Wondering about the timpani

Tigerdrummer

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I was at a school band concert last week and they had some. I've never played one but they have always intrigued me. Have any of you played them? How did it go?
 

blueshadow

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Since I played Quads in marching band I usually got the tympani part in concert. I was only ok really at any of it. Back then I didn't practice enough, was young and dumb and too many other things going on :) Was fun though I enjoyed tuning them and they make a really neat sound...especially when you go all bonzo out out on them when you're alone in the band hall. Got two days detention for that move :)
 

blueshadow

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I played one in high school and college. I had fun with it. Hardest part was tuning them to different pitches and counting the rest during the song.
Yes the counting was the hard part for me, had to count in 16th notes a lot of times, seems simple to me now as my concentration is better and least most of the time...what were we talking about again?
 

snappy

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Yes the counting was the hard part for me, had to count in 16th notes a lot of times, seems simple to me now as my concentration is better and least most of the time...what were we talking about again?
Exactly.
Easy to get lost in 52 measures of rest.
Very theatrical too.
End of the song
huge single stroke roll and when the director brings the baton down you have to literally throw yourself on the drum using your whole torso to silence one or get the arms out too to quiet multiple ones.
P.s. Us 7th graders got a real kick out of hitting it and stepping on the pedal making it go
Ba-oiiiiiiiiing!
 
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blueshadow

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Ours were so dented up from years of abuse you could also play some cool steel drum stuff on them :) I think I got detention for that too!
 

VintageUSA

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I played them in college and actually took private lessons for one semester.
Tymps are a very different animal.
First of all, I was instructed to use the French grip; in addition you have to be able to tune on the fly.
Usually, you will have three drums and they are generally tuned to 1/4/5.
For a simple example...............to get from C major to G major and do it quickly is a challenge................especially if it is not perfect and the director gives you that look !
 

moodman

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9th grade, I got 'promoted' from beginning band to advanced because one more drummer was needed to roll the tymps in the national anthem. Never played them again.
(you can pick up a Dresden tymp for $36,000, or $144,000 for a set of four)
 

CSR

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I’m a timpanist in a regional orchestra, a regional concert band, and a college concert band. I’ve played for over 50 years and own a set of Slingerland timps in my house to practice on. Definitely an acquired skill to tune, change tunings on the fly when the other musicians may be in a different key, master 9 or so different kinds of strokes, read music, and the worst of all.....load in.

I can post a couple of clips in the video section of me playing if anyone’s interested.

2B25EF84-DBFB-447D-BE9C-779438247353.jpeg
 

chollyred

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Played timpani for a few years in a mega church orchestra. We used 4 like CSR above. I always had a glockenspiel behind the timps that I could tap with a fingernail to help with the tuning. Keeping count over 52 measures, play 1 measure, then rest for another 36 measures all while watching for time signature changes was probably the hardest part. At least I never had to move them!
 

kdgrissom

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Tympani technique is a whole different animal compared to other percussion instruments. Tuning, matching pitches, counting measures, mastering the Legato stroke and leading the Band/Orchestra from the back (all while looking seemingly bored).
However, the "tubs" (legless variety) make great coffee tables and hold a hellava lot of ice and beer for parties with a convenient drain hole at the bottom!
 
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ARGuy

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Timpani are interesting in that they combine drumming with playing a melodic instrument. Playing in tune is a must, and so is playing with good tone. The timpani chair in an orchestra is interesting because you're a percussion instrument, but you're not really part of the percussion section. If you're the timpanist, that's really all you play. You don't rotate with the other percussionists, and you very rarely play other percussion instruments.
 

CSR

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I use a Korg electronic tuner to get right on the money. Real old school is to use a tuning fork and then hum up or down. My higher-range hearing loss makes electric tuning more accurate and convenient.
 

CSR

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I can remember a dude in my high school playing tympani with the "standard" grip. I remember thinking, "WTF?"
Remember, timpani strokes are single strokes, not double...and the speed changes with the size of the timp and the tension so as not to interfere with the harmonic vibration of the head.
 

CSR

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What's that got to do with using a "standard" grip, when you're not supposed to?
I read “standard” grip as “traditional snare grip”. I assume you mean “American” grip? Actually, American, German, and French are all used, but never Traditional grip. My misunderstanding. My apologies.
 

ConvertedLudwigPlayer

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I loved playing them in HS. My band director wanted me to go out for All State but I was not confident enough even though I was singled out in competitions sometimes by the judges, which really surprised me.

I had to learn to tune by ear. I was amazed when we went to a competion once and saw that the timpani's being supplied had some sort of tuning gauge built in and all you had to do was move the pedal according to the pitch and it was relatively spot on.
 

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