Instrument names for steel drums (steel pans) and the ranges given for them are mostly incorrect.

• Feb 15, 2019 - 13:47
Reported version
S4 - Minor

The steel pan/steel drums instrument names and instrument ranges are incorrect or partially incorrect.

Firstly, the correct name of the instrument family is "steel pan" or "steelpan" not "steel drums". However, many people use steel drums, so I understand if it's left this way in the instrument list. The idea is that steel pans (musical instruments) are made out of steel drums (steel containers).

The following instrument names are given in MuseScore:

Steel Drums
Soprano Steel Drums
Alto Steel Drums
Guitar Steel Drums
Cello Steel Drums
Bass Steel Drums

These are not the instrument names used in Trinidad (the country that developed the pans), or even in the States (which use a slightly different nomenclature). To be honest, I've never come across Soprano and Alto pans, for example.

Steel pans largely fall into the following instrument types:

Low D Tenor (in the States this is usually called a Low D Lead)
Low C Tenor (in the States this is usually called a Low C Lead)
Double Tenor
Double Second
Double Guitar (or just Guitar)
Triple Cello
Four Cello
Tenor Bass
Six Bass

There are other instrument types that are not as common, and I feel that it would be unnecessary to add them. The Tenor Bass and Six Bass pans could be merged into a "Bass" category. Note that Tenor pans are named as such for historic reasons, and not because they cover a tenor range (they actually cover a treble or soprano range from C4 to E6 or D4 to F#6).
Linked to the names used, are the correct ranges and clefs.

I suggest using the following name, range and clef scheme for the MuseScore instrument list:

Tenor Steel Pan (or Lead Steel Pan); C4 to F#6; Treble clef
Double Tenor Steel Pans; F3 to B5; Treble clef
Double Second Steel Pans; E3 to A5; Treble clef
Double Guitar (or just Guitar) Steel Pans; C#3 to G#3; Bass Clef
Triple Cello Steel Pans; B2 to Bb4; Bass clef
Four Cello Steel Pans; Bb2 to C#5; Bass clef
Bass Steel Pans; Bb1 to Eb3

Note that ranges are also dependent on the manufacturers, so they can vary a few notes up or down from the ranges I have given.

Instead of Steel Pan(s), you may prefer to use Steel Drum(s). While this would not be correct, most people are more familiar with the latter name.


I'd like to "bump" this request... The names and ranges for steelpan instruments included with MuseScore are unusable (and misleading for my students who may see MuseScore's ranges as authoritative)...

There is some variation in the range of each instrument depending on the builder of the pan... I use the "amateur" ranges to show the most conservative range that a composer/arranger can be confident in the instrument being able to handle, and the "professional" ranges to show what notes an extended range instrument would be likely to have.

None of the steelpan instruments are transposing instruments
tenor steelpan (treble clef) Amateur: D4 - E6, Pro: C4 - G6
double tenor steelpan (treble clef): Amateur: F3 - B5, Pro F3 - C#6
double second steelpan (treble clef): Amateur F#3 - A5, Pro E3 - Eb6
double guitar steelpan (bass clef): Amateur: D3 - F4, Pro C3 - G#4
triple cello steelpan (bass clef): Amateur C3 - B4, Pro Bb2 - D5
four cello steelpan (bass clef): Amateur Bb2 - C#5, Pro A2 - C#5
tenor bass steelpan (bass clef): Amateur F2 - C4, Pro F2 - C4
six bass steelpan (bass clef): Amateur C2 - Eb3, Pro Bb1 - F3

(I am the director of steelbands at University of Delaware, driller for the Philadelphia Pan Stars Steel Orchestra, and have played pan as my career for over 20 years, having played with steel orchestras in Trinidad, Guyana, Japan, Germany and many many other countries.)