Letter From Alan

We’ve made a tremendous amount of changes to Steel Pan construction and design since my days in Morgantown WV. First let me say I owe a great deal to Ellie Mannette for sharing this craft with me. His methods and approaches are a major portion of the techniques we use. He laid the foundation upon which this company was founded back in the summer of 1998.

The first few years (1998 thru 2001) I was doing basically the same things I did in Morgantown. I only made a few changes to my techniques for building and tuning pans. However, I noticed there were particular notes on certain instruments that always had the same problems in tuning. So over time I began to make subtle changes in the shape or placement of note panels in order to eliminate these problems. It made the instruments easier and quicker to tune and the pans sounded better. Some of the changes involved rethinking the size of each note panel. Some notes became smaller and others became larger based on a logical mathematical equation. It was during these early years that we also abandoned “Grooving” pans. A fellow pan man, Keith Kropf, proved to me unequivocally that “grooving” was a complete and utter waste of time. It does not “help to isolate the notes from each other” yet to this day most pan makers continue to do it! Phil Solomon was ahead of everyone on this concept as he went “grooveless” years before others began to follow. (I have no idea if Phil was actually the first to go grooveless but he was the first that I know of.)

The summer of 2001 is when I first came to the conclusion that not only was the size and shape of each note panel important, but that its metal thickness was critical as well. I started by experimenting with different ways to sink and shape the pans in order to keep curtain notes thicker and make others thinner. A group of four Leads I made in 2002, all slightly different, convinced me I had to start using thicker metal for the Pans. By 2003 we were experimenting with thicker (1.4mm) steel, though no one knew it at the time. We were using the thicker metal and finding ways to thin it as needed before we explored using a larger diameter. During this same time (I later learned) Shelly Irvine was experimenting with and redefining the geometry of pan construction as well as experimenting with a larger (23.25” diameter) Pan.

In November 2003 at the PASIC show I shared my findings about metal thickness with Shelly Irvine and he was gracious enough to share his discoveries about Pan geometry with me. Both companies then married both ideas, did their own research independently of one another, and have been making world class instruments ever since. Numerous craftsmen have contributed to the evolution of these instruments. This is by no means the de facto list of who did what! (so don’t get your panties in a wad guys)

I always tried to exhaust every idea I could before moving away from Ellie’s practices. For close to a decade we’ve been refining our geometry, barrel design, note panel thicknesses, placement of notes as well as a thousand micro changes in order to get us to where we are now….Steel Pans that are the quality and consistency of mallet instruments. We feel very strongly that the tone, responsiveness, dynamic range, and ability to hold tune of all our pan voices surpasses anything that has been achieved in the past. When you hear what we’re doing now, we know you’ll agree!

Alan B. Coyle