Handpan Beginner leitfaden

Handpan beginner's guide - Part 3

Travelling with your Handpan

Travelling in general

Which journey was particularly inspiring for you? And why?

Rafael: I spent eight years without a break to travel all over the world, to more than 40 countries. During this time, I played a lot on the street or in nature, but real concerts were still a must. Each country has its own unique circumstances, a unique nature with flora and fauna – and the people have their own mentality. Because of this I believe that each of these journeys inspired and shaped me and my music to the same amount in one way or another.

Why does traveling and the handpan belong together?

Rafael: In my opinion, travelling and playing on the handpan are going well together. By playing on your instrument you give people a special moment. You meet people very quickly everywhere, get into a conversation about music and gain many friendships or acquaintances. The soul of the people is especially addressed by the special sounds of the handpan. It gives people something familiar, for many people the handpan sounds like water. The overtones have a magical, meditative effect that touches people and sets the player into a kind of trance. It is also the special bond with nature that seems to correspond with the instrument. People are still happy to hear this rather new instrument and it is not difficult to listen to it for hours, regardless which language you speak or where you come from.

What travel arrangements should I take regarding my handpan and what should I not forget?

Rafael: When traveling, you should not forget that the Hanpan is a very sensitive instrument. Rust is a particular problem for the instrument, and you should therefore always be careful. Stainless steel handpans are not 100% rustproof either. Another risk factor is the instrument to get out of tune. This can be a serious problem on a trip as it becomes very difficult to find someone who can tune it on the fly. Therefore, you should always pay attention to the weather and the climate, especially in nature, reacting accordingly.

If you want to travel without troubles, you should store the instrument in the correct hardcase, otherwise it could be damaged on the way. I therefore advise against using softcases when traveling. Experience says that something can always happen. It is also important that you exactly explain how to play on the instrument before someone else is playing it. This means for example that you play without rings, which can be especially problematic with nitrided instruments, as the protection layer on the instrument could be penetrated, making it rust easier.

Should I take my handpan on a ship?

Rafael: In general, there is nothing that speaks against it, but keep in mind that salt water is a special challenge for the handpan. Always take care to ensure that no moisture gets into the hard case. On such a cruise you should also make sure that the instrument is always dry-cleaned after playing. The salty sea air is not to be underestimated, even if it is stainless steel.

Which places would you like to visit in the future?

Rafael: On the one hand I would like to visit Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand Alaska. To experience the nature there once. A place I would like revisit are the Philippines, with its white beaches, lots of quiet places to relax and meditate and fish in all sorts of colors. Corners like this exist all over the world, you just have to be open and discover for yourself – everyone can find their own little paradise – a place where one can simply relax. For me personally, this paradise is nature, no matter where. Culturally, I was very impressed by India and Japan. But it is important that you are ready to discover something new.

Should I buy an extra handpan for traveling?

Rafael: Some people take smaller instruments with them when they travel, which are not that heavy to carry around. The disadvantage is that a smaller instrument, comes with a higher scale of notes and fewer maximum notes that can be put on the instrument. The benefit of saving weight is not a bad thing in itself. Personally however, I believe that it would be better to add an extra kilo and to have the possibility of deeper notes too, with the option of taking up to 20 notes. But you do not need an extra instrument to travel; you can take your normal one with you.

Flying with your Handpan:

What do I have to watch out for if I want to fly and take my handpan with me and does it count as hand luggage, or does it have to be stowed as normal luggage?

Rafael: First, you should be careful which airline you choose. Smaller airlines may not allow the instrument being carried as hand luggage. It is therefore important to inform yourself beforehand, as a different hard case is required depending on whether the instrument is stowed as hand-lugagge or below with the other luggage. My recommendation here is not to use medium-strength hard cases (semi-rigid). It should be a real flying case made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. The instrument is very sensitive and only a millimeter thick. Unfortunately, experience has shown that the staff does not take care of the luggage as much as it should be, regardless of whether the boxes or cases say “fragile” or “breakable”.

The larger the airline and the larger the plane, the easier it is to take the instrument into the cabin. When checking in, you should point out that there has never been a problem and that it is a very expensive instrument. So, it shouldn’t be a problem that the instrument can be taken along. In some cases, there are also special wardrobes in the plane in which the instrument can be stored. A normal hardcase should be sufficient here. Hence my recommendation is to always try to take the instrument with you into the cabin.

Can my handpan get out of tune while flying?

Rafael: If the instrument is in a medium-strength hard case, or even worse in a soft case, it can get out of tune if it is badly treated by the staff. This can also happen during shipping, so it is important that the instrument is adequately protected. Here again is my recommendation to take at least a hardcase made of fiberglass or carbon fiber.

Is the HandpanCare hardcase suitable for transport in an airplane?

Rafael: The HandpanCare hardcase is suitable for transport in hand luggage. If the handpan and the hardcase are too high to be stowed in the cabin, the aircraft crew can help you out, they can stow the instrument in the larger wardrobes. It is really important to point this out early enough before or during the flight.

What do I have to consider if I want to take several handpans with me?

Rafael: Two or even three instruments are more difficult to transport. It would be possible to put one on as a backpack, then carry one on the left and one on the right with your hands. If you travel alone, you might have problems with the transport of the rest of your luggage. An alternative would be a trolley – here the instruments can be stacked on top of each other, which can be really helpful, especially in terms of weight. Three instruments and three hardcases will almost weigh 30 kilos. Here you should really think a lot before the trip and plan it carefully. Personally, I sometimes fly with three Opsilons which is very exhausting, especially since most of the time I also have to carry other luggage such as clothing. Two instruments are much more comfortable. 

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