Anwers to Steel
steel drum is a unique musical instrument created in the late
1930s on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Made from 55-gallon
barrels, the drums have a rustic appearance but a sophisticated
sound that surprises listeners.
Musicians expressing themselves with the haunting, melodic
sound from steel containers soon discovered ways to produce
distinct tones from the convex-shaped surface of drums of
all kinds. They began playing simple songs and a new sound
was added to the folk music of Trinidad. It is called calypso.
Since the 1940s many advances have been made, the drums are
now concave with the notes hammered up. Nine varieties of
steel drums or 'pans' as they are called in Trinidad, exist
allowing the musician to play a full range of voices with
the steel drum. This 20th Century percussion instrument sometimes
combines its sounds with other percussion to create a lively,
festive music that began in the celebration of Carnival in
is the name of this instrument? How does it make the sound?
It is a steel drum or pan, hand crafted from 55-gallon
oil barrels. Areas are designated and tuned for a specific
pitch. By striking these areas, a melody can be created, just
as by pressing individual keys on a piano.
Is it amplified? Not
electronically, but the vibration inside the drum is a natural
Where do you get steel drums?
They are hand made by craftsmen from Trinidad and Tobago (a
neighboring island) who shape the steel by pounding out areas
with hammers ranging from an eight pound sledge to a small
ball pein. Our drums were handcrafted by Ellie Mannette and
Patrick Arnold, natives of Trinidad and Tobago. There are
many talented steel drum builders and tuners in Trinidad and
Tobago. If you are interested in purchasing a steel drum or
for booking information drop
an e-mail to J.T.
Where did you learn to play this
kind of music? A percussionist by talent and trade,
J.T. learned to play steel drums while in the Caribbean listening
and playing with various local bands from many different islands.
(J.T. learned to play steel drums as one of many percussion
instruments and is always teaching others. If you have played
any musical instrument, or even as a beginner, the pan can
be a fun and simple instrument to learn.)
What kind of music can you play?
Because the drums can be tuned as precisely as any other instrument
and all of the notes are present, the pans allow you to play
all kinds of music from classical to calypso, and pop to jazz.