Common Questions about Steel Drum Performances

Please note, this is for general informational use only. Each performance is different and the pertinent details for your event will be spelled out on the contract.

  • How far in advance do you need for booking?

    We book in a first-come, first-served fashion. We’ve had bookings a year in advance, to a day in advance. Unless there’s special circumstances, like new music that needs to be learned, we can take bookings at any time. Of course, further in advance increases our chances of being open, so please contact us for our availability.

  • What do you need to secure the booking?

    Booking is pretty easy. We will send you a 1-page contract, and you can return it with a check for the deposit amount (50%). We will “pencil you in” until we receive the contract and deposit. Please contact us to get a booking started.

  • Do you need power?

    Usually, but not always. If we are playing with background tracks, vocals, amplified steel drums, electric bass, or a PA system in any way, then yes, we need power. If we are playing acoustically only, then we do not need power. This will be specified upon booking and will be noted on the contract.

  • What else do you need?

    Shade is a big one. Steel pans go out of tune within minutes of being exposed to sunlight. You can provide an umbrella (such as a market umbrella) or EZ-up if we are already not in a shady area. If you can’t provide one, please let us know upon booking. We will also need a minimum amount of space in which to set up. Generally, this is 6’x4’ for a solo or duo, 10’x8’ for a trio or quartet, and 18’x16’ for a quintet, sextet, or septet. A clear pathway to the performance location from the loading zone is required. This (or any modifications to it) will be spelled out on the 1-page contract.

  • Can you set up under a tree for shade?

    As long as the tree provides enough complete shade for the area required for the band (see above answer), at that time of day. Often, clients will check the day or two beforehand to see if there’s enough shade under the tree (at the same time of day of the performance).

  • Can you perform indoors? I’m worried about it being too loud.

    We’ve done countless performances indoors as background music and as foreground music. We have a lot of flexibility when it comes to volume levels. Steel drums don’t have to be loud, and in fact, they can be beautiful at low levels. Accomodations will be made by the musicians to perform inside.

  • Do you need a stage?

    No, that is up to the client.

  • Can you be on grass?

    Yes, as long as it is not wet and relatively flat.

  • How much room do you need?

    Solo - 6’x4’. Duo - 6’x8’. Trio and quartet - 10’x8’. Quintet, sextet, septet - 18’x16’. These are estimates based on standard performance equipment, and do not include extra equipment that may be requested by client. Please check upon booking.

  • Do you need light on you at night?

    Although it helps feature the band, we don’t need light on us. (If you want to set up lighting, please avoid light that shines directly in the musicians’ faces :)

  • How long have you been playing?

    Both Abby and Dan have been playing musical instruments since early childhood, and percussion for many years before playing steel pan. Abby began steel pan in 2002 and Dan began steel pan in 1993. We have come very far from the beginning, but continue to strive to make even better performance of this music and instrument.

  • What are your drums made out of?

    Our steel drums are made the traditional way, out of 55-gallon barrels. We have multiples of each instrument, but they are made by various well-respected makers from Trinidad & Tobago.

  • Why does Abby play one steel drum and Dan plays two steel drums?

    Steel drums come in many ranges. The higher instrument, the smaller the notes, and therefore more notes can fit on less drums. Dan’s steel drums are a bit lower than Abby’s, so the notes have to be arranged on two drums.

  • Do you (Abby and Dan) always perform together?

    No, but we perform together often overall. Obviously, if it’s a solo performance, it will one of us performing. In duos and larger, we do often, but not every time, due to previously booked engagements. The other steel drummers that may play with us instead, however, are also great players with whom we’re happy performing.

  • What is the difference between steel drum and steel pan?

    They are the same. “Steel drum” is more common to the U.S., while “steel pan” is the original term from Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean/ West Indies.

  • What type of music do you play?

    At our core is Caribbean music - reggae, calypso, soca, and ska, and certain subgenres of these styles. We also mix-in some Latin, Brazilian, and jazz styles as well. Classical repertoire is available for wedding ceremonies. About half of our music is crossover from the Caribbean (familiar to most Americans), and the other half is more known by people from the Caribbean/ West Indies. Having this entire repertoire at our fingertips helps keep things moving and interesting!

  • Do you play Holiday, Hanukkah, or Christmas music on steel pans?

    Yes, we have a number of them. Examples are usually posted going into the holiday season on the Solo & Duos page or the Trios and Larger page. Otherwise, you can download these short clips from our Dropbox (Look for “The Christmas Song” and “Come Light the Menorah.”)

  • Do you play steel drums for kids’ parties?

    Yes, we’ve performed for many fun kids’ birthday parties. We have a couple of our own little ones, too :) If there’s vocals, we always make sure to play music that is appropriate for the audience. Having steel drum really makes for an enjoyable, relaxing, and festive time for kids and parents alike.

  • How long do you need to set up your steel drums/ steel drum band?

    This depends on a number of factors, but the average is 20 minutes.

  • Do you take breaks?

    Yes, 15 minutes on each hour. So a 3-hour engagement would have 2 breaks, and a 4-hour engagement would have 3 breaks. The exception to this is when we play for wedding ceremonies followed by a cocktail hour, in which we usually do not take a break.

  • Do you play music in-between sets/ while on break?

    Usually, unless directed otherwise or if there is not power available or a PA system. The music continues in the Caribbean music genre. If you’d like us to play your music through your house system or iPod, just let us know.

  • Can I make an announcement?

    Yes, as long as there is a PA system, microphone, and power. (See question #2). This should be specified upon booking to make sure we have the correct equipment. Running sound for wedding ceremonies or other presentations of length definitely need to be specified to us before booking, and may be subject to additional charge because of the extra equipment possibly needed.

  • Do I count the set up and tear down time as part of the performance time?

    No. Set up and tear down is on our own time. So if you want the performance time to be 6-10 pm (4 hours), all you need to specify is 6-10 pm.

  • How many musicians are in the steel band?

    Anywhere between 1-7. This is an important detail that will be decided upon booking. We are happy to help you find the correct size band for your type of event and budget.

  • What instruments are played in the steel band?

    Obviously, steel drums are the main instrument. The other instruments depend on what size band you’re hiring. If you’re talking about a trio or larger, you generally want to have bass and drum set/percussion as well, as it is the backbone of the music. There are a number of other instruments that can be added-in the mix as well, including guitar, percussion, keyboard, marimba, and other steel drums (as they come in many ranges). In smaller bands, like solos, duos, and some trios, we can use backing tracks to fill-in the bass and drum set parts. They “do the job” and ours sound quite good for not being real, but real musicians are definitely better. Frankly, instrumentation decisions are ones that are often left to the band leader so no need to worry about much of this; after speaking with you, the band leader can get a better feel for what instrumentation will be suitable for your event, but if you have certain requests about instrumentation we will try to accommodate. The repertoire is mostly the same regardless as to the band size (solo to septet). One exception is select pieces of classical music (for wedding ceremonies), which require at least a duo. For help choosing a band, feel free to contact us or go to the What Band Size Do I Choose? page.

  • Do you have vocals available?

    Yes, in every size band, including a solo. Abby does vocals but there are also other Caribbean musicians we regularly play with who sing as well (male vocals). If you’d like vocals, please request them upon booking because it may determine the personnel.

  • What do you wear?

    Usually a nice tropical shirt and black or khaki pants or shorts. We may be able to wear something different if need-be, so please ask if you have that requirement and we’ll try to accommodate.

  • Do you charge travel expenses outside the LA area?

    In general, yes, but they are reasonable. Since there are virtually endless possibilities to location, please contact us and we’ll let you know the pricing.

  • Can I see you perform live?

    Sure, if we have something coming up that is public. Please contact us for our schedule and/or other options besides a live gig for seeing us perform.

  • Do you have references?

    Yes, please contact us for them.

  • How much/ should I tip?

    This is completely up to you.

  • How do I choose the music for my wedding ceremony?

    We have a song list that we can provide upon booking. We are happy to help in choosing music if you need it. This can be returned with the wedding questionnaire, which asks about your musical and logistical details for the big day.

  • Can you move in-between my wedding ceremony and cocktail hour?

    Usually. Please get in touch about details.

  • Do you play for wedding receptions?

    Yes, from cocktail/dinner receptions, to receptions with dancing and MCing.

  • Do I need to provide a song list for my party?

    No. In fact, clients have us choose the repertoire the vast majority of the time. Sometimes, wedding receptions have a “do not play” list specified by the client.

  • I have a quick question for you. How can I get a quick answer?

    Feel free to call (310) 666-3464 or email nesta@andproductions.com. During business hours, we usually respond rapidly.

  • Sean on drumset playing with Nesta steel drum band in Valencia
  • Mark on bass playing with Nesta steel drum band in Indian Wells
  • Dan and Abby Savell steel drummers