Looking for steel drums for sale? Been there, done that. And I might be there soon again.
I still remember buying my first steel drum in 2002 when I was just a teenager. I also remember all the mistakes I did then and with about dozen others I bought since then.
I learned a lot about how and where to buy steel drum in last years. I bought new steel drums, used steel drums and steel drum accessories like stands and mallets.
Some of mistakes were very costly, but I learn a lot. I want to share my knowledge, so you wont do same mistakes I did. I hope you’ll enjoy my guide and have great experience buying steel drum.
If you are looking for specific information, help yourself with this link to jump to the part you are looking for.
Who invented the steel pan?
Before we start looking for steel drums for sale, lets learn about them first. If you don’t know yet who invented the steel pan, than you are in for a treat.
It all started on the Island of Trinidad 1940’s when kids used biscuit tins and similar items as instrument during Carneval.
A man by the name of Spree Simon discovered how to get different pitches by denting different size bubbles in the cans and tins. It took another 20 years or so before Ellie Monnette made a first steel drum with 14 notes out of 55 gallon oil barrel.
Nothing much changed since then. Most steel drums are still made with 55 gallon oil barrels. They are still build in same manner as they use to be. However, we have better understanding of how to manipulate the steel and of course better tools.
Types of steel drums
Another thing you need to know before you go looking for steel drums for sale is which type of steels drum you want to buy.
You might not know, bet there 5 basic types of steel drums. Here they are:
- Double tenor
- Double second
- Guitar steel drum
- Cello steel drum
Tenor Steel drum
Tenor steel drum is one single drum. There are basically two types of tenor steel drums, low tenor and high tenor. The only difference between this two is the pitch range. Both of them are commonly used by soloists.
Low tenor steel drum (also called C tenor) has a pitch range from C4 to E6. Interesting thing about low tenor is that is mostly used in USA and very rarely in Trinidad.
High tenor steel drum (also called as D tenor or soprano pan) has a pitch range from D4 to F#6. Even though high tenor steel drum is a lead instrument and normaly carries melody, can easily play harmonic role.
Another great thing about tenor steel drum is that is easy to transport and a bit more affordable than other types since you only need to buy one steel drum stand and one case.
Double tenor steel drums
Double tenor have two drums and are less common comparing to other types. The great thing about double tenor is that can carry melody, a hormonic voice, for chords or counter melodies.
It’s pitch range is between F3 to B5 or two octaves. Since arrangement of the notes is not symmetrical, makes double tenor steel drum a bit more difficult to master than others.
Double second steel drum
Double second steel drums are my favorite. I love how versatile they are. You can play harmonic voices, lead, chords or counter melody. If you’ll play in a steel drum band or any other band, you’ll probably play melody lines.
Just like double tenor steel drum, double second also use two drums. However, both drums carries the notes of a whole-tone scale. This make them very popular among steel drum soloists.
Guitar steel drum
The guitar steel drum uses 2 pans ranging from C#3 to F#5. It got it’s name because it is used mainly for strumming.
Guitar steel drum is usually used to provide the harmony, but can also be used for counter melody. Guitar steel drum have a deeper and mellow sound due to its longer skirt.
Bass Steel drum
If you are planning to buy bass steel drums, then I hope you have a van. Most bass steel drums consist og 6, full sized 55 gallon drums. Rarely you’ll see that pannists use seven-bass, nine-bass and even rarely twelve-bass.
You need 6 (or more) bass steel pans because they only have 3 different notes. Because they are big, hard to transport and take a lot of space, many steel drum bands will opt for an electric bass guitar instead.
Where to find steel drums for sale?
Steel drums are one of those instruments you usually can’t buy in first music store around the corner.
Finding used steel drums for sale
As I said before, steel drums can be quite expensive and not everyone can afford a new one. Or maybe you are just looking to buy your first one and you don’t want to spend too much before you finally commit playing it.
Finding used steel drum for sale can be time consuming and a bit tricky. Not only there is not a lot of places where you can buy it, you can also end up with shitty used steel drum if you don’t know what you are doing.
Let’s save buying tips and tricks for later and let’s talk about where you can actually find used steel drums for sale. This is where I usually look for them:
Ebay and Craiglist might be the most obvious places where you would look for used steel drum for sale, but they come with few downsides that I don’t like that much. I’ll talk about this in few seconds.
If you have a chance to buy used steel drum from fellow pannist (steel drum musician) that you trust, go for it.
The first steel drum I bought was used and I bought it on Craigslist. That wasn’t very good idea.
Since guy was living almost 900 miles away, he send it to me by FedEx. Drum was a bit damaged, a bit rusty and out of tune.
Cheap steel drums for sale
You might be tempted to look for cheap steel drum for sale, but be careful.
You can buy used or new cheaper model steel drums.
If you decide to look for cheap steel drums for sale anyway, I would suggest to visit Amazon. You would be surprised how many steelpan drums you’ll find over there.
While they have a few professional quality drums, they also have several entry level steelpans for very little money. You can get steel drum kit for as little as for 160$. If you really want to find cheap steel drum, than you should take a look at amazon.