Hot Pans - Stockholm Steelband
© Ulf Kronman, The Pan Page. Publisher: Musikmuseet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Tenor (Soprano)

The reason for naming the highest pan of the steelband "tenor" is historical: In the early days, the lead melody was played on a pan with less than ten notes. These notes were bigger than on todays tenors and the pitch was in the tenor range - therefore it was suitable to call the pan a tenor.

As the instrument developed, more notes were put into the tenor to increase its range. The new notes had to be made smaller, thus putting the pan in a higher tonal range. But the name "tenor" prevailed. Today it would be more proper to call it a soprano, which is also the usual case outside Trinidad.

The early tenors (ping-pongs) still had some of their lower notes, such as F# in the middle section, but eventually all the lower notes were moved to the outer ring with the corresponding octaves just inside them. The first "fifths-and-fourths" tenor pans, created by pioneer tuner Anthony Williams, were "spider web" pans with the notes close together and the intersections shaped as a spider-web-like pattern. In 1963 Herman Johnson changed the design by moving the inner notes apart to reduce the acoustic coupling of adjacent notes.

Overview of the Tenor pan

Due to the new ingenious layout according to the circle of fifths, the tenor is the pan that has come the longest way towards a standardization. As seen from the layout figure, all the lower notes are arranged according to the circle of fifths around the rim, with the corresponding octave notes in a similar circle inside. In this way the harmonics of the octave, the fifth and the fourth, will surround each note and help up the harmonic spectrum of the tone.

The size of the lower notes limits the tonal range of the tenor down to D4. During the later development, the tuners have tried to increase the range downwards by making the outer tenor notes smaller. This has resulted in a new tenor model that incorporates a low C4 and a C#4, instead of the C5 and C#5 usually found in the outer ring.

The layout of the low tenor is the same as the ordinary tenor. The C and the C# in the outer ring are made bigger and the rest of the notes a bit smaller. This is accomplished by shifting the pan so that the previous lowest D4 and D#4 become the new C4 and C#4, respectively.

It seems as this tenor has exactly the same measures as the higher one, but you tune each note two semitones lower and then shift it around so that the bottom C4 (former D4) faces the player. This means that every note will be a bit smaller and that two notes has to be added at the top if the range upwards is to be retained. As the pan develops further this model will presumably get more common.

Overview of the Low Tenor pan

Special crafting techniques

For the 8" (200 mm) sinking of tenors it is sufficient to use the sinking hammer down to 7 1/2" (190 mm) = 95% of final depth. The rest of the sinking is done during the smoothing and the backing.

The holes for the supporting strings can be put either as a single hole in the rim or as a pair 50 mm down the side, spaced about 50 mm. The pan will probably ring a little more if the strings are attached to the rim (because there is no damping of the side).

Measures for the Tenor pan

The measured tenor pans were made by Lawrence Mayers in 1990.

Notes

Drum

Groove

Number
of notes

Tonal Range

Depth of playing
surface [mm]

Length of
side [mm]

Hole pos.
from rim [mm]

Width [mm]

Radial length [mm]

End from rim [mm]

28

D4-F6

200

140

In rim

4.5-5

130

40

Note

Position

Radial length

Tangential length

Length along rim

D4

Outer

150

155

180

D#4

Outer

150

153

175

E4

Outer

145

144

165

F4

Outer

145

135

160

F#4

Outer

142

133

155

G4

Outer

143

128

150

G#4

Outer

138

128

150

A4

Outer

140

120

140

Bb4

Outer

138

115

135

B4

Outer

140

106

125

C5

Outer

135

101

120

C#5

Outer

135

98

120

D5

Middle

100

70

D#5

Middle

100

70

E5

Middle

91

67

F5

Middle

85

65

F#5

Middle

86

65

G5

Middle

82

63

G#5

Middle

76

58

A5

Middle

77

57

Bb5

Middle

69

52

B5

Middle

65

50

C6

Middle

60

47

C#6

Inner

59

48

D6

Inner

60

45

D#6

Inner

58

48

E6

Inner

55

41

F6

Inner

55

41