Name of Instrument:
Timpani, an Italian word, plural for "drums". Also called tympani or orchestral kettledrums.
How to Play:
The timpani is struck on the head using two sticks (or mallets). The body (or shaft) of the mallet is usually made of wood while the end (or head) of the mallet may be made of cork, leather, wood or hard felt balls. A timpanist uses different types of mallets depending on the type of music. The timpani also has foot pedals that allows the player to change tones.
What makes timpanis different from drums is that it produces a specific pitch when you strike it. In today's orchestra, the timpanist uses four drums with heads measuring approximately 24, 26, 30 and 31 inches across.
History of Timpanis:
Timpanis emerged from kettledrums that were used in military and royal parades in India. The use of kettledrums then spread to Europe and was later adapted by classical composers (i.e. Bach
) for the symphony orchestra
The timpani underwent many changes through the years. These include:changes in its sizethe materials used for constructionhow it is tunedhow it can produce different soundsthe number of timpanis used in an orchestra
Among the famous composers who wrote music for the timpani are:Ludwig van Beethoven - "Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67"Hector Berlioz - "Symphonie Fantastique"Béla Bartók - "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta"Philip Glass - "Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra"Jean-Baptiste Lully - "Thésée" Richard Strauss - "Also sprach Zarathustra"Dimitri Shostakovich - "Symphony no. 5" (finale)