Build a steel band for your school or community

With over 25 years of experience in the business of making steel drum music, we at Solid Steel are experienced and well-qualified to help you start your own steel band!

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

You will need to purchase the correct balance of tenor pans (melody), second pans (melody/harmony), guitar pans (melody/harmony), cello pans (melody/harmony), bass pans (bass!) and un-tuned rhythm instruments (rhythm).

So the first question you will want to ask is ‘how many steel drums 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 – a set of 6 bass pans, a pair of guitar pans, a pair of double second pans and 2 tenor pans with all the accessories required 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 how many steel drums you buy.  This may well be constrained by the size of your budget. But, you can opt to build your band gradually while maintaining the correct balance of instruments along the way. So don’t delay, start your own steel band today!

Whether you want to start a small musical group or with a full range of steel drums, Solid Steel will guide you through the whole process.

Eventually you may arrive at what we typically find is the most popular size that 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)
  • 2 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’, but Solid Steel’s latest CD, ‘Three’ is exceptional in its quality and consistency.

Recorded in late 2007, it was conceived as a tribute to the small genre from which it comes and to those that pioneered it. That genre is the all-acoustic three-piece steel band or ‘steel trio’ as it is better known.

‘Three’ features a mix of traditional Caribbean material and old standards which make up the steel band music that is still popular amongst the players on their gig circuit plus a couple of covers of some recent songs and the self-penned tribute calypso title track.

The band’s line-up features the virtuoso pan playing and vocal talents of British-born Thomas Alleyne (tenor pan, vocals), Dennis Davis (second pan, bass pan, hand percussion), tenor pan) and Paul Cherrie (bass pan, hand percussion, second pan, vocals), playing a ‘live’ set at producer Francis Hylton’s 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 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 the brand leaders. We felt compelled to make this homage!

We also do bespoke commissioned recordings for mostly wedding and corporate clients. Much of our audio and some of our video publicity has been commissioned by various clients.

No, but we do offer a service where specially commissioned videos of bespoke performances can be made at our clients’ events.

There are several phases involved in the creation of this unique instrument. First, a 55-gallon oil drum is selected for the quality of its steel. 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!
After sinking the pan, the steel must then be tempered 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 the pan for a short period of time, it is then plunged into the ocean, which cools off the red-hot barrel. This phase is called ‘tempering’ and it makes the 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.
A template is used to mark the placement of each note on the sunken head of the drum. Lines are drawn in pencil to guide the tuner’s hammering. Each note outline is then ‘grooved’ using a nail punch and a hammer. Grooving the notes make the notes more visible and also isolates each note’s vibration somewhat from the other notes in the drum. It is very important not to weaken or break the metal with the nail punch during the grooving process.
At this point, the drum’s side, or ‘skirt’, is cut to the proper length, and holes are drilled near the rim to hang the drum from a stand with wire or rope. The panmaker then takes his hammers of various sizes and ‘pongs’ the notes up from beneath, making them stand out like bubbles from the interior of the pan. This gives the note the approximate tension it needs to vibrate at the correct pitch.

Now, the panmaker uses a tuning device, like a tuning fork, keyboard or a stroboscope, and carefully hammers at each note from the top, stretching it and smoothing the note area so that it will vibrate precisely. Each individual note on the face of the pan must be tuned in relation to the other notes, or the pan’s note will not resonate correctly. Tuning one note perfectly might mean an adjacent note gets detuned! Often a panmaker will tune each note several times before the whole pan is fully ‘blended together.
Finally, the finished pans are either painted in bright colours or dipped in chrome to make them shine like silver. The chrome bath detunes the drum slightly, so it must be tuned again after chroming. So each pan can take up to a week of hard work to finish. Considering this and the talent and skill required to make a pan they are always very reasonably priced.

In the UK by specialist pan makers and pan tuners.

Yes, subject to availability at the time of asking! Our second hand pans are donated to us or bought from schools who no longer want them, because perhaps they have bought a new set from us.

Yes, because we use any single pans you might have for our school workshops.

Yes, we have a national network of pan tuners we can contact for you and have them supply their professional 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, so we can give you a rough estimate.
Some other steel pan tuning services will quote prospective clients on a ‘per instrument’ basis at over £50 per individual pan. We feel this is unfair as 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!