Only a few instruments are common in electronic form, with the most popular example being electronic drum sets and pianos. Unlike an electric guitar or violin, which produce an analog electric signal for direct amplification, an electronic drum set produces entirely synthetic sounds or samples. Electronic drum pads are simply triggers — glorified buttons. They do not amplify the actual sound of the drum stick hitting the pad. Not many instruments are purely electronic in this way, but a lot of them could be. Turi Scandurra took that to heart when they built this lo-fi electronic handpan called Dodepan.
The handpan is a variation of the traditional steelpan, which most people associate with Caribbean music. It is a percussive instrument made of two hemispherical metal halves joined together. Indentations of various sizes create different sounds when struck with the hand or a mallet. While handpans produce very pleasing sounds, they're large and heavy. By using the same operating principles in electronic form, Dodepan brings the bright tones of a handpan into a small, portable package. Dodepan is small enough to fit in the pocket of cargo shorts, which makes it perfect for bringing chill vibes to island time.
Because Dodepan is electronic, it is possible to build it in different forms. One can create a Dodepan with a shape similar to a traditional handpan, or get creative and build something more unique. The hardware components make this possible. Those include a Raspberry Pi Pico development board, a MPU-6050 IMU, an MPR121 capacitive touch module, a TP4056 charging module, a lithium battery, LEDs, momentary switches, potentiometers, and a PAM8403D amplifier.
Musicians can play a Dodepan by tapping the capacitive touch sensor pads. The IMU detects the force of each tap, which provides velocity data for the MIDI generation. The built-in gyroscope detects orientation, which allows for pitch bending. Other adjustments, like volume and scale, can be made with the potentiometers and switches. Power comes from the lithium battery and the Pico outputs audio through PWM (pulse width modulation) to the amplifier. PWM can't produce a nice analog wave form like a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) can, so the sound is very lo-fi. Thatsound pumps out through the Dodepan's speaker or headphone jack.
Even though Dodepan is lo-fi, it still sounds quite good. It provides an affordable and accessible way for musicians to dabble with handpan music and its portability makes it easy to carry.