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Orchestral Timpani

Timpani is a percussion instrumentconsisting of a skin called a 'head' stretched across a large bowl shaped body, usually made of copper.

The orchestral timpani - or kettle drum - was originally derived from military drums to become an essential part of the classic orchestra during the 19th century. 

With a deep booming sound, the timpani is an essential part of orchestra music, providing a rolling effect that adds a striking and sinister sound to an orchestral piece. Timpani have now found their way into marching bands and even some rock music.

Orchestral pieces including 2010 A space Odyssey theme and Beethoven's Ninth both use the timpani to its full majestic effect.

What to expect from your timpani

  • Basic timpani consist of a drumhead (skin) stretched across a rounded body
  • Higher end instruments for orchestral use
  • Professional quality timpani use a bowled copper body
  • Lower end instruments have fibreglass or aluminium bodies
  • Striking sound to add a majestic feel to orchestral music
  • Hemispheric bowl for a lighter tone
  • Parabolic bowl timpani produces deeper tones
  • Popularised in rock music by bands such as Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Muse

Taking care of your timpani

As with all professional musical instruments, the timpani needs special care to keep it in tip top condition. Knowing how to move and store your timpani will ensure it stays in good repair, giving you years of use. The timpani is a large drum, therefore requires careful handling when moving, and you may wish to purchase a cover to protect the delicate drum head from damage. These are available from drum retailers.

Your timpani will need tuning to keep the range of 'perfect fifth', a task that you may be able to undertake yourself with some practice, or you may prefer a qualified drum technician to do this for you.

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