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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

I have a question to experienced Timpani players here. I'm quite familiar with most orchestral instruments and their possibilities, however I still have to work on percussion section. I was wondering if the following short timpani part is possible to actually play in reality (please see picture)? with the modern day timpani pedal, it seems that most is possible nowadays including fast pitch changes. Tempo is roughly 120 BPM.

Thanks for any help or suggestions!

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No!!! Traditionally only 4 timpani sizes are used, a high 5th one is available to professional orchestras and decent sized colleges. But put aside the 5th for a moment.

First, there is no time to change pitches so your final bars where the new pitches of B, A, G are impossible.

So now let's look at your first couple of measures where 4 different pitches are being used. Your lowest pitch is F. That would be played on the lowest/largest timpani which has a range from D below the staff to the A at the bottom space of the bass clef staff. Your next lowest note is A-flat. That would be played on the next size smaller timpani that has a range from low F to C (second space from the bottom of staff). Now your next highest pitch is C and that will be played on the next highest sounding timpani which has a range from B-flat to high F. And your highest pitch is D-flat.....oh no...because the next highest timpani has a range from D-natural to high A. Oooops! D-natural, not d-flat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Vasks for your feedback. That was a help.
So basically what I've been wondering is, how long does it exactly take to tune/change the pitch of a drum element? So you're saying that if I had enough time and rests in between it would be possible to play? But then again, a glissando where there basically is a continous change of pitches is no problem right?
 

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Some timpani have on it what's called a tuning gauge. If they have it, a player can quickly (like in a second or two) change pitch. But remember they still need a second or two of resting/no playing anything on any other head. However, if the gauge is not attached the player must change and listen to the change to make sure they got to the right new pitch (this takes more time; maybe 4 seconds or more). The simplest thing to do when your writing for timpani is to physically go through the motions of what the player has to do. Count the seconds it takes you and realize that a GREAT player can probably do it a bit faster. If you want any player (great to not so) to make the change, I'd always assume that they do not have a tuning gauge and it will take some time to alter the pitch.

I have a question about that glissando. It's not clear to me if there is a final note the F is suppose to go up to or whether it's merely to bend upward with no final pitch determined. In either case that timpani head has to be retuned after the glissando unless the final pitch of the glissando is now going to be used on that head for the next upcoming measures
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That Glissando is indeed just from F to C, it's my mistake about that note head, the final note is supposed to be C, covering the entire span of the second largest timp. In that case since I'm using a C after that glissando, it wouldn't have to be retuned?
About the tuning, I assumed most ( or almost all) modern timpani sets are equipped with a tuning pedal, in which case I believe it only takes about 1 second to retune the drum. Anyway thanks for your help!
 

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Sorry to be so late to this...except for the last measure, that part could easily be played on 5 timpani tuned to F-Ab-C-Db-F (I would use 32"/29"/26"/26"/23" drums). The last bar could be pedaled on the bottom two drums.
It's not only possible, it's not even that difficult.
 
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