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Handpan Maker Spotlight: Owl-Pan Sound Sculptures

For this week's Handpan Maker Spotlight, we visit Nico Bachus, the talented mind behind Owl-Pan Sound Sculptures in Detmold, Germany. Nico’s journey from a determined hobbyist to a skilled handpan builder began in 2012, driven by a love for the handpan and a knack for crafting instruments. His “Owl-Pans” are inspired by the magical owls of the region and the peaceful, wooded landscape of North-Western Germany. Come join me as we explore Nico’s journey and the story of the Owl-Pan!

 


 

What is your company name? And what is the meaning/inspiration behind it?


Owl-Pan. The term is ambiguous. On the one hand it refers to the magic owls living in the woods here, on the other hand O.W.L. is the acronym of the region we live in (a small, less populated region in North-Western Germany, characterized by mid-range mountains, different kinds of woods, streams and meadows).

 

Who is your company run by? Do you work alone or with a team of people?


As this work is an art, I typically work alone. Sometimes I get help for the side work (paperwork stuff, taxes, video, tool development, etc.) but for the building-process I need to be alone in silence.

 

Do you have a specific name for the instruments you make? (Other than handpan) If so what is the meaning behind this? Owl-Pans.

 

Year Founded:

2012


 

Location:


Detmold, Germany


 


 

How did you first discover the handpan?


I started hammering in 2012, as a hobby. I'm a craftsman and engineer and have been working on musical instruments for all my life. I discovered the Hang in 2007 and tried to acquire one by writing several letters over the years, without being heard. And ,yes, in those days you had to actually write a letter! Maybe you'd get invited to come to Switzerland to choose a Hang one day, or maybe not. Me, unfortunately, not. So after failed attempts to get a Hang and later an early SunPan (also without success), I decided to use my money to get some tuning-rings, instead of an actual instrument. Just because there were simply no instruments available.



I started hammering from scratch, just two rings, a barrel as a stand, carbon-sheet metal, some hammers, a gas-torch, etc. At this time there was only one Swedish book about basic steelpan-tuning and a few contacts via the old forum (handpan.org). The handpan community was very small back in those days.



Learning to make a pan took some time. I learned how to make smooth shells by hand, learned basic shaping and tuning, the whole process. And things got better year by year; better skills, better tools, better material, etc.



In 2016 I started an official business. Since then the handpan world has kept on growing more enormously than anyone would have ever thought. My instruments have gotten better and better throughout the years: The process is still the same, details changed and got refined, but the basic process still is the same. A fine instrument takes it's time and I love the direct and personal contact with my clients more than ever.


 


 

What is your goal as a handpan builder?


Always just the instrument in front of me.


 

What would you say your instruments are known for? My clients say they are "from another world".

I'd say: extremely sensitive, balanced, with dynamic range. Plus a superior layout- and overtone-management resulting in an overwhelming overall-sound.

 

What are your most and least favorite things about being a handpan builder?


Most favorite: Coming into the workshop in the morning.

Least favorite: Answering questions like this specific one in the evening time! 😆


 


 

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring handpan makers?

The quality level we are expecting today from a (good) pan or even as a standard is extremely high nowadays. That's great, but, even if you are the right person, it would take you years of full-time dedication, to get anywhere near this.

My best advice for people thinking about trying to hammer: Don't! Just don't. Pans are easily available nowadays. Take the money and invest it into 3 top-shelf pans instead of tools and machinery. Take the easy route. Learning to hammer takes years and to achieve top-shelf results as we know them today takes even more years.

If you insist, ask a good tuner for some taster lessons before starting anything consuming time and money (you can get a glimpse, but just like learning how to swim or ride a bicycle, you'll have to internalize it and develop it yourself in the end).

Here personally, of all applicants, I adopted 3 serious students over all the years. One of them is building fine handpans in France today. All others don't.


 


 

If you could only play one handpan scale for the rest of your life what would it be and why?


Two options:

1. The instrument I just built: A2 natural-minor (just for it's Ding).

2. My old Akebono Hang.


 

Do you take custom orders?


Yes.


 

Do you have instruments currently available to purchase?


Yes.


 

Do you have a waiting list? If so how long?


Yes, currently it's 2-3 months.


 

For more information about Owl-Pan Sound Sculptures:


 

Looking to buy your first handpan? We've got you covered! Planet Handpan partners with the world's best handpan makers to get you an instrument you're sure to love. Every builder, every sound model, and every instrument is individually selected by us to guarantee you end up with a handpan that is truly the best of the best.


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