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date: 21 October 2020

Timpani (It.; Fr. timbales ; Ger. Pauken)locked

  • James Blades
  • , revised by Edmund A. Bowles


(It. Fr. timbales Ger. Pauken)

European kettledrums (see Drum, §I, 2, (i)). The timpani are the most important percussion instruments of the orchestra, mainly because they are capable of producing notes of definite pitch and so can take part in the harmony of a composition. They are tuned precisely, each to a given note, according to the composer's directions in the score, and these notes may be altered as required during the performance of a work (typically for a change of key), by tightening or slackening the drumhead by means of screws or other mechanisms.

Each drum consists of a large bowl-shaped resonating chamber or shell, usually of copper (sometimes fibreglass), with a drumhead of calfskin or plastic covering the open top. The drumhead is mounted (lapped) on a hoop, over which is fitted a metal ring, or counter-hoop, which serves, on many types of timpani, as a means of tightening or slackening the drumhead....

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Proceedings of the Musical Association
Musical Times
Anuario musical
Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society
Music & Letters
Early Music
A. Lavignac and L. de La Laurencie, eds.: Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire
J. Blades: Percussion Instruments and their History (London, 1970, 2/1974)
Galpin Society Journal