triple guitar pan

Also:       triple cello 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 triple guitar pan is a gongchime idiophone belonging to the steel band, the indigenous orchestra from Trinidad and Tobago. Steel pans (or simply ‘pans’), including the triple guitar 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 triple guitar panis a trio of aggregate gongs comprising 9 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 bosses on the concave face of each pan are separated from each other by a shared contiguous rim and span in size from 4.3 to 13.5 inches across the widest active area. The bosses are laid out in two concentric circles of 6 and 3 respectively and are located with attention to the sympathetic vibration of their neighbors (listen to the audio clip, which is of a lead pan). The skirt extends 17 inches down the pan, concealing the belly (underside of the playing surface). 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 three pans are suspended from adjacent but separate metal racks with plastic loops, hanging the playing surface horizontally at approximately waist height. A standing player holds a stick in either hand, often alternating attacks, as he or she strikes the vertices on the three pans. Tremolo and rapid arpeggiations are used in lieu of an actual sustain. The triple guitar pan is classified as a mid-range 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 three pans: a fully chromatic scale from B2–C-sharp5 is available to the performer. Each pan's pitch material is a series of ascending minor thirds above its lowest pitch; the three pans have as their lowest pitch B2, C3, and C-sharp3. Triple guitar pans provide harmonic support by arpeggiating chord tones below the melodies and countermelodies played on the lead and double second pans.


For an 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 in. depth of face 17 in. height of skirt 3.5 x 4.3 in. dimensions of smallest boss 7.8 x 13.5 in. dimensions largest boss

Primary Materials



Desmond "Mappo" Richardson

Entry Author

Gaelyn Hutchinson