Optimal Range for Timpani

Timpani sound best between the f below middle c and the f one octave lower. Even though their range exceeds that limit, in the very lowest register the membrane needs to lose so much tension that the sound gets muddy and unfocussed. Inexperienced orchestrators tend to favor even the low C 2 octaves below middle c which is a very muddy, unbrillant sound and creates far less punch than the c one octave higher. On the other hand, the really high notes need to be played with so much membrane tension that the sound starts to lose its characteristics and to get somewhat “pingy”. This is a general approach to the Timpani set as a whole. Of course this strategy applies to each individual Timpani as well. The best sound can be achieved in the middle of each individual range whithout losening or tightening the membrane too much.

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