Steel Band Start-Ups


It’s been a while since my last post.  A little crazy here right now!  So, recently, I’ve been involved with several discussions on Facebook about the status of pan performance in the US.  This has led to so many other topics, such as where to get pans, how to teach, and what pan players need to do to continue spreading pan enthusiasm.  For now, I’ll focus on the first topic.

I posted a while back about the various choices you have when purchasing pans.  I try to dwell on the positive, but there are folks out there that really shouldn’t be building pans.  I’m not going to specifically call out people in a public forum such as this, but I’d urge anyone interested in starting their own pan program to call me first.  Please, do your research and don’t make the mistakes I made.

When I started Rocky Mountain Steel Bands back in 2004, I had a very limited budget since I was funding it entirely by myself.  This eliminated several quality builders such as Mannette and Coyle from the picture.  I went with an American company that had the very lowest prices.  I was able to get my pans and start my program but not until Darren Dyke came to the rescue and made my pans usable.  For the next couple years I paid for annual tunings – trying to make these instruments more decent, but it really never worked. Today, these pans are hardly used.  They sit on the shelf and I only pull them out if it’s my last resort.

I now use the high-quality imported pans from Mappo or Guppy.  These pans hardly ever need to be tuned.  In fact, the chromed double seconds I purchased in 2005 have NEVER had a full tuning.  I’ve had 1-2 notes that need a little work every year, that is all.  Even though these might cost $100-$250 more per pan, you save that money in just 1-2 years of tuning expenses.

I know it is hard starting your own program, with how tight everyone’s budget is.  When you factor in a few years of tuning expenses you’ll find that the better instruments pay for themselves.

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