double second pan

Also:       alto pan      double tenor pan      

Title: Steel Bands of Trinidad & Tobago--To Be Continued; performer not identified. Label: Delos. Format: CD. Catalog#: DE 4011. Track: 4.

Contextual Associations

The double second pan is a gongchime idiophone belonging to the steel band, the indigenous orchestra from Trinidad and Tobago. Steel pans (or simply ‘pans’), including the double second pan, are the primary constituents of steel bands, which also typically include other traditional and ad-hoc rhythm instruments. For detailed information on the social uses and meanings of this instrument see the ‘Steel Band from Trinidad and Tobago’ ensemble page.


The double second panis a pair of aggregate gongs comprising 15 apexes each divided from a common surface fashioned from the bottom of a 55-gallon oil drum (also known as a pan) that has been sunken into a concave bowl. The 15 oval bosses on each concave face are separated from each other by a shared contiguous rim. The gongs range in size from 2.3 inches to 9.5 inches across the widest active area. The bosses are laid out in 4ths and octaves due to significant harmonic implications—sympathetic vibration makes each gong resonate with the sounding its neighbors (listen to audio clip, which is of a lead pan). The skirt extends 8 inches down the pan, concealing the belly (underside of the playing surface) entirely. The pan playing surface and skirt is highly polished. The aluminum stick beaters are lightweight and rubber-headed (see detail image) to protect against throwing the gongs out of tune during rapid attacks.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The two pans are suspended from adjacent but separate metal racks using plastic loops, hanging the playing surfaces horizontally at approximately waist height. A standing player holds a stick in either hand, often alternating attacks, as he or she strikes the instruments’ vertices. Tremolo and rapid arpeggiations are used in lieu of an actual sustain. The double second pan is classified as a front-line instrument in the steel band, reflecting its position in the performance arrangement of the ensemble and its musical role. The pitch range is distributed across the two pans: a fully chromatic scale from F-sharp3 - B5 is available to the performer. Each pan’s pitch material is an ascending whole tone scale from its lowest pitch--F-sharp3 for one, G3 for the other. Double second pans are the second highest pitched instruments (after the lead pans) in the ensemble and usually play countermelodies or provide high harmonic support to lead pan melodies in a f to fff dynamic range.


For a comprehensive overview of the history and evolution of this instrument, see the ‘Steel Band from Trinidad and Tobago’ ensemble page.

Bibliographic Citations

Myers, Helen. "Trinidad and Tobago." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed November 30, 2012,

Montagu, Jeremy. "steel band." The Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed November 30, 2012,

Rimmer, Joan. 1984. "Steel band [tinpanny]," NGDMI v.3: 448-449.

Sandiford, Simeon. 1987. Steel bands of Trinidad & Tobago. CD with liner notes. Delos International DE 4011.

Shannon Dudley. "Steel band." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed November 30, 2012,


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: Caribbean

Nation: Trinidad and Tobago

Formation: Afro-Caribbean

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.241.12 idiophone--percussion vessel gong with divided surface sounding different pitches

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: plate - contoured with multiple bosses

Sound objects per instrument: multiple sounded discretely

Resonator design: separate resonating space shared by multiple sonorous objects - built into instrument

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - stick with padded ball end

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: definite pitch

Sound modification: none


23 in. diameter 6.5 in. depth of face 8 in. height of skirt 1.5 x 2.3 in. dimensions of smallest boss 6 x 9.5 in. dimensions of largest boss

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Gaelyn Hutchinson