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.

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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



Did you know?

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

More about the timpani


Andy Smith, Principal Timpani - 40 Years at the Philharmonia Orchestra

Principal Timpanist Andy "Thumper" Smith looks back fondly on his 40 year journey with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Esa-Pekka Salonen | Mahler's Third Symphony | VI. Langsam

Watch the Philharmonia timpani shine in Mahler's Symphony No.3 epic finale

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