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Build a steel band for your school or community

We have over 25 years of experience in the business of making steel drum or pan music as Solid Steel. Given that, we have the ideal qualifications to help you buy steel drums and start your own steel band!

As we demonstrate in our popular workshops, a steel band has all the elements of a typical musical group. As such, elements of melody, harmony, bass and rhythm are available to make it musically complete.

Firstly, you’ll need to buy the balance of steel drums to acquire the correct balance of the aforesaid elements. For example, these must include tenor pans (melody), second pans (melody/harmony) and bass pans. However, you might also consider other harmony pans we call ‘guitars’ and ‘cellos’ along with rhythm section instruments.

So the first question you will want to ask is ‘how many steel drums or pans do I need?’

Well this depends on the size of the band you would like to build.

You can set up your steel band with as few as 12 steel pans and a drum kit. We can offer you a 12-piece starter kit which will include 12 steel drums. This will consist of a set of 6 bass pans, 2 guitar pans, 2 second pans and 2 tenor pans. In addition, we will include all the accessories you’ll require including sticks, stands and cases. We will also deliver these to you and show you how to set them up.

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A great community youth steel band

A range of steel drums available to buy or hire

Buy the steel pans needed for your steel drum music

Of course the scale of the steel drum music you may be able to make will depend on this. How many steel pans instruments ie. steel drums or steel pans are you going to buy? The size of your budget may well be a constraint. But, you can choose to build your band gradually, maintaining the correct balance of steel pans instruments along the way. So don’t delay, start your own steel band today!

We can supply a full range of steel drums whether you want to start a small or a large group. Equally important, Solid Steel will guide you through the whole process.

Eventually, you may arrive at what is the most popular size our customers opt for which is:

  • 4 x tenor pans
  • 3 x sets of second pans (2 in each set)
  • 2 x sets of guitar pans (2 in each set)
  • Two x sets of cello pans (3 in each set)
  • 2 x sets of bass pans (6 in each set)
  • 1 x drum kit (5-piece)
  • 1 x pair of conga drums
  • Assorted hand percussion (cowbells, shakers etc.)
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Buy Solid Steel’s steel drum music CD, ‘Three’

Most bands’ recorded steel drum music doesn’t sound nearly as good as it does ‘live’. However, Solid Steel’s latest CD, ‘Three’ is exceptional in its quality and consistency.

It was recorded in late 2007 as a tribute to the pioneers of what is a small but significant genre. That genre is the all-acoustic three-piece steel band or ‘steel trio’ as we prefer to call it.

‘Three’ features evergreen traditional Caribbean steel band music that musicians and audiences still enjoy playing and listening to. We’ve then included another couple of covers of some contemporary songs and the self-penned tribute calypso title track.

The Solid Steel Trio

The band’s line-up features the band as a trio, naturally. Firstly, there’s the virtuoso tenor pan playing and vocal talents of British-born Thomas Alleyne. Then, Dennis Davis on second pan, bass pan and hand percussion. Finally, Paul Cherrie is on lead vocals, bass pan, hand percussion and second pan. The producer is long-time friend and associate, Francis Hylton. He recorded the band playing a ‘live’ set at his studio, ‘The Barbershop’, in Battersea.

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Special Price: £7.99 including p&p

Common steel drum & music buyer FAQs

The origins of ‘Three’

It’s all about our steel band history. In the ‘50s, newly arrived Trinidadian musicians Russ Henderson, Sterling Betancourt and the Cherrie brothers, Max and Ralph first introduced the steel drum to the British. Remakably they did it mostly in a trio format that would have been unfamiliar even in their homeland. Fifty years on and the genre is still going strong in the UK with Solid Steel being its vanguard. We felt compelled to make this homage!

Steel band recordings you can commission

We also do bespoke commissioned recordings for mostly wedding and corporate clients. Much of our audio and some of our video publicity various clients commissioned us to produce.

Steel band videos you can commission

No, but we offer a service where a client can commission us to film a bespoke performances at their event.

How to make a steel pan

There are several phases to work through in the creation of this unique instrument:-

Selecting a steel drum

First, you must select a 55-gallon oil drum with high quality of steel..

Sinking the barrel

A 40-pound sledgehammer is then applied to the bottom of the barrel, stretching the metal into a concave bowl or dish shape. This phase is called ‘sinking’ and is the noisiest and most physically exhausting part of the process. It is very important to stretch the metal evenly without tearing it or deforming the rim. Sinking a pan can take up to 5 hours of hammering!

Tempering the steel drum

After sinking the pan, the steel must then undergo ‘tempering’ to increase the resilience and strength of the metal. In Trinidad, pan makers will take their drums down to the beach and build a fire. After burning a pan for a short period of time, they can then plunge it into the ocean. This immediately cools off the red-hot barrel and makes its metal a lot stronger than it was before. The head or face of the pan is now able to withstand the rigors of the tuning process.

Marking the steel pan

You must then use a template to mark the placement of each note on the sunken head of the drum. You then draw lines to guide future hammer blows.

Grooving the pan’s face

Using a nail punch and a hammer you will then ‘groove’ each note. Grooving the notes makes them more visible and also isolates each note’s vibration somewhat from adjacent notes in the drum. It’s very important not to weaken or break the metal with the nail punch during the grooving process.

Cutting the pan’s skirt

At this point, the drum’s side, or ‘skirt’, is cut to the correct length, and holes drilled near the rim.  The reason for this is to hang the drum from a stand with wire or rope.

Ponging the pan

A panmaker then takes hammers of various sizes and ‘pongs’ the notes up from beneath. This, in turn, makes them stand out like bubbles from the interior of the pan. As a result, this gives the note the approximate tension it needs to vibrate at the correct pitch.

How to tune a steel pan

Now, a panmaker uses a tuning device, like a tuning fork or a stroboscope, and carefully hammers at each note. You start from the top, stretching it and smoothing the note area so that it will vibrate precisely. You must tune each individual note on the face of the pan perfectly in relation to the other notes. Otherwise, that individual pan note will not resonate correctly. Tuning one note perfectly might unfortunately detune an adjacent note! Often a panmaker will tune each note several times before the process is complete with the correct ‘blend’ of notes.
Finally, post-tuning you must paint the pans or dip them in chrome to make them shine like silver. The chrome bath detunes the drums slightly, so you will have to tune again after chroming. So each pan can take up to a week of hard work to finish. Considering this and the talent and skill requirements to make a pan makers ask for them is always very reasonable. So, you won’t be ‘spoiling’ yourself if you buy a steel drum for your own personal use!

Steel pan makers & steel pan tuners

In the UK by specialist pan makers and pan tuners.

Second hand steel pans for sale

Yes, subject to availability at the time of asking! Our second hand pans are from schools that donate or sell them to us when they are no longer required. This is simply because they’ve bought replacements for them from us.

Second hand steel drums to buy

Yes, because we use any single pans you might have for our school workshops. Hence, we’re happy to buy your old steel drums!

Steel band tuning services

Yes, we have a national network of pan tuners we can contact for you to supply their professional services.

Cheap steel drum tuning services

It depends on how out of tune your pans are to begin with and the time necessary to re-tune them. It’s best to share a picture of the playing surface of each instrument with us first via WhatsApp. Then we can give you a rough estimate using your photo evidence.
Some other steel pan tuning services will quote prospective clients on a ‘per instrument’ basis. Often the cost for this is over £50 per individual pan. However, we think this unfair because some bass instruments have 3 notes whilst a tenor pan may have 30 notes. Our policy is to price our tuners’ work according to the time spent doing it!