COVID-19 update: all live concerts up to December 2020 are sadly cancelled; help secure the future of the orchestra through our Keep the Philharmonia Playing appeal.

Read more


The timpani provide the underlying heartbeat of the orchestra, and conductors tend to remain in near constant eye contact with the timpanist.


Instrument: Timpani

In this film, Andy Smith introduces his instruments - the timpani.

Endowment opportunities at the Philharmonia offer supporters unique access and insights to our players. Find out more here:

Find out more


These pairs of kettledrums feature foot pedals for changing pitch, a copper shell (with fiberglass a contemporary option) and a calfskin drumhead. Drumsticks and mallets come in a wide selection of sizes and materials. The timpani buttress the beat and the fundamental bottom notes of chords, but they also take charge, as when Berlioz propels the March to the Scaffold with two timpanists using sponge-headed drumsticks.

VIola range

Frequency Range

130 Hz – 1.8 kHz



Why not download our iPad app, ‘The Orchestra’, to learn even more?

Read more

Did you know?

Although timpani were not scored for orchestra until 1675, kettledrums of this type have existed for thousands of years.