Double Second Pan

Another pan that occupies a place of importance in the pan family is the Second Pan. This single pan was introduced to provide accompaniment to the First Pan and was named Second Pan by pioneer steel bandsmen of the era. One must understand that the people involved in the naming of these instruments had no formal musical training. Pan names were influenced by the colloquial musical expressions of the local pan community.

The name Second Pan meant the second primary voice in the family to be introduced and developed (coming after the First Pan.) Second also referred to the harmony of the second pan (i.e. the root, third, fifth, seventh, etc. of a chord or combination thereof) that accompanied the melody of the First Pan. Simply put, the Second Pan played the second part of the musical arrangement.

The Second Pan also had another set of names. It was called the Alto Pong at the time when names like Soprano Pong and Ping Pong surfaced. All these names eventually filtered down to Second Pan as the accepted title.

The Second Pan gained popularity rapidly in steel bands. During the forties, many steel bands could be identified by the unique way in which they played their Second Pans. The Casablanca Steel Band was among the first to place and emphasis on playing the Second Pan.

When the performance of classical music gained popularity and importance with the steel pan community, the range and tonal quality of the Second Pan came under close scrutiny. Pan tuners and enthusiasts embarked upon an experimental mission to improve the range of the Second Pan. At one time, the focus on improving the design of the pan to include the full chromatic scale led to welding two drums together. The welding of the drums was short-lived but the idea of two pans instead of one remained.

During the late fifties, the Invaders Steel Band, led by steel pan innovator Elliot “Ellie” Mannette became the first band to introduce the modern Double Second. The addition of the second pan made it possible to have more area available for adding larger (lower) notes. Each pan held six notes and their octaves with a whole tone scale (augmented chord) on each pan, one half-step apart from each other. When played in combination they produced the full chromatic scale needed for performing all types of music in any key. Ellie built his Double Second Pan from low E3. Some builders used F3 or F#3 as the lowest note. Today, most Double Second Pans are built from F#3 simply because it is easier to tune than the low E or F. During the fifties at Carnival time the steel pan community saw for the first time the present day modern Double Second introduced by Ellie Mannette and the Invaders playing tunes like Lieberstraum, Melody in F and a calypso piece by the name Michael sung by the famous Lord Melody. This period ushered in a few new innovations. In addition to the first pair of Double Seconds, the Double Guitar pans made their debut. Both the Double Second and the Double Guitar became the standard for all such pans during the ensuing years. They were chromatically tuned.

The Double Seconds at that time ranged from E3 to F5. (Today’s Double Second has a more extensive range with notes up to C#6.) These pans were designed to accommodate playing with both hands on separate pans simultaneously. The two pans were tuned one half step from each other with each drum containing eight notes on the outside of the drum and three notes in the center of the drum. With the new Double Second design, the player could run the chromatic scale by simply alternating hands between each pan for the notes. Of course, nobody in the band knew how these pans were going to be played on the road. They could not be held with a strap around the neck like a single pan. This was a mystery until the very morning the Double Second premiered on the road. Ellie Mannette brought out a stand with wheels for the Double Second and the first “pushers” were rounded up to move the pan while the player performed.

Other sticking patterns emerged in addition to the chromatic scale when playing the Double Second. Three of the unique patterns were for the major, natural minor and whole tone scales. The major scale always had the first three notes appear on the pan where the scale began, the next four notes on the opposite pan, returning to the beginning pan for the final note. Therefore, simple major triads or chords had the root and third on one pan and the fifth on the opposite pan. The natural minor scale had the first two notes on the pan where the scale began, three notes on the opposite pan, returning to the beginning pan for the final three notes. Speaking in terms of triads or chords, the root was found on the beginning pan and the minor third and fifth on the opposite pan. The whole tone scale simply played on one pan from lowest to highest note or from whatever note chosen to begin. Diminished chords alternated between pans and augmented chords were all within one pan.

The Double Second Pan replaced what in retrospect is now called the Single Second Pan. Presently, although designed to be a rhythmic strum instrument, the Double Second has become the first choice of many leading pan soloists because of its flawless and user friendly configuration as well as its range and tonal quality.