Tenor Bass and Bass

The Bass Pan is responsible for providing the exact pulse, rhythm and tempo for the band. With the first beating of metal in the early forties, two main voices emerged. One of them was the Bass or Boom or Kettle Drum. Keep in mind that there were no melody pans at the time and the band or group of revelers depended solely on the rhythm and their voices for musical direction.

The Boom was the largest pan of the era and was usually made from an empty Bermudez Biscuit container that measured approximately 18” in diameter and was 18” high. This Boom Pan was played with a folded fist wrapped in a towel and was the first instrument to be carried on a strap around the neck (long before the First Pan.) As stated, this Boom or Bass voice supplied the main and syncopated beats of the band.

In the following years this pan was modified and became known as the Tune Boom. The word “tune” meaning it had actual tuned notes. At first, the Tune Boom had two notes, then three and even four at one time) The Tune Boom eventually settled with three notes and was made of a caustic soda drum that was a little wider and taller than the Boom.

During the age of innovation for the pan, the Boom and Tune Boom evolved too. They began to be made from 55 gallon barrels. A second drum was added and the Double Bass was born. Just as with the Guitar and Cello, the Boom and Tune Boom and intertwined development while sharing the same role in the pan band. The Bass evolved into three, four, five, six, seven, nine, and twelve pans in a set. The Tune Boom became the modern Tenor Bass. The Five Bass was introduced by Phillmore “Boots” Davidson on Syncopaters Steel Band, Quarry Street. It was further refined and developed chromatically by Elliot “Ellie” Mannette of the Woodbrook Invaders who later became the Shell Invaders.

Both the Tenor Bass and the Bass became fully chromatic instruments. The Tenor Bass provides the fourth primary voice in the steel pan orchestra and is arranged into four pans, each with an augmented chord pattern with a range from F2 through C4. The Bass, the fifth and lowest of the primary voices in the steel pan orchestra, is patterned in 4ths or 5ths. The range varies but is usually from either Bb2 to Eb4 or B2 to E4 (sometimes even as low as A2 to D4.)