Timpani: Characteristics, price, and history of orchestral instruments


This is an article about the sound of the percussion instrument timpani, which plays an important role in orchestras. It is an instrument that was developed as an ancestor of the Naqqara, which was used in Arab military bands. The instrument’s cauldron-shaped body is mainly made of copper, and its head is made of calf skin or plastic. Mastering the timpani requires accurate pitch and many years of experience, so it is necessary to hone your skills over many years. It is one of the most profound instruments.


This instrument was created in Europe. It has a very wide range, and is often used in orchestral concerts and brass band songs. The way to use it is as a percussion part, and you can make sounds by hitting it. Each requires knowledge and experience. For reference, we recommend that players practice while watching videos. The sound is very loud.

About the price

The price is very high. It costs more than 200,000 yen, and some expensive ones cost more than 1 million yen.

Development company

There are many timpani manufacturers in the world today.

Company nameCountryfeature
Ludwig DrumsUnited StatesA manufacturer in Chicago, USA, who developed balance action.
YAMAHAJapanJapanese manufacturer, basically balance action method, top model is gear method
Premier Music International LimitedUnited KingdomBritish manufacturer, clutch method
AdamsNetherlandA Dutch manufacturer, the top model is a gear system

History of timpani

The origin of the timpani is Lilith, an instrument of the Mesopotamian civilization that was played in 2000 BC. An instrument called Lilith is a bowl-shaped instrument covered with cow skin. In the Middle Ages, it developed into an instrument called Naqareh in Arabia. It was made as a percussion instrument to be used when playing in the Arabian army such as Turkey. It came to be used in Europe in the 15th century. But even in Europe, timpani was played in military bands. The Latin word tympanum, which refers to percussion instruments, came to be called timpani when it was translated into Italian. After its influx into Europe, it was used in ensembles and orchestras in the late 17th century. In the 20th century, timpani, whose pitch can be changed by operating the foot pedal, became mainstream. Not only has the pedal timpani made it easier to change the pitch, but it has also become possible to play glissando, which has dramatically changed the role of the timpani in an orchestra, such as being used for solo instruments.

Features of timpani

A timpani is a large drum with legs attached to a hemispherical body, and the upper surface covered with skin is usually hit with two mallets. Although it is a type of drum, the timpani is different from a normal drum in that it can express the pitch clearly. It is a pitched percussion instrument that can change the pitch by adjusting the tension of the head and accurately output the sound of Doremi. Timpani is rarely used alone. Timpani is usually used with 4 to 5 units. Available in sizes S, M, L and LL, and an additional piccolo timpani may be added to the S.

Types of timpani

Chain timpani

A structure that adjusts all bolts at once with a chain linked to each tuning bolt.

Vienna timpani

An instrument with a large handle in addition to each tuning bolt

Pedal timpani

An instrument that allows adjustment of all bolts by raising and lowering a pedal attached to the foot


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