Steel Band Hire FAQs

Questions about the hire of steel bands & steel drum players answered!

Steel band hired at the Oval

1) What is a steel band?

ANSWER: Steel band hire FAQs do tend to start with this. A steel band is often called a 'steel drum band' or a 'steel pan band', online. This distinguishes it from what America calls what we would call a ‘steel ring’. But the correct term is ‘steel band’. A group of musicians the majority of which play ‘steel pans’ best defines a 'steel band'. The Caribbean folk of Trinidad invented the instruments and call them 'steel pans'. They are, nonetheless, often called 'steel drums' outside of Trinidad. It's a pity. This term is more apt for the oil drums from which the instruments were originally made!

We can offer you all sorts of steel pan-playing performances. These range from 20-piece ‘orchestras’ to solo pan players all of whom you can hire for events. Some of these acts may prefer to include guitarists, keyboard players and other instrumentalists. Others may prefer to use backing tracks than to play entirely ‘live’. Our director, Paul Cherrie, is an experienced steel band leader. So we can provide you with a lot of choice and well-qualified advice if you require it.

2) Can I hire a steel band that includes singers?

ANSWER: 99% of them don’t and 90% of clients only want to hear steel bands play instrumentally without vocals. But we do have steel bands with singers and they carry equipment for that. This modern equipment is often battery-powered and easy to set up. This makes it particularly useful in the outside staging areas most people like to experience steel band performances!

3) Can we request a song to be played at our Event/Wedding?

ANSWER: Yes, most of our steel bands will learn a song for you- if it’s not a very complex one, of course. Most song requests are fairly easy to play on steel pans- with a few exceptions! Most requests steel bands get are actually for songs that aren’t Caribbean- like reggae and pop songs. Professional steel bands in particular are able to do this. Especially if you’ve chosen one that includes vocals, because not all pop melodies are very recognisable if just played instrumentally on the steel pans. But please be aware that to ask musicians to play all non-Caribbean themed music on steel pans is a bit like asking a bagpipe player to not play anything Celtic. The steel pan is a more versatile instrument, for sure, but it is also a folk instrument and it’s best not to dismiss its Caribbean musical roots entirely.

4) Can we choose the whole set list?

ANSWER: There are bands who may agree to this, but none- that I know- who would be very happy about losing all control over their choice of songs on the night. DJs are more capable of doing this and we can provide those for you at a discounted rate if you book one of our bands.

5) Does the band provide recorded music between and before sets?

ANSWER: It can do if you’ve booked one that has a system through which it can do this. Any band booked that includes vocals or plays to backing tracks will automatically have this as part of its act. Some clients specificaly hire a steel band to play without amplification. As such, that steel band will have to bring in extra equipment to accommodate you. All bands nowadays will prefer if you play your own choice of music through their system using your phone, tablet or laptop.

6) How loud will the band be?

ANSWER: This will depend on the size of the band and whether it is using any amplification. This is one of life’s great paradoxes. People who had previously thought they might be too loud for their event often find steel bands quieter than expected. Meanwhile, people who had previously thought they might be too quiet for their event often find steel bands louder than expected. Sensitive professional musicians with great instruments who respond to the needs of specific events are often to blame for this!

7) How much space will the band need?

ANSWER: On average please provide a minimum of 1m x 1m for each steel pan player playing a single pan- unless the band is socially distancing, of course.

8) Can a steel band be mobile and stroll while playing at my event?

ANSWER: Very few bands can do this, but for short impact performances they are very effective indeed! They have to be those bands that play with one single pan per musician who are willing and happy to strap their heavy steel instruments around their necks and play while parading. As the task is physically demanding, bands will place some restrictions on how long they can do this for and over what distance. You are likely, therefore, to have alternative steel band hire FAQs that are not on this page. Please call us for the answers to these.

9) What will the band wear?

ANSWER: Fully professional bands will assume that you would prefer them to be dressed suitably for a Caribbean theme. They will do this regardless of whether your event is Caribbean-themed or not. Community bands may dress more casually wearing their own branded t-shirts unless advised otherwise, but some guidance from you on the basis of photos of any particular band should help guide them to your preferred choices.

10) Can we play on the band’s steel pans at my party?

ANSWER: This is one of the most unusual yet unsurprising of steel band hire FAQs. To many playing the instrument looks like fun and 'easy'! It's a question that doesn't get asked from most other musicians. The vast majority would never allow the audience to play their instruments. However, most steel band musicians will be OK to have you do this under their tutelage and close supervision. This is evidenced by many professional bands offering packages that include workshops and team building.