Interview with Heinz Gränicher, Panmaker and Tuner of Fassduubeli
Fourteen years ago, Fassduubeli started as a special band. Earlier, each new
member made his own instrument. Trough assay and sticking to it, they've
learned to build pans. Heinz Gränicher has meanwhile learned to tune. By
Panyard (P): How did the idea to form a steelband come about?
Heinz Gränicher (H): Originally, we planned to do something for carnival.
Swiss "Guggemusik" groups were common, but we wanted to do something
special. First, we thought of swiss accordeons. But at some point, late at
night, we had the idea to build pans. We then pursued this idea with some
P: Did you all know this instrument before?
H: No, we actually didn't have a clue. We also never heard a pan before. We
just knew, that we would need steel drums. Therefore, we got ourselves some
Motorex drums (swiss oil and lubrification company) of any kind, took
hammers and started sinking them, as we had seen it on pictures. Then, we
separated the note sections.
P: Did you know, that there were tuners in Switzerland at the time?
H: We visited Sam Graf in Lyss once. But he did not give us any information.
We also went to Ralph Richardson in Zürich, he simply said: Take a 10 kilo
hammer, and sink the drum. This is what we did. But the pans just said "dumdum".
P: When did you play the first time?
H: Carnival 1981, the three of us played on pans which had eight notes. We
used a radiator as a rhythmical instrument. I tuned the different sized
dents in a way, that we were able to play a melody.
P: How did you proceed?
H: The drums we used were too thin and cracked easily, so we purchased some
russian drums at Motorex. I advanced through trial and error. Once, I got
vexed and I did beat a note flat. Then, all of a sudden, the tone was there.
I learned, that a note had to be smoothened. This experience brought me
P: How did you treat your pans?
H: A plumber told us, that we should heat them on a fire, to get the carbon
into the material. That's what we tried. We once heated the pan with a torch
to be able to sink it easier, but it didn't work. We tried a lot and always
learned a little bit more.
P: Did it never come into your mind to tune for other bands?
H: I've been asked a few times, but I never had the time. I've always been
busy with my own instruments. I still don't have a clear system to tune
pans. I use a piano, my ears and a small tuning device. When we visited
Trinidad with my group in 1988, I wanted to visit a tuner, but I did not get
the chance to meet one.
P: What did give you the energie to build pans in your free time?
H: My interest, and a certain stubborness. Sometimes, I spend a whole day on
one note. You have to be determined, maybe poisoned, and that's what I am to
a certain degree. You need a lot of patience, you need to try, and try
P: Each band member has made their own pan?
H: It's been like this in the beginning, that of course gave us a strong
company. We did beat steel every day, all of us knew, what it is like. And
in the evening, we had a party.
P: How is it today?
H: I cannot invest that much time any more, therefore we buy our frontline
pans in Trinidad. The background pans which we play are already seven years
old. The pans I made had whatever layout and tonal range, which meant that
we constantly had to learn our songs anew. Only five years ago I heard about
the cycle of fifths.
P: How do you see the future?
H: We want to improve the band. I have made a new cello, we also have a new
six bass. I don't have that much time to tune any more, but I'll be staying
on it for sure, since I am still poisoned.
P: Thank you and good luck.