The pan flute instrument is based on the closed tube principle which consists of many pipes stacked together to form one singular unit. It is commonly known in folk music but originates from South America, where ancient Amazonic tribes made the instrument from bamboo to provide melodies to their traditional tribal songs. The instrument is named after Pan the Greek god of nature and shepherds. There are many visual references to the pan flute in ancient Greek mythology. Despite its ancient origins, the pan flute is commonly found in contemporary ensembles and bands.
But what are the best pan flutes currently available to purchase? This review article hopes to give some insight to help you in the purchasing process. Buying a pan flute can seem complicated if you have never bought one before. This article considers wood quality, shape, tuning and accessories as some of the important factors you should consider before purchasing the best pan flute to suit your musical needs. You must take time to research to maximize your chances of getting a great value instrument.
Top 5 Pan Flutes Review 2020
This article uses a mixture of manufacturer websites and customer reviews to give you a well-rounded view of the best products and purchasing process. The article starts with a comparison table of the reviewed products. This is followed by in-depth product reviews which contain key features, pros/cons and product description. After the reviews come the buying guide, brief FAQ section, and then the conclusion ranks the top three best pan flutes.
Peru Treasure Pan Flute Antara – Editor’s Choice
- Pipes: 22
- Key: C
- Shape: straight
- Material: bamboo
More features: handmade, right-hand instrument, soft case included
The Peru Treasure Pan Flute Antara is a small, portable pan flute that gives consumers one of the best value options when purchasing a pan flute. Constructed with 22 pipes courtesy of Nazca Designs, this pipe is renowned for its compact size, covering only 6.5 inches in width, 6.25 inches in length. The shortest pipe on the instrument measures at 2 inches.
One of the best features of the Peru Treasure Pan Flute Antara is that it is very easy to play. The instrument is designed with the beginner in mind. With purchase, comes a manual to help you navigate the instrument. With the help of this manual, any beginner player will be able to quickly learn the ropes and master the pan flute in no time at all. The Peru Treasure Pan Flute Antara is tuned to E minor, but if you prefer another key you can manually change it by using a pen or a pencil.
This beautiful Peruvian instrument is wonderfully authentic. Any beginner can soon play the Inca sounds that are so famous and familiar to Peru. The sound quality is assured due to hand-crafted construction. The Peru Treasure Pan Flute Antara is certainly not a mass-produced production line instrument. You will notice the remarkable attention to detail in the product design which also allows the instrument to be very durable.
The Peru Treasure Pan Flute Antara is great value for money instrument. The instrument also comes with a carry case which allows you to easily transport the instrument to practices, concerts or on your travels. The Peru Treasure Pan Flute Antara is the perfect instrument to take with you on holiday due to its small size.
- Straightforward to play
- Handcrafted to assure great sound quality
- Nice carry case included
- Slightly expensive for a beginner instrument.
Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes – Best Curved Pan Flute
- Pipes: 25
- Key: C
- Shape: curved
- Material: bamboo
More features: right and left-handed options, brown finish
The Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes is a high-quality pan flute that delivers an authentic tonal quality. Constructed from bamboo, these pipes are heavily associated with traditional Chinese music giving you the chance to engage with a unique music style. Like other pan flutes, the Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes should not be that difficult to learn. That said, beginners may find this instrument more difficult to play than other pan flutes.
The Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes has 25 pipes in total and is constructed with a curved-shape design. The brown finish gives a sense of a premium quality instrument, that many advanced or experienced players look for. The instrument comes in the C key, making it very compatible with the majority of other orchestral instruments.
The tuning of the instrument may be a slight issue as it is not easy to re-tune. Although you can try to manually alter the tuning, it may be best to seek expert assistance in case the instrument does fall out of tune which can present an inconvenience.
One of the best features of the Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes is that the instrument is available in both left-handed or right-handed versions. This gives players fantastic flexibility, especially as many other pan flute brands are unable to cater for the playing needs of left-handed players. The Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes delivers great quality, authentic sound that encapsulates traditional Chinese tonal character.
- Compatible with both left-handed and right-handed players
- Authentic sound
- Slick brown finish
- Difficult to play
- Not easy to manually tune
Ramos Professional Zampoña – Best Professional Pan Flute
- Pipes: 13
- Key: E minor
- Shape: straight
- Material: bamboo
More features: soft case included, 11.25-inch longest pipe size, tuned
The Ramos Professional Zampoña is beautiful looking pan flute that contains a high-quality product design, making it suitable for professional pan flute players. Compared to other pan flutes, the Ramos Professional Zampoña has significantly fewer pipes with only 13. The longest pipe measures at 11.25 inches which enables a deeper tonal character than other pan flutes.
Constructed from bamboo, the Ramos Professional Zampoña sticks to classic pan flute design. The slick finish makes it highly desirable. The instrument is very authentic to the traditional Peruvian instrument, while also offering modern elements to bring the sound quality to the next level. Each pipe is handmade and individually tuned. This provides an amazing tonal range giving players access to high and low notes.
This pan flute is called Zampoña because it originates from one of the indigenous Amazonian tribes. Playing the Ramos Professional Zampoña is not just a standard musical experience but also an interesting engagement with a unique indigenous culture. Despite being a professional standard instrument, the Ramos Professional Zampoña remains reasonably priced. Those who are looking for a cheap pan flute for casual entertainment will probably be put off by the price.
The Ramos Professional Zampoña also comes with a carry case making it very easy to transport the instrument to gigs and practices. The bamboo construction means that pan flutes such as the Ramos Professional Zampoña are vulnerable to breaking. The carry case ensures the instrument will be protected during transportation.
- Neat construction.
- Excellent finish.
- High-quality sound and tone.
- Professional standard instrument.
- Limited range of notes.
Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) – Best for Left-Handed
- Pipes: 18
- Key: F
- Shape: curved
- Material: bamboo
More features: soft case included, 11-inch longest pipe size
The Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) is one of the best pan flutes that can be purchased for left-handed players. This instrument is made by MoonAngel and delivers a fantastic quality sound and is perfectly catered for left-handed players. The majority of pan flute makers do not product left-handed instruments, making the Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) particularly unique.
The Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) has a classic sleek design which is a thing of real beauty. Constructed from bamboo, the instrument has a light brown appearance which is quite lighter than the darker color of the 25 pipe version of the instrument. The Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) has 18 pipes are made in the F key. The design is also curved to give the classic pan flute appearance.
In addition to giving an authentic appearance, the bamboo construction also makes the Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) amazingly durable and robust to any exterior forces. Also, the instrument only weighs approximately 15 ounces which makes it supremely lightweight. For the quality of craftsmanship, the relatively low price of the Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) compares very well to other pan flutes.
Another great feature of the Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) is that it comes with a carry case to make transportation of the instrument that little bit easier. This instrument delivers in craftsmanship, price and appearance to give a fantastic pan flute option.
- Slick light brown finish
- Not suited for right-handed players
InkaTumi Beginner Bamboo Pan Flute – Budget Pick
- Pipes: 13
- Key: С major
- Shape: straight
- Material: bamboo
More features: tuned, cork in each pipe, soft woollen case included, 5.6-inch longest pipe size, includes tuning stick
The InkaTumi Beginner Bamboo Pan Flute is one of best cheap pan flutes currently available to purchase. This bamboo pan flute is very easy to learn and is perfect for beginners looking for an easy pan flute to learn to play. The ease of playing comes from its very simple construction, enabling players to develop their musical skills with minimal stress.
The InkaTumi Beginner Bamboo Pan Flute contains cork in each bamboo pipe. This helps to produce the sound, but expert players may find this addition limiting to the sound quality of the notes. The instrument is tuned to C major and has a frequency of 440Hz. Despite being cheaper, the sound quality does generally hold its own against premium pan flutes. Each bamboo is crafted to represent the classic Amazonic pan flute making it very attractive to those want to purchase a traditional pan flute.
One of the best features of the InkaTumi Beginner Bamboo Pan Flute is that the instrument comes with a tuning stick. A common issue with pan flutes is that they are too problematic to tune if they become of out of tune after purchase. The tuning stick makes this process considerably easier. This enables players to produce wonderful rich melodies consistently.
The InkaTumi Beginner Bamboo Pan Flute is the ideal pan flute for a beginner looking to get started on the instrument. Available at a very affordable price, this instrument presents fantastic value for money. Although the instrument may not be able to reach lower tones, the overall sound quality is very competitive.
- Very easy to play
- Materials of a high quality
- Tuning is very easy
- The lower notes are not reachable
Pan flute types to consider
During the medieval era, the syrinx spread across Europe and was still popular in Greece. It is sometimes referred to other names for example, in Romania it is called nai and in Turkey, it is called muskal. In general, all European pan flutes are made from the syrinx.
However, it is a mistake to assume that the pan-flute like instrument was only developed by the Ancient Europeans. The pan flute was called the paixiao in China. This pan flute was made of 16 pipes in a semicircular shape. It was said that the shape was inspired by the wings of a mythical bird called Fenghuang, also known as the Chinese Phoenix in the west.
The paixiao was famous during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), although evidence suggests that this pan flute was in existence much earlier dating back to the 6th century BCE.
The pan flutes from the Andes are the most popular non-European ones. Even to this day, pan flutes strongly influence the Andean music and are a legacy of the Inca civilization.
How are pan flutes made
The one end of the pan flute tubes are stopped to reflect the standing wave so that it produces a sound with a lower octave compared to the one produced by an open pipe with similar length.
For the traditional South American style, dry corn kennels or small pebbles are placed at the bottom of the pipes so that they are finely tuned and the pitch is corrected.
The Romanian panpipes are made using wax, especially beeswax for them to be tuned. Special tools such as rubber stoppers and corks are used to place and remove the wax and tuning the pipes easily.
Choose the best pan flute by the following features
Most pan flutes are traditionally made from bamboo, local reed and giant cane. However, other pan flutes can be made out of wood, plastic, metal and ivory.
If you are a beginner, a small size pan flute will be suitable. This is because it is easy to maneuver it and is also lightweight. These features will enable you to easily tilt the pan flute to achieve the half notes and also attain the correct angle for playing.
A pan flute with 13-15 pipes, which has less than 2 octaves will help you in becoming skilful, move the pipes easily and understand the notes that each pipe plays. For a beginner, this process can be difficult to understand.
When buying a pan flute, make sure that it is made by a professional luthier, so that you can be sure that it is a good product and properly tuned. There are pan flutes made by an artisan that is on sale but not tuned, they are not useful for playing.
There is not a consistent number of pipes for a single pan flute, they vary across different brands and manufacturers. Deciding the number of pipes you want in your pan flute is down to personal preference. If you are a professional player, you are more likely to want a pan flute that has a larger number of pipes. More pipes equate to more notes to play with, especially the lower notes.
For example, the Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes which has 25 pipes is more suited to a player wanting a broader array of notes to experiment with.
Right or left-handed
You may not be aware but the pan flute can be suited to either right or left-handed players. Right-handed pan flutes such as the InkaTumi Beginner Bamboo Pan Flute are played with the longer pipes located on the left of the instrument. Left-handed pan flutes are more difficult to find.
But products such as the Chinese Traditional Pan Pipes (Left Hand) offer a left-handed playing option with the longer pipes located on the right end of the instrument.
Pan flutes offer a variety of different keys. From C major, E minor to F major, there is a large number of keys available. Although all keys can be transposed if you are playing in an ensemble arrangement, it may be easier to have a key that matches the majority of instruments in a group.
For beginners or solo players, the key is not very important to the overall sound. If you are a beginner who is interested in how notes of different keys relate to each other, you can check various videos to learn how to do it properly.
It is good to test several different pan flutes to compare the clarity of sound that comes from them. Poorly constructed pan flutes will give a fluffy sound, while well-constructed pan flutes offer a tonal clarity that will make the pan flute stick out in an ensemble arrangement.
This feature of having a tunable pan flute is beneficial, especially for a beginner. This is because you can change tuning depending on the sheet or the song that you are working on. However, if you wrongly tune the pan flute, it may be difficult fixing it at the beginning, but you can be able to fix it.
If for any reason such as weather affects the tune of a non-tunable pan flute, you will need a luthier or an experienced pan flute player to fix it.
The pan flute has two major tunings, the G major and C major. The classic Romanian pan flute uses the G major tuning. C major tuning is also famous. You can find their music sheets on instructional books or the internet.
If you are a beginner, start with a curved pan flute. This is because the natural turn of its head makes it ergonomic. There are straight pan flutes but are not recommended for beginners.
The shape of a pan flute is one of two options: straight or curved. Whether you prefer straight or curved pan flutes are completely down to personal preference. Curved pan flutes such as the Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes are widely considered to be easier to play as the curved playing surface provides a strong momentum when transitioning between notes.
Straight pan flutes such as the Ramos Professional Zampoña are slight more difficult to play as there is no extra force when moving between notes.
The majority of pan flutes come with a carry case. This can be a useful addition for those who are looking to travel with the instrument regularly. In addition to a carry case, some pan flutes such as the InkaTumi Beginner Bamboo Pan Flute have a decorative element on the body of the instrument which can add to the visual appeal.
It is always useful to check the warranty information when purchasing a musical instrument such as the pan flute. Although the bamboo construction is robust, knowing what elements you are protected by is important. The warranty agreements on the reviewed products are not specified. When purchasing online, do make you sure you take time to examine the terms and conditions as this is where the warranty information will be visible.
Pan flute playing tips
The video below gives a short three-minute introduction into what the pan flute is, where it originates and how to get started on the instrument.
It is a great watch if you do not know much about pan flutes:
Especially as a first-timer pan flute owner, you might not be one hundred percent sure of your best option. If you have any questions, we most likely answered them already here:
The pan flute originates from South America where it has been highly influential in the sounds and songs of ancient Amazonic tribes. The instrument is particularly famous in Peru and is known for its soft melodic tones. In addition to traditional music, the pan flute is also central to modern contemporary music. With ensembles, orchestras and bands adding the pan flute to the array of instruments to provide a soft tonal character.
The way the pan flute is constructed means that in theory, it is not too difficult to play. To generate a sound it only requires someone to blow some are over the holes of the pipes. That said, to play more complicated melodies or to follow sheet music requires a strong degree of skill and application to produce a quality sound. Those who already play the flute will most likely be in advantage if they are beginners for the pan flute.
Pan flutes will come pre-tuned after manufacture. Sometimes the pipes can fall out of tune which can be problematic if the pan flute does not come with any tuning equipment. Manual attempts to tune a pan flute are normally done through using a pencil and wax. The pencil or tuning rod needs to be inserted into the pipe when the wax has been inserted. You need to press the rod against the wax to turn it which will subsequently change the tuning of the rod.
Hopefully, this article has given you all the insight you need when looking to purchase the best pan flute to suit your musical needs. Our verdict on the top three best pan flutes is:
The Peru Treasure Pan Flute Antara comes first in our rankings due to superb sound quality, in addition to it being one of the easiest pan flutes to play.
The Chinese Traditional 25 Pan Pipes finishes second the rankings of slick brown finish which gives a traditional South American feel as well as the highly authentic tonal character.
The Ramos Professional Zampoña comes third in the rankings due to its professional standard materials and neat construction, making it perfect for experienced or professional pan flute players.
When purchasing the best pan flute to suit your needs, you must take time to consider all of your options. First, work out your budget and whether you need a simple or complex pan flute, as this will help you narrow down your options.