Where to buy a steeldrum?
The steel drum is a relatively new instrument - it is considered the last invented acoustic instrument to be in widespread use, along with the handpan - and is therefore less well known and inserted into the musical instrument market than other more "classical" instruments. Its introduction in Europe dates back to the 1970s and 1980s, with the UK being the first country to introduce it, due to the Caribbean community living there.
The manufacture of a steeldrum and especially the tuning being difficult to mechanise, most of the world's production is done manually with more or less comfortable production tools. On the other hand, the relative scarcity of steeldrum tuners poses an additional limit to the production of instruments.
If the manufacturing processes are quite comparable, for the steel drum the marketing channels are mainly based on two channels:
Buying a steel drum directly from the manufacturer
The majority of manufacturers operate as independent craftsmen with a relatively low production and often long waiting times. They make and tune their steel drums and then sell their production directly to the end customer on site or via the internet.
Others take a more classical company form with a more or less important 'team' (production at this stage is often split between a team dedicated to manufacturing and another to tuning). The steeldrum is not necessarily made faster but the production is more important. The manufacturer can then supply other marketing channels, export his steeldrums and, above all, respond to more substantial customer demands.
Buying a steel drum from an independent artisan
In addition to Trinidad and Tobago, the historic home of the steelpan, there are manufacturer-traders in a large number of countries, mainly in Europe and the USA. Most of these craftsmen work to order and waiting times can be very long! So if you want to buy a steeldrum directly, expect a delivery time of several weeks or even months, depending on the country of origin.
The recommended purchasing procedure is fairly standard: - Direct contact with the craftsman, - Definition of the order according to your needs and request for a quote, - Receipt of the quote, - Confirmation of the order with payment of a deposit, - Delivery of the product and payment of the balance.
Tip 1: When ordering in a foreign country, avoid paying the full amount before receiving your instrument in due form. In some countries steelpans are much cheaper than elsewhere, such as Trinidad and Tobago, but there is a significant risk of not receiving the quality you expected and/or waiting forever.
Tip 2: Always remember to notify the manufacturer that the steeldrum must be adequately protected and that the instrument must be packed in a thick, shock-resistant box. Another solution is to buy a flycase to protect the instrument during the trip. It will then be used to transport and protect your instrument on a daily basis.
Tip 3: Don't forget to take into account the shipping costs (they are important nowadays) and the customs taxes (including VAT at 20% for France for example) that you will have to pay when your instrument arrives on French territory.
Buying a steeldrum from a company
Aiming at a less confidential clientele, often with export targets, this type of manufacturer is a company that most often has a sales department and a good representation on the internet.
Most of them are based in Trinidad and Tobago and offer often attractive prices at the outset, but here again the final price is heavily increased by shipping costs and customs taxes.
On the other hand, as the quality of the instruments is at the discretion of the seller, it is important to bear in mind that any claim will be complicated in this case, just as it would be if the instrument were damaged during shipping.
These companies are mainly aimed at bands or music schools who wish to acquire a fleet of instruments or at specialists and dealers like METAL SOUNDS.
It is usually possible to buy an instrument directly from these companies, but be patient and be aware of the terms and conditions of purchase.
Buy a steeldrum from a specialist dealer
Buying a steeldrum on the internet
The websites that sell steel drums are either the websites of the manufacturers themselves or specialist dealers but they are quite rare.
Be aware that most websites selling drums actually present steel tongue drums or handpans under the name Steel drum or Steelpan. In this case, simply move on!
You will also find on the net offers of steel drums for children, for musical awakening, but these are more "toys" than real musical instruments. Check the dimensions of the instrument and its price to avoid being fooled by any non-contractual photos.
As you can see, unlike the handpan and the steel tongue drum which have been springing up like mushrooms on the web for a few years, it is not so easy to get a quality steel drum on internet.
METAL SOUNDS, formerly a steeldrum manufacturer, has refocused on sales and offers you a wide selection of instruments directly imported from Trinidad and Tobago, made by the best craftsmen on the island. Our company is considered as the French specialist in steelpan, thanks to the know-how and expertise of Philippe Maignaut, steeldrum maker since the 90s. Co-founder of METAL SOUNDS, he carries out an expertise on each steeldrum arrival and proceeds to a re-tuning if necessary, thus guaranteeing full satisfaction to our customers. Our dedicated after-sales service also ensures the follow-up of instruments sold to schools and conservatories and to individuals.
Finally, to mention a few market players, if some of you wish to order your instruments directly from Trinidad and Tobago, for example, the Panland company has been known there for many years and does export business.
For those of you in the USA there is Panyard and in Europe our colleague ECS steeldrums based in Germany is also doing a very good job. A short list (not exhaustive) of the main brands known and considered as serious to better guide you in your research.
Go and compare products and prices and make your choice according to your needs and budget. And if you want to know how much a steeldrum (or steelpan) costs read our article on this subject.
Buying a steel drum in a shop
Some specialist music shops offer steeldrums for sale. There are not many of them and the stock they have is often very limited. Indeed, the instrument is imposing and takes up a lot of space. Moreover its powerful and saturated sound volume can quickly disturb the salesmen if neophytes try to play an unmastered piece! However, this is the best way for a customer to test the instrument and to know if this type of instrument and/or the model presented corresponds to him. Just like when you want to try a handpan or a guitar before buying it. But the demand for this type of instrument is still so exceptional that it is quite understandable - although regrettable - that shops do not venture to offer more steeldrums in their windows.
Buying a used steel drum from a private individual
If you look hard enough it is sometimes possible to come across an advert for a used steel drum on a private seller website. This is a bit of a lottery, as you can make a good deal or make a mistake by buying a poor quality instrument. As the steel drum is a very specific instrument, it is preferable to be well acquainted with it and to have confidence in the seller to favour this option. Remember to ask for a good quality video to see the condition of the instrument in detail and to hear it sound. Finally, plan at least a routine re-tuning for which you will have to pay between 150 and 200 euros + transport costs to send your instrument to a tuner and get it back. A total of about 200 to 300 euros to be included in the final cost of your new instrument.
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