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Composing and Arranging for the Steel Pan - Part I : Basics
An Overview of the Special Issues in Writing and Arranging for the Steel Pan By Richard A. Sharma

3. Notation for the Pan

Apart from the fact that few panmen and panwomen are able to read music, notation for the pan presents few if any real issues.

There is of course the fact that in steel pan music, much to the horror of perhaps most classically trained composers, there is a great tendency for parts to cross over. This often becomes unavoidable particularly because of the relatively limited compasses of most of the pan voices.

More important though seems to be the issue of the use of clefs. Both guitar and cello pan parts are normally written using the bass clef. In the case of the former, this makes no sense at all and an excellent case is to be made for the use of the alto or C clef as the most logical choice as the standard. Even in the case of the cello pans, the alto or C clef would make excellent sense most of the time, and by extension, this would also apply to the quadrophonics.

Certainly, from the perspective of the composer these would be sound choices. The guitars’ compasses fit almost perfectly within the stave when the alto clef is used, as does that of the triple or three cello. Even in the case of the four cello, the most commonly used part of its range again fits very nearly perfectly. Again, in the case of the quadrophonics, their lower range fits the alto clef for the most part, and its use as the standard would often reduce the necessity to switch to the treble clef.

There are of course a number of specific ‘styles’ and conventions that commonly apply to writing for specific pans. These will be covered in a forthcoming second part of this article.


© 2009 Richard A. Sharma / Rainlore's World of Music. All rights reserved.

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