Tuning is a skill which can only be gained with years of practice. It involves beating the untuned notes with a rounded hammer until the desired pitch and quality of note is reached. Often one 'difficult' note will take hours to get just right. Once tuned, the note will be clean and pure.
During a pan's life-time it undergoes a lot of stress from playing and like most instrument will require occasional fine tuning. On the steel pan this process is known as "blending"
|Toussint tuning using a strobe|
As well as his well developed sense of pitch Toussaint uses an electronic strobe tuner to help him get a perfect pitch. Before any important performance Toussaint can always be found doing a little last minute "blending".
The amount of time before a pan needs "blending" depends on how hard the pan is played and how carefully it is handled and played. On average a pan will be "blended" twice a year. If a pan is physically damaged and a note is completely lost the pan will then require tuning from scratch.
|A little last minute blending before an important performance (Royal Albert Hall)|