop specialize in. This ensures that we can provide our customers with their choice of the best possible instruments as we maintain a high standard of quality consistency for every steel pan produced. All pans are tuned to A440 concert pitch and can be played with all other types of standard musical instruments. You will appreciate the quality of sound that these instruments produce. We offer a full money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the pan we sell you. If you are purchasing in quantity for a school or community orchestra, we can send a sample instrument so you can be assured of the quality.

What if my pan goes out of tune?

A pan can easily be out of tune in 6 months or sooner depending on how much it is played, moved about and other factors. Just like a piano, it is going ever so slightly out of tune each time you play it. Also, if the player has a very good ear they may want to have their pan tuned more often than others. We say, as a rule of thumb, to get your pan tuned about once a year. You don’t want to tune it too often so that eventually the metal is weakened, but for some, they may want to tune it every 6 months or so. You will find that after the pan is fully “settled in” (which takes about 2 years) the instrument will tend to keep in tune longer from that point onward.

How are your pans shipped?

We import double thick boxes so that all of our pans ship in a container study enough to ensure your instrument arrives in tune and retains it’s delicate harmonic balance. Each pan is wrapped and carefully packed with thick foam.

Can anyone learn to play pan?

Yes! We have never found anyone who couldn’t learn. Many instruments require great effort and practice just to produce an acceptable sound, but steel pan has the distinct advantage of sounding great the first time you play the notes. This is one reason why it is far easier than most instruments to learn.

Which steel pan instrument should I play?

Because there are many different instruments in the steel drum family, many people are faced with the decision as to which steel pan instrument to play. The most common is to start with the Lead (also known as a Tenor pan although it’s not in the Tenor range). The Lead steel pan is the most portable because all 29 of its notes are on one barrel. Also, it is the main melody instrument in pan and is less costly than the other larger instruments that have their notes on more than one barrel. The notes of the Lead pan are in a completely consistent pattern called a “cycle of fifths”. This “cycle” makes learning chords, scales and musical progressions on the Lead steel pan far easier than other instruments. This is because the consistent pattern soon allows the player to intuitively find right notes and chords to play. The Lead pan has a musical range something like that of a trumpet, flute, violin or soprano sax. If you prefer the sound of a tenor sax or baritone sax to a soprano sax, or a cello or trombone rather than a violin or trumpet, you might want to consider a “Double Second” or “Cello” steel pan instead of the Lead pan. The Double Second has notes on 2 barrels and is better suited to playing harmony and chords while still being high pitched enough to be an effective melody instrument. It could be considered the most versatile of the steel pan instruments. However, it is less portable and more costly than a Lead pan, especially when you consider the higher cost of stands and cases for it. The Cello pan has a warm, rich sound most suited to chords and harmony instead of melody playing. Normally, you would only choose a Cello steel pan if you were going to play with others. The overwhelming majority of people choose the Lead pan because it plays melody, is less expensive, more portable and has the “cycle” pattern making it quicker to learn.

What are the advantages of the Chrome finish or the Hi-Gloss Black finish steel pan?

Chrome is a long lasting finish for a steel pan, with the instrument lasting decades if cared for properly. Chroming itself imparts more brilliance and a better sustain or ring into the sound. This is because chrome attaches to the metal very firmly, becoming almost part of the metal and allowing the steel pan notes to ring freely. A chrome steel pan has a much more desirable sound than that of a powder coat or painted pan. This is because both powder coat and paint lay on the surface of a pan, restricting the free movement of the notes and resulting in a more muffled sound with less ring. A painted steel pan has the poorest sound quality and has the least appealing and least durable finish. A powder coat pan looks better than paint but shares its poor sound characteristics. The Hi-Gloss Black steel pan produces a much more lively sound with better brilliance and ring compared to a painted or powder coat steel pan. This is because the Hi-Gloss Black finish is of a very hard epoxy laquer type that bonds to the metal firmly. This makes the Hi-Gloss Black a great choice. The finish is durable with a beautiful appearance, the cost is much less than that with chrome, yet the sound quality approaches that of a chrome steel pan. Chrome is still the very best sound, but if a chrome pan is too much for the budget, the best choice is a Hi-Gloss Black steel pan. The Hi-Gloss Chrome steel pan is more costly than regular chrome but has a more dazzling and mirror-like chrome finish, especially in the note surface area. It has a slightly fuller sound compared to regular chrome. Players new to pan might not notice much difference in the sound, but the sound of a Hi-Gloss Chrome is highly sought after by steel pan professionals.

Are VistaPan pans considered full size?

Yes, VistaPan instruments are all full size, which is approximately 22 and 1/2 inches. Most pan people do not consider the smaller diameter “midi” and “minis” suitable for learning pan except for very small children. Sometimes children under the age of six or so take musical rhythm classes and the small diameter pans might be good for this use. The small pans don’t have the necessary range and sound that a steel pan instructor requires and are regarded as more of a memento or souvenir than a real musical instrument. For just a little more money a full size, full range instrument that can last decades can be purchased.

How long will it take to ship my Lead steel pan?

The most popular Lead steel pan models are kept in stock and can ship almost immediately. Our pans receive an extra “ship-day” tuning to ensure they are perfectly in tune. Special orders typically take 4 to 6 weeks to ship.