Frequently Asked Questions

About the Halo

What is a Halo? What is a Genesis, Cirrus, and Stratus?

The Halo is a precisely tuned, resonant metal instrument made of nitrided steel, designed to be played with the hands while it sits in the player’s lap.

The Halo is intended to be subtle, responsive, and expressive. A Halo should reveal itself in proportion to a player’s growing skill. It has no “wrong notes” and lends iteself to improvisation and meditative exploration.

The Halo was created by Kyle Cox and Jim Dusin of Pantheon Steel, and evolved almost two years before its public debut. It was inspired by myriad contemporary instruments, notably the steelpans of Trinidad which were Pantheon’s first business, and by a famous evolutionary and revolutionary sound sculpture invented in Switzerland. (While we would prefer to express our gratitude and debt to its creators, they have requested we not mention them or their creation by name, and we defer to that request.)

The latter sculpture demonstrated a new instrument form, made by extending the steelpan to encompass a tuned, ported, resonant space, and carefully controlling materials, form, tone field shape and orientation, and tuning process. For lack of a better term, we call this new form (and the Halo) a “handpan.”

The Batch One Halo was Pantheon Steel’s first exploration of the possibilities of the handpan. It is an evolving expression of our own interests and capabilities in instrument making, within the possibilities revealed by the handpan form.

We intend the Halo to offer its own unique voice to a growing family of hand-played metal instruments. The Halo has a different timbre than other handpans (or sound scupture), a different feel under the hands, and a deeper range.

The Halo Stratus, introduced in February 2011 of our Batch Two offering, is a sibling instrument to the Halo made with a higher register. The Halo Stratus has center notes of F# and G.

Where the Halo was a baritone, the Stratus is an alto, a higher-voiced instrument with a similar timbre, that can be played on its own or compliment Halos with center notes of B and C respectively.

The Halo Cirrus, introduced in late 2011, is a third sibling in a middle register. The Halo Cirrus has center notes of Eb and E, adding a tenor voice to the family.

In 2014, Pantheon introduced the Halo AG.  The AG, just as its predecessor, encompasses the Genesis, Cirrus and Stratus voices, but is smaller and tuned in different keys allowing for more sonic variety.

Does the Halo come in different colors or finishes? Can I paint it?

Currently, no.

The color is a natural heat oxidation sealed with non-toxic, earth-friendly oil. There is no finish other than the oil.

Painting is strongly discouraged. Unlike other steel instruments, such as steel tongue drums, the timbre and sustain of the Halo are a function of its comparatively thin steel and specific finishing. Painting a Halo would result in a quite possibly undesirable change of timbre, and may affect the life of the instrument.

Does a Halo have a serial number inscribed on it?

Yes, there is serial number etched in each Halo.

What sound models (tunings) are currently available for the Halo?

Please visit the Models page of our website for the currently offered sound models (tunings).

Some of my favorite tunings (or moods) weren’t available in the last Batch!

We are constantly exploring which sound models work best on the instrument, and will together provide a range of moods, colors, and where possible, keys. These new sound models will be offered when we can, as we can. Stay tuned; the way we offer tunings for each Batch will likely continue to evolve!

Can I get a custom tuning? What if it is only one note different from one you offer?

Custom sound models are not offered currently.

I chose a tuning but now that I have it, I wish I would have chosen a different one. Can I trade in my Halo, while it’s still in pristine condition?

Yes, but only immediately. We understand that it is difficult to tell which sound model will “speak” to you, and the importance that such a major purchase be one you are completely at peace with.

However, you have to pay the shipping to return your current Halo, and for its replacement; and you may have to wait for your replacement to become available.

To minimize the chance of this happening, please listen carefully to available recordings of the tunings you are considering, and you can try our virtual Halo player here on our website. Obviously, there is no substitute for playing a tuning yourself, but this is the best we can do otherwise.

Halos that have been owned more than a month cannot necessarily be returned, though we do try to work with owners to find solutions on a case by case basis.

What accessories are available for the Halo?

A backpack-style Evatek case by Hardcase Technologies, is the primary accessory available, as well as care and cleaning products. See our web store page for details.

Every Halo ships with a free Evatek and Care Kit.

Will there be more accessories available for the Halo?

Yes, over time we anticipate adding more accessories. Please join our waiting/mailing list to be notified when new accessories are added.

Will affixing an ID plate to a Halo, or inscribing it, change the sound?

Yes, and certainly for the worse! Do NOT affix to or scribe anything on your Halo.

Could strap mounts be welded to the Halo for use as a portable instrument hung around the neck?

No, the Halo is designed to be played either on the lap or on a stand.

Do NOT weld or expose any other form of intense heat upon your Halo!

Playing the Halo

Do I need any musical background or music theory to play a Halo?

No! Certainly not.

The Halo is intended to be an instrument for everybody, young or old, musician or novice.

It is designed to be playable on first encounter by anyone. One of the gifts we hope the Halo gives is the ability to make music, even for those who do not think of themselves as musicians.

That said, certain tunings are naturally more “forgiving” than others, in the sense that every note is definitely always welcome, while others contain more internal dissonance. ALL are intended to support free improvisation without risk of a “wrong note”, but comfort levels will vary by player. This is not question of musical training or theory, simply of personal taste and intuition.

But as of the time of writing, all of our turnings were chosen because they lend themselves to free exploration and discovery, without the risk of a “wrong” note; the differences between our different tunings are more a matter of mood than “difficulty.”

The Halo is however also designed to respond readily to the subtleties of an experienced player – to be “deep” in other words.

Where are the notes on the Halo?

The Halo’s lowest note is played on its central dome, and seven or eight notes are tuned into the “sound fields” that create the Halo’s “tone circle.”

Tones are arranged in an ascending pattern, alternating (“zigzagging”) from one side of the instrument to the other.

There is no “correct” orientation of the Halo, and in fact the player is encouraged to rotate it to find the possibilities implied by all orientations.

By convention, however, the “home” position of the instrument is with the lowest tone closest to the player.

How do you play Halo?

With the fingers! We call the Halo a “hand” pan for a reason… 🙂

Each player will find their own relationship to the Halo, but here are some basics if you haven’t played one before.

The Halo is not a drum; it should NOT be played with mallets or beaters.

It is not beaten with the hands, either, but touched, tapped, stroked, and gently thumped.

The basic technique is to tap with the tip of the finger (or side of the thumb) on one of the sound fields or the central dome. A quick, light touch, with the finger in contact with the instrument as briefly as possible (as if testing whether a surface is hot) will generally produce the clearest tone.

The sound fields can be played both within the dimple (in each sound field’s center), or around their flat surface.

The Halo is made to be very expressive. Different finger or hand techniques, applied from a different direction, to a different part of the sound fields, will bring out different timbres. For example, a note can be made to peal clearly, or rung with different harmonic emphasis; or it can be muted with “after touch” (such as allowing the finger or hand to rest lightly on the surface after the note is played).

The best place to learn how different players approach the Halo is to study videos online, both of the Halo, and of other handpans or sound sculpture.

Does a Halo play the same way as other handpans? Does a Halo require a hard touch?

The Halo is not a drum. It takes only a light touch.

Generally speaking, the Halo feels very “alive”. It responds best to a light and subtle touch, but can handle being played aggressively.

Should I, or can I, wear gloves when playing a Halo?

Wearing gloves can protect the Halo from any corrosive material on your hands, and slightly changes the sound in a way that may be desirable to you at times. There is certainly no harm wearing soft gloves.

Is there any ways to prepare to be a good player before receiving a Halo? Are there basic techniques that I can use to prepare to play, assuming I don’t have access to one?

The first thing to know is that regardless of your technique, when you first meet your Halo, you should let it speak to you. The Halo will show you the way 😉

But there is certainly a place for good technique. Our best advice is to work on finger and hand independence. Accurate control of your thumb, first, and middle fingers will be most important.

A good goal is to be able to alternate between your fingers and hands as evenly as possible, and to have a good balance between your two sides. It is common to favor your “dominant” hand and being able to switch sides fluidly will give you a real head start.

Practice playing alternating patterns (such as left, right, left right; and, left, left, right, right).Try first to get the pattern as even as possible, then later, try being able to reliably emphasize one and then more than one of the “beats” regardless of what hand it falls on.

Always start slowly and try to perfect yourself at a slow speed before going faster. Build speed without impatience as you are able, and learn to increase and decrease your speed fluidly.

Learning polyrhythms is a great next step beyond that; many players use “three on two” rhythms as a basic part of their playing.

Are there enthusiast web sites where I can I find tips on playing and other discussion about the Halo?

The most popular forum for discussing the Halo currently is Handpan.org.

There are a numerous forums pertaining to the the sound sculpture that inspired the Halo’s creation, which have lively discussion of all aspects of that sculpture Many of these discussions, especially on playing technique, will also pertain to the Halo.

As the number of Halo players grows, other forums will no doubt spring up specific to the Halo, and others related instruments.

At some point we may host our own Halo forum as well!

Are there any teachers or lesson books for playing the Halo?

We expect that most people will find that the Halo is an instrument that responds well and rewards their own exploration and experimentation, and a result formal training will never likely be a large role for most Halo players.

There are, however, many fine percussion teachers, and some teachers who specialize in the sound sculpture that inspired the Halo, who have found their own way with the Halo, and can help deepen your own musicianship.

In our own experience, the best way to learn to be a better player (on any instrument) is to find or make community with other players. Especially with those from whom you have much to learn. 🙂

I want to try playing my Halo with mallets or felt beaters, will this damage it?

Hands only please! And gently, the Halo is not a drum.

We do not recommend using any type of mallet or beater, as this may detune the instrument.

Would Pantheon Steel consider hosting a forum where Halo owners can network, share ideas, trade recordings, announce concerts, classes, and get-togethers, and the like?

That need is already very well filled by the Halo Forum at Handpan.org, where we maintain an official presence, but we also have a Facebook page.

Would Pantheon Steel consider sponsoring a get-together every year or two in Farmington for all Halo owners?

Yes, in 2015 this is something we pursued in conjunction with Todd Garlow of Handpangea.  It was a wonderful event and we plan to do something similar in the future!

It was nice to hear concerts, attend technique workshops, technical discussions about tuning and acoustics, etc. and so on, with other handpan players and makers and of course enjoy the comradery within the community.

Halo Shipment, Delivery and Packaging

How is the Halo shipped? How big is the box?

We use UPS within the United States, and the US Postal Service for international shipping (except for Canada and Australia).

Expedited shipping is available for a surcharge for both domestic and international customers; inquire with us for current rates when your Halo is next in line.

The Halo ships in a reusable reinforced custom carboard box measuring 27″ x 27″ x 13″ for Halo 22″ and 27″ x 27″ x 14″ for Halo 23″.  Please keep the box for future use!

Every Halo ships insured by Pantheon Steel unless you explicitly request otherwise.

What sort of protection will the Halo come with when shipped?

Your new Halo will be placed inside an Evatek case and shipped in a carefully prepared strong reusable cardboard box.

Please keep this box for use when shipping your Halo back to us for tuning or repair work.

Is shipping included in the Halo’s purchase price?

For Batch One, shipping was free to many destinations except unusually expensive shipping destinations (such as Australia, Taiwan, and a small number of other remote locations) in the purchase price of the Halo, as a special thank you to our first customers for taking a chance on us.

Shipping for Batch Two – Batch Four was charged shipping.

In the future, we are planning to once again include shipping with the purchase from of the Halo.

How will international shipments be marked for customs and duty purposes?

It will listed as a sale and international customers will be responsible for any and all customs or import taxes/duties.

However, often duty is charged on the insured value of the instrument. At your request we can ship your instrument uninsured, but if we do so you undertake all risk yourself. We will not replace (or freely repair) instruments damaged in shipment which are not insured.

What are the dimensions of the Travel Hard Case? I am wondering about traveling on airlines with specific restrictions.

The outer dimensions of our Evatek Medium (which fits the Halo 22″) are: 59.60 cm wide by 31.60 cm tall or 23.50″ wide by 12.40″ tall.

The outer dimensions of our Evatek Large (which fits the Halo 23″) are:  66 cm wide by 34 cm tall or 26″ wide by 13.40″ tall.

 

How much should I insure the Halo for when shipping it?

We recommend insuring it for what you paid for it! 🙂

Amplifying and Recording the Halo

Is a pickup, custom microphone, or other transducer for amplification or feeding the Halo for direct recording available?

Not at this time. We believe that the Halo is first and foremost an experience, not an instrument.

More pragmatically, the Halo (like a cello for example) is an acoustic instrument with a resonance and large surface area that have a sound profile that can only be captured by microphones at some distance.

If you do use a piezeoelectric microphone or other method to record or amplify a Halo, be sure not to damage or deform the surface!

Finally, note that attaching anything to the top surface in particular may also have detrimental effects on the sound and feel of the instrument during play.

Does the Halo come with a microphone insert hole, or can they be specified with one?

No.

Do you have any microphone recommendations for recording the Halo?

Recording subtle live instruments such as the Halo is an art as much as a science, and we recommend you seek the advice and expertise of local talent.

Microphone positioning is arguably more important that microphone choice! That said, and though we are not experts in recording, but we would generally recommend condenser microphones for low noise and wide frequency response.

Acquiring a Halo

How do I get a Halo? How long after I express interest can I expect to get one?

To get a Halo, you must successfully participate in one of our lotteries or be successful in purchasing one via our infrequent online flash sales.

We do not have nor plan to have any distribution or wholesale arrangements.

There is and will be a long waiting list for a Halo for the foreseeable future. Demand far exceeds our ability to make instruments.

In order to get a Halo, sign up on our official mailing list via box labeled ‘Join Halo Waiting & E-Info List’ here on our website.

Once you’re on the list, you’ll be notified when we take a ‘batch’ of orders.

All you need to do to participate is to follow the simple instructions we provide.

Our lottery process does not require that you be sitting at a computer at a specific hour and day.

Details will be sent to the Waiting/E-Info List.

You must be on the waiting list to participate in future lotteries.

How much does a Halo cost?

Heh, that IS the question!

Special introductory pricing for Batch One Halos was $1500 USD, which included free shipping to most destinations worldwide, and a choice of free Soft Bag or Halo Stand, as a thank you to customers who believed in us and put up a deposit long in advance of receiving their instrument.

Batch Two Halos cost $1800 USD, which includes a Soft Bag; shipping costs depend on destination.

Beginning in Batch Three and Four, we turned the entire lottery process upside down by instituting a sliding scale in which people named their price.  After a series of mindful calculations we determined who would be able to purchase a Halo.  This process allowed us to sell Halos from as low as $130 all the way to $10,000.  The average price settled at approximately $3000.

This process may or may not be used for New Era Halos.

What are the steps in getting a Halo? When can I get on the “production list” to get one?

Your first step on the path to get a Halo is to sign up for our Waiting List using the sign up box at the bottom of this page.

Everyone on our waiting list will be notified when a “batch” of Halos is going to be made available. Currently, we hope this will be more frequent than it ever has been.

Starting with Batch Two, orders were accepted by lottery. Everyone on our wait list has had the chance to get on the production list every time we have held a lottery. Only people on our waiting list are eligible to participate in our lotteries.

Email announcements will be sent prior to us opening the lottery so you have plenty of time to participate in our process. The lottery process does NOT require you to be at a computer at a specific hour and day.

We have run our lotteries differently each time.  Stay tuned to our communications for the latest lottery processes.

Is a down payment required?

No.

For our first batch of Halos, we took deposits, but based on our experience with that process, we are revising our policy so that this is no longer necessary.

We are deeply grateful to our first pioneer customers, who put up a deposit on a brand new instrument, and in a very real way made the Halo possible at all. All of you directly contributed to the Halo’s success so far and we hope you are proud of that fact.

What happens if I put down a deposit, but don’t have the balance due when offered an instrument? Is there a grace period to pay that amount?

This only affected customers for our first production batch, as for subsequent batches deposits are not being collected.

Say I just bought a Halo. If I want a second Halo, do I have to get back into line again?

No, you are automatically re-enrolled and remain on our mailing list. You are eligible to participate in future batch lotteries.

I have a lovely/unique/hand-made _________, would you consider trading it for a Halo?

Unfortunately, we can’t accept instruments, artwork, or other barter in exchange for a Halo.

When our steel provider and bank begins accepting barter as well, we will be quite happy to change our policy!

Do you have a purchase agreement or policy about second-hand Halo sales? Do you mind if I sell my Halo?

No. We do not have a purchase agreement or formal policy about second-hand sales.

That said, we DO ask and prefer that you give us the option to purchase your Halo back from you at your original purchase price (if the purchase originated with us) if you choose to sell it. That will help us make sure that your instrument is in tip-top shape before it goes to its next home, and it will in a small way keep our waiting time as short as possible.

We would also prefer that if you do sell it to someone other than us, that you not sell a Halo on eBay, but instead, offer it within a community forum of people who love these instruments at the price you originally paid.

How can I find my position on the wait list, and my predicted delivery date?

Because we do not have a conventional waiting list, joining our mailing/waiting list does not guarantee that you will ever receive an instrument. You must participate in our batch lotteries to get on a production list for a Halo.

If you win the lottery and acquire a position in a production batch, you will receive clear notification.

Once confirmed that you are on a production list, we will not contact you until we have a Halo ready for you. We do not make estimated delivery dates because of variabilities in the process.

If we have any questions or comments about your tuning or accessory choices, need information from you, or have special opportunities for you, rest assured, you will be contacted!  🙂

If you move, are going to be out of contact for an extended period, or do need to contact us, do not hesitate to write us, of course, but be aware that because of the volume of email we receive, there may be a delay before we reply.

Occasionally, we offer flash sales on our website for immediate Halo purchases.  Keep your eyes on our webstore for these opportunities as they will come sporadically and infrequently.

Is there a warranty on the Halo?

Generally speaking, we are on the honor system.

If there is a problem with your instrument that you were not expecting, or you are not happy for some reason with your Halo, we will attempt to “make it right” – up to refunding your money if necessary.

The main reason we do not have an official warranty as such however is that the Halo is not a complex machine with moving, breakable parts!

If it is well-treated, it should need only infrequent recoating with oil to protect its surface, and occasional tune-up to keep in perfect tune.

Damage from accidents is another matter, of course, and would not be covered by a normal warranty. But we hope that your Halo will never have an accident!

Can I add pay in advance, while I wait for my Halo to be ready?

No. We do not accept money before your Halo is ready.

Will you have interest-free financing for musicians with excellent credit?

Regrettably, we do not have the capability of offering financing.

Will there be tiered pricing, either between instruments, or to accommodate lower-income purchasers?

We have sold Halos for fixed and variable prices.  Please stay tuned to our communications to learn what procedure we will use next.

Is it possible to visit Pantheon Steel to choose a Halo in person? How can I arrange that?

Pantheon Steel is located in Farmington, Missouri, about an hour south of St. Louis. As your turn approaches, we will be in touch, and the possibility of a hand pickup can be discussed at that point, but it is not possible to arrive unannounced and expect to pick out and purchase a Halo.

Will the Halo ever be available wholesale or in retails stores? Can I carry it in my store?

No.

The Halo is a hand-made craft instrument and demand far exceeds our ability to make them.

Halo Care, Maintenance, and Repair

How much does Halo tuning or repair cost?

A standard tune-up costs $150 USD, plus all shipping charges.

 

Repair costs depend on the severity of damage, but simple repairs may qualify as tune-ups.

What are the effects of temperature on tuning of the Halo, and what is the recommended temperature range to maintain optimal tuning?

A good rule of thumb is that if you’re not comfortable in certain climates, neither is your Halo.

Room temperature is optimal, but we understand that isn’t always possible. Try at all costs to avoid extreme and high and low temperatures.

Try to keep the Halo out of direct sunlight, especially while playing, as the heat will temporarily detune your instrument.

What is the best way to store a Halo when it is not being played?

It is best to keep the Halo out of direct sunlight, especially while playing it; differences in temperature on the surface can temporarily detune your Halo. (It will return to proper tuning when it cools!)

We recommend that you baby your Halo. Store it in a safe place away from unruly children, large pets, or randomly falling objects.

It is recommended that you keep the Halo in its soft gig bag or hard case to prevent dust or undue humidity.

To combat humidity we recommend placing a packet of desiccant (such as a Moisture Eater) in the bag with your Halo.

We currently recommend that the bag be left OPEN to prevent moisture from being trapped in the bag with the instrument.

Will the Halo rust?

Nitrided steel is corrosion-resistant, but not corrosion-proof. Please be sure to keep your Halo as dry as possible at all times and wipe it down with your included microfiber cloth frequently.

We also recommend that you make sure to keep your Halo well protected by our included Seal1. Only apply as frequently as needed.  Too much will dampen the sound.

To combat humidity we recommend placing a packet of desiccant (such as the Moisture Eater) in the bag with your Halo when it is closed.

We currently recommend leaving the bag OPEN (unzipped) to prevent moisture from being trapped inside.

Should the Halo be treated with rust inhibitors or other protective coating? If so, what is recommended?

Currently the Halo ships with a care kit made especially for use with it.

For daily cleaning, use only the included dry untreated microfibre cloth.

Very infrequently, use the included Seal1 rust inhibitor for surface treatment. This should only be needed periodically.

Every time your Halo visits us it will of course be checked and retreated if necessary.

To combat humidity we recommend placing a packet of desiccant (or rechargeable Moisture Eater) in the bag with your Halo.  If using a Moisture Eater or other rechargeable desiccants, please remember to frequently expel the moisture in order to avoid corrosion!

How much will it cost to ship a Halo to you internationally?

Return shipping from us depends on destination. Canada costs $100 USD, most of Europe $150 USD, Japan $175 USD, New Zealand $200 USD, and some other destinations can cost as much as $400 USD.

Contact your preferred shipper for a quote when sending a Halo to us.

Be sure to write “FOR REPAIR” on the box when send a Halo back to us, both to avoid duties, and so we know why it is arriving and can attend to it as quickly as possible.

What could happen if I drop my Halo from lap height?

You might get lucky, but let’s try not to find out! Almost all repairs we have done on Halos are from damage from falling (or objects falling ON the Halo).

Assume your Halo will be damaged if dropped from that height. Please be careful!

How long would you expect a Halo to remain in a reasonably playable condition with careful handling?

Many factors go into what causes an instrument such as this to either stay in or go out of tune. So far, Halos seem to be staying in tune quite well.

We do however recommend tuning at least every few years.

Of course, your Halo will not be harmed if you wait longer than that! The concern is not damage, but rather that we are perfectionists and ideally would like all Halos to always be in tip-top condition. We want to emphasize that we are not looking to make money on this plan. It’s simply put forth for the well-being of the instrument.

Also, the longer you wait to have your Halo tuned, the more work it may require, and thus the tuning fees may be higher.

How can I tell when my Halo requires tuning? Are there any obvious signs that it needs attention?

The most obvious sign is if your Halo starts to sound “off” compared to other fixed pitch instruments like electronic keyboards or other instruments, which do not go out of tune.

A more subtle sign may be that notes that originally pealed clearly now sound “dull” or muted.

If my Halo sounds fine to me, should I still get it tuned every year?

If it still plays well with fixed pitch instruments, then you should be fine.  You can also make and email a quality recording (mp3 or youtube video) playing each note very slowly so we can reference it with Linotune.

What’s involved in the tuning or retuning process, anyway?

Very strategic hammering, the use of a strobe tuning app called Linotune, well-trained ears and years of experience!

Tuning is an art, guided by hard science. There is no substitute for long experience putting a hammer to steel.

What should I do if my Halo is damaged? Can I fix a dent myself?

If your Halo is dented or dinged, it should be returned to us, or another well-qualified artisan, for repair.

In the unhappy case that this is necessary, please call us, or email us with the words Halo REPAIR in the subject line of your message, for instructions on how to get your Halo repaired as soon as possible.

Please do not try to perform any repairs yourself! It would be all too easy to make things worse even with the best intentions.

The tuning and timbre of a Halo depends on very careful balancing of stresses within the steel surface, and repairing damage is (like tuning) a specialized skill.

Can I intentionally create a dent without damaging the sound quality, for example, to make it settle firmly on a rack or custom stand?

No!

Do not alter the instrument in any way whatsoever, especially the top playing surface!

The tuning and timbre of a Halo depends on very careful balancing of stresses within the steel surface.

Would a Halo be covered by musicians’ insurance or general household or renters’ policies?

We are not insurance agents so please speak with yours for reliable information!

Our unprofessional and unreliable opinion is that we can think of no reason you should not in principal be able to add the Halo to a current policy, but that will no doubt vary by jurisdiction, insurer, and policy.

Want to own a Halo? Join the waiting list and get more information about this unique handpan, its makers and its players.

0