Sound character of the Timpani - Philipp Dangas

Timpani register table

The sound of the timpani is created by the fact that the skin vibrates when struck, which causes the instrument to vibrate. Of the utmost importance to the usefulness of the timpani sound for real musical purposes is the shell's ability to resonate. The timpani sound is made up of the attack sound and the aftertaste.

The timpani is an instrument with a unique sound generation. However, it is also possible for the timpani to produce a constant tone, of limited duration, due to the after-sound mentioned above. Another type of constant tone generation, and of unlimited duration, is possible with the vortex.

As an example, the main effect of a very dense piano [p] or pianissimo [pp] roll can be mentioned, which consists of maintaining constant resonance effects in the shell. This type of whirling can generally be described as a constant tone production, like the striking of the strings. The resonance sound that comes into effect both in the percussion sound and in the aftertaste determines the overall character of the timpani sound.

The lowest notes of the timpani will sound soft and dull if the head is not perfect (the head must be completely relaxed to perform). The small timpani is mainly used in the upper range of its scale, since the deep notes can be performed better on the basso timpani.

In order to be able to play the deepest notes on the small timpani, the head must be relaxed, which means that the tones become soft and dull. The lowest notes of the timpani are therefore only used when the playing technique requires it, i.e. when the timpani is needed for other notes.

The top notes of the bass drum, due to the large cauldron, have significant richness and resonance, and the top notes of the bass drum sound harsh and piercing. The condition of the mallet head, i.e. the material from which it is made and the material of its cover and its size, have a fundamental influence on the sound character, the dynamics and the substance of the timpani tone. Mallets with cork heads are used for soft hits, while mallets with wooden heads are used for hard hits.

As part of the „symphonic world music“

The tasks of the timpani are to support the fundamental bass in unison with an instrument or in its upper or lower octave. In addition, the timpani can also serve as a symbolic sound representation.

An very expressive, lively sound example for the Timpani
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The sound character of the small and large timpani
Type of drum Scale Range Sound character
Big timpani low tones matt and soft (with relaxed skin)
Big timpani high tones full and resonant
Small timpani low tones very soft sounding (of poor quality)
Small timpani high tones hard and penetrating