News Releases

UWI Steel Pan Researchers invent electronic “PHI”-pan

For Release Upon Receipt - February 6, 2008

St. Augustine

The University of the West Indies (UWI) Steel Pan Research Laboratory demonstrated its latest steel pan innovation, the Percussive Harmonic Instrument or PHI (pronounced “Fie”), on Thursday 31st January, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. at the Department of Electrical Engineering Laboratory, Faculty of Engineering, UWI St Augustine.

PHI is the second innovation coming out of the UWI Laboratory, the first being the G-Pan, which was launched in July 2007. The PHI, which is in the process of being patented, made its first public appearance in April 2007 at the “One Caribbean Voice” hosted by Sanch Electronics Limited.

PHI merges the powerful facility of MIDI with a physical form inspired by the traditional Steel Pan. MIDI is an acronym for Musical Instrument Device Interface; MIDI facilitates the communication of electronic music synthesisers over a network. Through MIDI, the PHI can be amplified, just like any electronic instrument available on the market—it can be easily made as loud as desired.

PHI uses modern electronics and manufacturing techniques to deliver a robust instrument that significantly reduces concerns of handling during transport and storage. Lightweight materials are used to improve mobility and reduce transportation costs.

The current design provides a 3-octave layout following the popular spider-web layout of the 4ths and 5ths tenor with notes designed to facilitate easy note recognition. This provides an immediately familiar interface to most pannists. In addition, notes can be transposed or re-assigned in any order, to emulate a variety of note layout configurations. The current design supports 10-note polyphony.

Additional features include:

• Easy access to an infinite range of instrument voices, including all ranges of steelpan, wind, string and other instruments, all played on the familiar tenor pan form presenting pannists with a whole new dimension in performance.

• Depending on the type of synthesiser used, percussionists can now even create new and unique sounds, edit, record and score compositions.

• Simultaneous performance of multiple instruments – the PHI can be set up to synthesise, say a bass and a tenor at the same time.

• Sensitivity adjustments allow for pannists to effectively use their fingers instead of mallets of sticks

• Coupled with a PC the PHI facilitates the teaching of music

• Enhanced portability - Wireless MIDI technology and a built-in re-chargeable battery liberates the pannist to perform in “pan round the neck” mode.

• Touch Screen for interactive configuration of feature

The PHI was conceptualised and developed by Keith Maynard, Brian Copeland, Earl Phillips and Marcel Byron. Design and fabrication were carried out at the UWI Steel Pan Research Lab by a vibrant cadre of engineering and design professionals, including Lesley-Ann Noel, Damian Graham, Anton Gittens, Richard Daisley, Jeevan Persad, Edwin Jairam, Justan Mendez, Dwayne Cabrerra, Joel Castagne, Theldon Noel, Wade Ramcharan and Timothy Lobin.

For more information, please contact Brian Copeland, Professor and Dean, Faculty of Engineering, at or (868) 662 2002 Ext. 2198 or 2199.


  • Professor Brian Copeland

  • Faculty/Department

    Faculty of Engineering
    Electrical & Computing Eng

  • Tel.: (868) 662 2002 Ext. 2198 or 2199
  • Email: