If you're looking for a new instrument to pick up, I'd like to share with you my experiences learning this wonderful instrument - the pan pipe! There are many types of pan pipes around the world, and the one I'm going to show you is called a siku, native to the andean region in countries such as Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and many more. It has been such a joy to learn this instrument and I'm eager to share some insights about why I think you might enjoy learning it too.
Welcome to 'Ethnomusicology For The World', my online lesson series where I strive to help the world better understand and appreciate its diverse musical cultures.
Before You Begin:
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What is a Pan Pipe?
A pan pipe is an instrument comprised of closed-end pipes arranged in a row ascending in pitch. Some pan pipes comprise of a single row while others, like mine, have two rows. The pipes can be made of a variety of materials such as cane, bamboo, plastic, PVC, and even metal.
Traditional panpipes are usually diatonic, meaning they only comprise the notes of the diatonic major scale. There are chromatic variations as well to adapt to more modern and globalised styles of playing.
Music Example: 'Sankayo Pankara'
Why You Should Learn the Pan Pipe!
There are many reasons, in my opinion, why the pan pipe is a great instrument to learn especially if you are new to playing music.
It's easy to pick up
The pan pipe was the first and only wind instrument I've seriously learnt to play, and what I found is that it is really easy to start creating a decent sound on it. You just need a little experimenting on the angle and velocity of your breath for each tube and you'll be able to create music very quickly.
It's easy to create melodies
As the pan pipe is normally diatonic, it's easy to figure out familiar melodies on your own by playing around with the tubes. Compared to other flutes that require specific fingering patterns to create different notes, the pan pipe is very intuitive. Shorter tubes create higher notes, longer tubes create lower notes.
You can learn it on your own
In traditional andean communities, it is rare to find professional instruction in pan flute playing. There's a reason for this - it's easy to figure out on your own! This means that you can make good progress just by exploring the instrument yourself.
Of course, it's good to get some tips and advice from an experienced player, but this is not as essential a requirement as in learning other instruments.
It's portable and lightweight
I love how convenient the pan pipe is when travelling - I can pack it in my backpack and it hardly weights anything. Of course there are humongous variations, but just start with a normal sized one first.
It's relatively cheap
Well, this depends on how readily you can access this instrument. I live in Singapore and there's no way you can find one here, so it is expensive to ship it over. But if you live somewhere you can find a shop selling them, they don't cost much!
It's unique and cool
That's the truth! You don't find the pan pipe often in popular western music and that means you'll stand out as a pan pipe player.
I hope I've been able to share and excite you about this beautiful instrument. Of course to add to all those reasons mentioned is that the pan pipe sounds gorgeous. It's rich and powerful, but at the same time melodic and sweet!
Do leave a comment with any questions you might have and I'll do my best to answer them. Follow along my musical journey on my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and website neilchanmusic.com as I share new music videos and lessons each and every week.
Until next time, I'll see you again!
By Neil Chan