The following is a transcript of the responses I received from the timpanists with whom I was in contact, see the biographies page for information about each player.

What sets of timpani (make, model) do you regularly use in your orchestra?

Frank Aarnink - Two Adams philharmonic light sets (20” 23” 25” 26” 29” 32” with Dresdener and 21” 25” 26” 29” 32” with Berliner pedals) – both with calf skin?. Also we use an old pair of Dresdener (23” 26”) machine timps and an old ringer pair (26” 29”)

Fausto Bombarderi – Ludwig Ringer (32” 29” 26” 23”) with Berliner pedals – calf skin, Ludwig Chicago (32” 29” 26” 23”) – white plastic skins, baroque timpani (made in Europe in beginning of 1900) (29” 27”)

David Corkhill - Ludwig Professional Symphonic

Dieter DykA: 1 set of 5 pedal-timpani (1Kolberg 1995, 2 Dresden 1936, 2  Günter Ringer 1966) 81 cm/72,5 cm/65 cm/ 60 cm/52 cm

B: 1 set of 4 pedal-timpani (Ringer 1966, 2 Dresden 1936, 1 Kolberg 1987) 78 cm/72,5 cm/ 65 cm/ 59 cm  and one crank-timpani (Dresden 1936) 52 cm - All timpani except the crank-timp have the Kolberg-pedal rebuilt in 1987, stepless tuning!

C: 1 pair of Richard Ludwig (Leipzig 1895) 61cm/68 cm

D: 1 set of 4  Screw-timpani, ( 2 Wunderlich from Altenburg ca.1900/ 2 Lefima from Cham) rebuilt to crank-timpani in 1995 by Kolberg and in use since than.

E: one pair of crank-timpani (Kolberg 1993) 61 cm/68 cm to complete the Richard Ludwig pair to a 4 piece set

F: one pair of crank-timpani (ev. Dresden 1900) rebuilt to pedal-timpani ( By Kolberg in 2003 ) 60 cm/66 cm

G: one set of 4 Kolberg- pedal timpani (1987) 77 cm/ 72 cm/ 66 cm/ 64 cm

H: one set of 4 Schnellar crank-timpani, manufactured by  Wiener Schlaginstrumentenbau in 1998 (76 cm/ 68 cm/ 61 cm/56 cm (private ppossession ) in use since 1999

Gerald Fromme - 6 Ringer Models - only 2 with Pedals (the middle pair)- 2x23”, 1x 26”,28”,31”,33” – Renaissance skin (1970)

4 old Dresden models - modified, all with pedals - 2 x 28”, 2 x 31” – Renaissance skin (1940) – soon to be changed to goat skin

1 Aehnelt bass timpani with pedal – 34” (1990)

7 Hochrainer timpani - 3 x 26”, 3 x 28”, 1 x 23” – goat skin (1970)

 (Vienna Phil. with goat skins without pedals, you can hear every “new year concert” on TV)

Jim Gordon - Adams Philharmonic  (32” 29” 26” 25” 23” Dresden pedals, renaissance heads) Adams Professional  (32” 29” 26” 23” premier pedal, renaissance heads) and a pair of 19th century hand drums, possibly of German origin (26” 29” calf heads)

Peter Offelder – Hardtke - At the moment the best Timpani builder in Germany, very good service (with Berliner pedals), Ringer (with Berliner pedals), Dresdener

Mike Quinn – Günter Ringer, American Drum (M. Light), Dörfler, Kolberg Baroque

Guido Rückel -  I’m using a Set of original Ringer Timpani, build around 1970 (I think 1971, because they are the same as the Timpani of the Berlin Phil.)

In our Orchestra we have many different timpani: 5 original Ringer, 5 Winkelmann (build around 1984), 6 Aehnelt, 2 original Dresdner with Pedal, 2 Original Dresdner without Pedal (these are my private Instruments), and 3 Lefima Baroque timpani.

Most of the time I’m using the Ringer, and the other Solo-Timpanist, Mr. Stefan Gagelmann, is using the Aehnelt.

Louis Sauvetre - One set of  Ludwig Ringer timpani with renaissance heads and Berlin pedal, one set with two Ludwig Ringer (32” 24”) and two Gunter Ringer (29” 26”),all the set with calf heads and Berlin pedals

Wolfgang Schuster – Viennese timpani, system of Hans Schnellar / Hochrainer / Schuster with goat skin. Adams pedal timpani with renaissance heads.

Maarten van der Valk - a) Baroque Timpani made by the English company George Potter and sons, in Aldershot/near Guildford

b) German made (no name) Baroque Timps.

c) "Machine" Timpani by Dutch maker A.A. van den Hoek.

Nick Woud - Set of Adams Philharmonic light (Marinus Komst model) (32” 29” 26” 23” 20”)

Pair of Schnellar pedal drums (28” 25”), Schnellar rotary piccolo (18”), pair of Schnellar machine drums (28” 25”)

2 Van den Hoek machine drums (28” 25”), 22” Dresdner machine drum.

Set of Adams Symphonic (32” 29” 26” 26” 23” 20”)

How long has each set of drums been used in your orchestra?

Frank Aarnink - The Adams about 14 years, the ringer much longer, and the Dresdener about 2 years

Fausto Bombarderi – Ludwig Ringer : 10 years, Ludwig Chicago : 30 years, Baroque timpani : 1 month

David Corkhill 1 year

Gerald Fromme - Ringer since 1970, Dresden since 1940, Aehnelt since 1990, Hochrainer since 1970

Jim Gordon - Philharmonics- 5 years, Professional - 10 years, hand drums- 10 years. When we bought our Adams drums I was looking for instruments that sounded good in the hall and also met my own standards regarding sound production. In addition Adams had just improved their pedal design and several improvements concerning bowl suspension and maintenance also helped in my decision. I compared several sets from different manufacturers but the Adams set were the best option for us.

Peter Offelder – Hardtke – 1 year, Ringer – 50 years, Dresdener – 10 years

Mike Quinn - Ringers 32 yrs, Lights 13 yrs, Dörfler 1 yr, Kolberg 8 yrs.

Guido Rückel - The Ringer since the seventies, the Winkelmann and the Aehnelt from the eighties

Louis Sauvetreunknown

Wolfgang Schuster – Schnellar timpani since 1921, Hochrainer timpani since 1953, Schuster timpani since, 1982

Maarten van der Valk – since 1993

Nick Woud - Adams Philharmonic : 2 years, Adams Symphonic : 15 years, Schnellar pedal and rotary timpani : 90-100 years, Schnellar machine timpani : approx 5 years, Van den Hoek: maybe 45 years

How many drums are in each set and what are their sizes?

Frank Aarnink - Adams Dresdener pedal 20”,23”,25”,26”,29”,32”.

Adams Berlin pedal 21” 25” 26” 29” 32”.   Ringer 26” 29”   Dresdener about 23” 26”?

David Corkhill - 4 timpani: 32", 29", 26", 23"

Gerald Fromme - Ringer 2x23”, 1x 26”,28”,31”,33” / Dresden 2 x 28”, 2 x 31” / Aehnelt 1 x 34”, Hochrainer 3 x 26”, 3 x 28”, 1 x 23”

Jim Gordon - Philharmonics  32 29 26 25 23”   Professionals 32 29 26 23 “     Hand drums  29 26 “

Mike Quinn - Ringer  5   Light 7 } standard sizes    Dörfler  5   32/29/26/26/24

Guido Rückel - Normally I’m using 4 timpani, each set is 5 Timpani (4+piccolo), the Aehnelt has an additional custom build Bass-Timpani (tuning below C is possible!!)

Ringer:  78, 72, 66, 60, 54         Winkelmann:  78, 72, 64, 58, 54

Wolfgang Schuster – 29 ½ “ 27” 25” 22 ½ “ 21 ½ “

Maarten van der Valk - a) 4 drums, sizes 27/half -26 -23 and 21/half inches.

b) 2 drums, sizes 22 and 25 inches. 

c) 2 drums, sizes 24 and 27 inches.

Nick Woud - Adams philharmonic : 32” 29” 26” 23” 20”

Adams symphonic : 32” 29” 26” 26” 23” 20”

Schnellar pedal timpani : 25” 28”     Rotary piccolo Schnellar : 18”     Van den Hoek : 25” 28”

Why do you use these sizes of timpani?

Frank Aarnink - They were already here, mostly I use the 25” instead of the 23”

David Corkhill - They cover the entire range, but if additional instruments are needed (usually 29" timps) the orchestra hires them as necessary.

Dieter Dyk - Different periods in the development of our cultural art-music asks for equivalent sizes. For example: At the time of Bach and Händel the sizes of the normally played instruments were small ones. The common usage was upon the horse, so they could not be too big. Also in the church, a small diameter was sufficient. So at the court indoors small instruments were asked for because of the relation to the not too big halls. An exception was the cavalry, there they used sizes like 30” / 32” as the Blenheim timpani show. These big instruments were not meant to be taken upon the horse, but on a lafette (I do not know this word in English)

These instruments were taken by the English as war spoil from the French at the battle of Blenheim in 1704. Brought to England, they were hid in the Tower as treasure. Händel used to ask King George when he had to perform his Messiah for the permission those instruments to be played at the “hallelujah”. The common sizes were 16”-17” and round about that. I personally own a pair of kettledrums from 1687, Eisleben /Germany with exactly this size. The classical period (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven) used average between 19”-21” to 20”-22”. Since the making of kettledrums was not only of military purpose and the concert halls grew bigger, the instruments became bigger as well. The difference between the diameters of the two drums also changed. At Bach’s time it was only 1”, later 2” in order to have a better balance in the tuning of a perfect fourth. Since Beethoven asks for one octave distance ( f-F) the difference grew to 3”.

The so called early romantic measure is 20”-23”. Then the sizes (diameters but not necessarily the depth) grew again, because the musical role, especially for the opera, asked for more sensitivity and bright and loud sounds. The sticks changed from wood to flannel or felt. Berlioz was the first who wanted the timpani to be ordinarily played with sponge headed sticks. And not at least, the skins changed more and more from the use of both calf and goat to the calf side, because it even in very loud passages – played with felt or flannel – keeps a certain quality (not with the wood stick). The goat skin is not reacting to felt as clear as the calf. With goat you use harder (flannel) sticks. At the beginning of the 20th century, the sizes changed again. And the calf became thinner by a new technique of splitting. Softer sticks were the following need. To answer your question: we are convinced, that each period has its own character, and if we want to find out what’s so special about it, we can take the material conditions as a signpost or guide. Independent from acoustic conditions.

Gerald FrommeBecause their sound is the best in my opinion.

Jim Gordon - I like the 25” for all notes above E and the Adams model has a bit more range and is better in tune. The other sizes are standard but suit the timbre of the orchestra for most repertoire

Louis Sauvetre – I don’t have other drums for now

Maarten van der Valk - They appeal to my wish of sound, playing with this orchestra.

Nick Woud - To be able to attain the ideal sound on each drum (modern ones). The older ones we use as they are. They sound great even when we play a note which is (basically) too low for the drum.

For what repertoire, or periods of music, is each set of drums used?

Frank Aarnink - The Adams for everything, the Ringer’s for when I feel like, for Brahms/Beethoven and so, the Dresdener for Mozart/Bach, maybe Beethoven.

Fausto Bombarderi - Ringer for romantic and when I need a lot of sound. Generally they stay in the auditorium. Chicago Ludwig for concert in other concert hall. Baroque timpani, for classical program. We are 45 musician so we do program not so big. Some time we do a big programs and free-lance musicians help us. Every program we perform in different places: auditorium, church, sport arenas. Normally I use the Ringer set calf skin in the Auditorium of the orchestra and I play with the Ludwig Chicago plastic white in the other situations. This depends of course the repertoire so some time I use the baroque timpani everywhere.

David Corkhill - All repertoires: differences in period style are effected by use of different sticks, different sizes of instrument, and personal technique.

Dieter Dyk - Set A and B : Brahms, Dvorak, Bruckner and Mahler up to the present (all kinds of sticks like flannel, hard to soft felt and if asked by the composer - wood) (set A: renaissance, set B : calf- some times goat) My colleague K.H.Benzinger, playing the A set, does not like to have too much problems with tuning. I, playing the B set, love the natural sound better and take the risk. I prefer goat, because it is more easy to play – the roll for example- it keeps the tuning better, is dryer in our overwhelming acoustic, lives longer, costs less!

Set C and E: Mendelssohn, Weber etc. to Schumann (calf, hard felt and flannel)

Set D: Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven (goat, wood)

Set F: Schubert to Schumann (goat, wood)

Set G: modern music, renaissance skins, unusual sticks and things to put upon the head (like cymbals, gongs or temple bells)

Set H: for special tasks from Schubert to Mahler (flannel and wood, goatskins)

Gerald Fromme - In principle I play the classical period and romantic on the Hochrainer timpani, however I also enjoy playing modern pieces on the pedal timpani, which I use when you must tune quickly. I decide from piece to piece.

Jim Gordon - The Adams Philharmonics are used for 90 % of our repertoire, the Professionals for 20th century pieces with pedalling problems and the hand drums for Haydn. Mozart & early Beethoven

Peter Offelder My orchestra plays all types of music, not specialised repertoire, so there is no need for Baroque timpani.

Mike Quinn - Repertoire not a factor. Rehearsal hall or Theatre. Touring

Guido Rückel - I am using the Ringer for everything except: Early classic (Haydn, Beethoven 1, etc.) : Dresdner Timpani, Mozart etc. : Lefima Baroque

Louis Sauvetre – All for now

Wolfgang Schuster – For all kinds of music we use the Viennese timpani, except contemporary, where we use Adams pedal timpani.

Maarten van der Valk - a) Rameau,Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelsohn, early Brahms.

b) Bach, Handel.

c) Brahms, Schumann.

Nick Woud - The Schnellars, V.d. Hoek’s  for the early, middle romantic and classical repertoire

The Adams Philharmonics for everything else.

The Adams Symphonics for outdoors and modern / setup repertoire

Is there a connection between the size and sound of your orchestra - and the acoustics of your performance hall – and your choice of timpani?

Frank Aarnink - No, the sizes are more related to the music we play.

Fausto Bombarderi - Not about size but about quality of sound.

David Corkhill - I believe the sound of Ludwig timpani complements the best traditions of the Philharmonia sound, but I would use these instruments whatever the orchestra.

Dieter Dyk - Indeed, there is a connection. Only 20 years ago, nobody cared about balance. The modern instruments were also good for ancient music. With the change of interpretation and rediscovering the old instruments you could compare. Our orchestra does not want to have a heavy fat sound, more light in the direction of the Vienna Philharmonic. Now we look for the best balance. In our hall, it is more advantage to play an instrument that does not ring too much, otherwise we are constantly busy with damping.

Gerald Fromme - Not especially. We use Hochrainer the most we can. They have a beautiful dark sound and you can’t overplay. But tuning is hard!

Jim GordonIdeally yes, in practise no

Peter Offelder – We play in too many different halls.

Maarten van der Valk - Yes, as mentioned before between size and sound of orchestra and choice of timpani. The acoustic of the performance hall should be approached as well as possible for and by the whole orchestra, so with "it's sound".

Guido Rückel - Yes, the Ringer is the one that has the most “German” sound, it matches the best with the rest of the Orchestra…for my opinion I think, that the Aehnelt are too big. But the smaller Timps (Dresdner and Baroque) have a similar sound to the Ringer, but with a reduced loudness!!

Wolfgang Schuster – The size is not the most important factor – instead the system of the timpani and the goat skin.

Nick Woud - Apart from using the old timpani (Schnellar and v.d. Hoek), that absolutely have created part of the sound of the orchestra, the Adams are quite standard instruments. We will not use too high tensioned drums though, and would rather choose, smaller drums than bigger ones.

Does the performance location or environmental conditions influence your choice of timpani ?

Frank Aarnink - Only when were playing outside I choose plastic.

David Corkhill - No

Dieter Dyk - Some times, but only secondarily – the weather conditions.

Gerald Fromme - Of course. We don’t use natural skins in open air. Its a pity for the music.

Jim GordonDepends on the repertoire

Peter Offelder – No! Only the sticks are different in different halls.

Mike Quinn - Yes

Louis Sauvetre - Yes (calf heads don’t travel when possible)

Maarten van der Valk – No

Nick Woud - No, because we use calf heads and are used to the difficulties caused by this.


What are your reasons for using each type of head? eg. different periods of repertoire, performance location (inside / outside)

Frank Aarnink - SOUND!

David Corkhill - Since the revival of calf heads in the UK (and the introduction of their compromise, so-called 'Renaissance' heads) plastic heads have become regarded as poor relations. It is my experience and belief that appropriate style, whatever the period or repertoire, is the responsibility and is under the control of the player more than the technology; plastic heads with the right player can achieve all the right musical contexts a timpanist needs. In brief, plastic is fantastic!  

Dieter Dyk - Instrument type, tuning problems, unusual types of sticks, sound character sensitivity

Gerald Fromme - As I said: the Hochrainer timpani with goat skin we use from the baroque up to the romantic. The sound integrates more with the orchestra because its warmer indeed. On the other timpani we use renaissance skin, but soon we’ll change the Dresden models to goat skin too.

Jim Gordon - Early model Renaissance heads were encouraging, later models disappointing. Because of many runout concerts, Renaissance heads are my head of choice but I am still looking for a better sound on the 29 and 26 drums. The hand drums have calf heads which please me.

Mike Quinn - Calf has best sound. Renaissance used on Lights

Louis Sauvetre - I like very much calf heads for all the non 20th century music, for musical reasons. For me they have a better rhythmical impact in the orchestra, and if I am not sure the difference is big from outside the orchestra (between calf and renaissance) I definitely don’t play the same when I play calf heads. I  think it is more easy to fit in the sound of the orchestra, to play more deep, to find more colours with one pair of sticks only. Especially the contact with the head is very different.

Guido Rückel - With  the “normal” Timpani we are using Kalfo Heads only, on my small Dresdner I’m using goat-skin (“Ziegen-Fell”). In the Summer my Orchestra (Munich Phil) is playing one open-air concert, there we are using Renaissance. Kalfo-Heads are producing the best sound!!! But, using them on open-air concerts, it's like suicide!!! I did this once in my life, it was a nightmare!!!!!

Wolfgang Schuster – The sound.

Maarten van der Valk - The most optimal clear sound and pitch.

Nick Woud - Basically we will play calf heads always, on the pair of Schnellar machine drums are goat skin and outside we will use plastic.

Could you please give your thoughts on Renaissance heads? How do they compare to other plastic heads?

Frank Aarnink - I think renaissance heads are much better to play on then normal plastic heads (the white one’s, I hate the clear one’s) Only for a school or amateur band I would recommend white one’s.

Fausto Bombarderi - I used a lot the renaissance heads. I like but they have more problem them plastic heads and renaissance doesn’t help me for tuning and sound . So I decided to use calf and plastic.

David Corkhill - I referred to them as a 'compromise'. Calf heads have a unique and special sound that not even the best plastic heads can achieve; plastic heads too have their own distinctive quality. Renaissance heads in my view are not able to match either of these in their own sound field and furthermore do not add a sufficiently distinctive new sound to the timpani sound world. Their rough finish also tends to damage many soft timpani stick heads.

Dieter Dyk - In p up to mf they are fairly good sounding clear and distinct. From f to ff and more they loose quality , do not sound organic and have no “centre”. White plastic has more strength in higher ranges and extreme loudness

Gerald Fromme - I’m not very happy with them, but I think the colour is the reason and the sound is better in the audience then on stage.

Peter OffelderTheir sound is close to that of natural skins.

Mike Quinn – Better

Guido Rückel - Of course they are not as good as calf-heads, but I think, they are the best “not-normal-skin” heads, much better than normal Plastic heads!!

Maarten van der Valk - Much better, as speaking for timpani. They have improved and if it were possible on Baroque Timps, I would definitely bring them along on tours for when the weather circumstances are bad.

Nick Woud - Much better though I’m not sure the quality is always good. There seem to be to many different types still going around. I think they absolutely are better than the heads we had before. The Evans heads I tried were impossible, in terms of putting them on the drum and intonation. I liked the “old” Premier heads a lot. Nice sound and good feeling.

Does the conductor of your orchestra have an influence on the choice of drums and heads?

Frank Aarnink – Not yet

Fausto Bombarderi – I decide what I want to use

David Corkhill - No

Dieter Dyk - When David Zinman, our present chief conductor, started, he asked in general for smaller instruments, because he already was very aware of balance, but he did not know the connection between skin and stick!

Gerald Fromme - Sometimes. If they feel competent in particular musical styles. e.g. baroque etc.

Jim GordonNo

Peter Offelder – They only try to change my choice of sticks

Mike Quinn - Muti insisted on having the Light drums when he first arrived from Philadelphia. They are not used much except for touring.

Guido Rückel - Normally its my choice. Some conductors are really loving the sound of the Baroque Timps (James Levine!!!) for Mozart, Haydn, early Beethoven, others are preferring the “normal” ones, but 95% its my choice, and basta!!!

Louis Sauvetre - Not really, but I try to find the right sound to be close to the style he wants.

Wolfgang Schuster – No.

Maarten van der Valk - Yes, he has on the choice of Timps.

Nick Woud - If a conductor asks about this, they will want calf heads only, so that’s no problem. Sometimes the conductor asks for smaller drums, baroque type, if we play older repertoire but we will finally make our own choice.

How regularly do you change the heads on your drums?

Frank Aarnink - Once a year on the middle set, less often on the other one’s.

Fausto Bombarderi - Calf skin every year. Plastic depending on how much I use.

David Corkhill - Every couple of years, depending on wear

Dieter Dyk -Depends to the state of used condition. At least after 2 seasons. Plastic and natural skins equally.

Gerald FrommeWhen the sound gets bad. On average once a year.

Jim Gordon - Renaissance every 2 years, calf 1-3 years depending on use

Peter Offelder – Only if they are defective.

Mike Quinn - Calf  once per year.  Plastic  when necessary.

Guido Rückel - It depends on the Programs : Normally I change the two middle Drums of my 4 Timpani-set 3 times a Season, the two outer Timps 2 times, so I need 10 Heads a Season. But if it’s a “Loud Season” (much Mahler, Bruckner, Strauss) then perhaps I need more…but mostly 10 Heads, I think that’s o.k.

Louis Sauvetre - I don’t know exactly yet.

Wolfgang Schuster – It depends on their quality.

Maarten van der Valk - Depends on all conditions, like weather, how many concerts, Beethoven 9th symphony or Serenata Notturna. Averagely spoken, once or twice a year.

Nick Woud - Every 5 months we will rotate the calf head on the middle drums 180* The outside drums last longer. The plastic can last several years because we hardly use them.

How often do you clear (adjust the skin at each tension rod to the same pitch) the skins on your timpani?

Frank AarninkOnly when really necessary

David Corkhill – When I change the heads.

Dieter Dyk - Very few! Only, if really necessary after changing.

Gerald Fromme At the beginning of every rehearsal or concert

Jim Gordonfor every performance

Peter Offelder Only if the heads have been put out of tune by transport.

Guido Rückel - If the heads are brand new, they are perfectly in tune…(one reason for this is, that I change the Heads for myself with a 3 Day Drying-Period)…but if the Heads are “well-used” it could be possible that I need to retune them every day!!! 

Maarten van der Valk - Checking all the time, depends on tension of skin/weather and how much travelling, or if you want how much change of halls, trucks, plains etc.

Nick Woud - Almost never. If the head is out of tune, we will take it of and wet it and put it on again. That works best with calf. Clearing in the normal way (as with plastic heads) will only destroy the sound.


Go to the drums page to see what type of pedal (or otherwise) is used on each set of timpani

What do you feel are the advantages / disadvantages of using this tuning system?

Fausto Bombarderi - Ringer is not so precise, the better is the Dresden system. For faster changes there is a risk to noise in the structure.

David Corkhill - It allows me the essential permanent contact with the instruments' intonation.

Dieter Dyk - Direct, you feel the skin working, gives an orientation about the condition of the skin, by experience you know approximately quick where to go in a fast-blind tuning.

Gerald Fromme - Everybody knows, that 2 pedals and 2 screws are the quickest method for tuning - the left and right placed timpani with screw allows you to tune the timpani quickest. (Two feet, two hands!? Or?)

Jim Gordon - I like the Dresden pedal because the clutch is very secure on the Adams drums. It can be disadvantageous for quick changes downwards. The Premier pedal was not my choice as the drums belonged to another colleague and were inherited by my orchestra. I don’t use them very often.

Peter OffelderIt works well for a long period of time.

Guido Rückel - Berlin Tuning system I feel most comfortable with, so for me it’s the best.

Wolfgang Schuster – Hands are more sensitive than feet.

Maarten van der Valk - Advantage: Fine tuning all the time-hand tuned - Disadvantage: slower tone changes.

Nick Woud - The sensitivity with the Dresdner system works for me better than the Berlin one. But both are valid and ok. Sometimes the machine tuned drums are fine, especially for changing notes, but to correct a wrong intonation with eg roll’s or a virtuoso passage, is a big problem.

Does the tuning system have an affect on the way you play this drum?

Fausto Bombarderi - Slow tuning

David Corkhill - It gives me the freedom to play in the most appropriately musical way

Dieter Dyk - No

Gerald Fromme – I don’t hope so.

Jim Gordon - The way I play the drum has more to do with repertoire, stick choice and colour and the tuning system

Peter Offelder – No

Guido Rückel - No

Maarten van der Valk - Sometimes, when for instance. experiencing dry air, while playing you notice the pitch is getting higher, you have to wait for the 1st possible break or short pause to adjust.

Nick Woud - Yes, the pedal system has an effect on the playing position and more important on the position of the hand. For example, with the Berlin system the position will be more v-shaped , because of the knees interfering. Also because of the pressure with calf heads we normally sit a bit more on the edge of the chair , to have some counter-pressure.

Do you use tuning gauges on your timpani? Do you think they are necessary?

Frank Aarnink - Yes, they are a great help if you don’t trust them to much.

Fausto Bombarderi – I tune by ear.

David Corkhill - Yes, I use them, but they are not absolutely necessary - the player's ear and pedal technique (developed it is hoped from Conservatoire study without gauges) should be sufficient in most cases. Nevertheless gauges are extremely useful guides. 

Dieter Dyk  - Not really necessary, but helpful: helps to remember where the last tuning stopped, without touching the skin

Gerald Fromme - I do hope for all the timpanists, that they are not dependent on it.

Jim Gordon - I have gauges and I use them from time to time

Peter OffelderThey are not often necessary

Mike Quinn – Yes and yes

Guido Rückel - On the “normal” Timps there are the typical tuning gauges, and I need them!!! (Wagner, Bartók, R. Strauss, 20Th century without tuning gauges? Never!!!) 

Louis Sauvetre - I do. They help a lot, but I trust more and more my ears and every time I can adjust a note, I do it. At least I keep the pedal open when possible. Actually I feel more secure like this and it is very easy with the old ringer pedal.

Maarten van der Valk - Playing in a symphony orchestra, for instance Strauss' "Rosenkavalier" it is useful during the scale changes. In general I prefer without, but in today's modern repertoire it is very handy and practically necessary, unless you have "absolute hearing". Teaching pedal Timps, I cover them as much as possible for my pupils.

Nick Woud - Yes absolutely. First responsibility: they have to be in tune! They will help to tune faster, and so give more space to count, change sticks, etc. Also is it possible to see the actual tuning on the drum in pieces with a lot of changing. Never trust them though. Keep the ears open all the time, also with plastic. In some fast tuning passages it is better to feel than to look.


In what order do you set up your timpani?

Frank Aarnink – German

Fausto Bombarderi - German

David Corkhill - International

Dieter DykGerman

Gerald Fromme - German

Jim GordonInternational

Peter Offelder – German

Mike Quinn – International

Guido Rückel - German

Louis Sauvetre – German

Wolfgang Schuster - German

Maarten van der Valk – German

Nick Woud - German

Is this set-up one of personal preference or influenced by other factors eg. the design of the timpani?

Frank Aarnink - I played the other way around in Holland, but the set here were like this.

Fausto Bombarderi – The pedal.

David Corkhill - UK tradition and common sense lead me to this set-up - after all, all keyboards have their 'high' notes on the right

Dieter Dyk - Following the German tradition, but also my personal preference because of the leading by the left hand, which opens more the heart-side and with that puts weight on the emotional soft playing rather than the dictating strength of a right hand.

Gerald Fromme - It depends on historical reasons, design surely not . To explain here, space is too little.

Jim Gordon - Its the way I was taught to play , design has no influence.

Peter OffelderI learned the traditional style of Vienna and Berlin.

Mike Quinn – In Italy they play with the high timpani on the right

Guido Rückel - It’s the German (Swiss, Austrian) way of playing timpani, and the way I learned it

Louis Sauvetre - I changed. I used to play the French way, now I play the German way because of the instruments (pedals). This is absolutely no problem to change, and I think it is the same one way or the other.

Wolfgang Schuster – The tradition.

Maarten van der Valk - Influenced by the way I was taught, the German way. But I have played the other way around in a few orchestras, all together 5 years and I think it is necessary for all learning, to be able to play both ways.

Nick Woud - Both and of course tradition (part of our profession)

Do you have any thoughts on the advantages or disadvantages of each setup, in what ways does it influence performance?

Frank Aarnink - It doesn’t matter at all. Some times I play both ways in one concert (2 sets of timps of course)

David Corkhill - I can see no advantages to having low notes on the right, however much European timpanists may try to justify this system.

Dieter Dyk - Of course, on pedal timpani you can tune and play even with two hands at the same time. Through the technical advance there also is a musical advance. With machine timpani, quick tuning it is not possible. With pedal tuned instruments you have more time to put your attention to the musical flow, instead of being busy with the tuning proceedings!

Gerald Fromme - As I said: The goat skins are “devils”. Tuning them in the right way is hard. But the comfortable way is always the worst. The success is the result! (Or reverse!) Further the tuning range by Hochrainer is more than an octave on each timpani.

Jim Gordon - In Germanic countries players prefer the small timp left. Its illogical to me and probably has something to do with the position of the basses (see old 19th century orchestra prints) . If you have a piano background playing German style is very odd.

Guido Rückel - Just a matter of the way you learned it…there should be no advantages

Maarten van der Valk - The way you are sitting in the orchestra can be important. If high drum is on left and basses are on left, it has a different outcome on the sound. In our orchestra I sit left on stage (looking from behind) with the trumpets, and basses right of me, in the middle. For instance, “The Seasons by Haydn”, I sit in the middle in front of the choir. Basses right, down a bit.

Nick WoudNo advantages or disadvantages.

Do you perform sitting or standing? If sitting, is the stool in a high or low position?

Fausto Bombarderi - sitting

David Corkhill – sitting, middle position

Dieter Dyk - Sitting with the big instruments (sometimes tuning with both legs at the same time, more comfortable) chair relatively high. Standing with the small instruments. Also depends on the timpani-drum-technique (wooden sticks, double stroke roll different position etc.)

Gerald Fromme - Sitting on high position with feet on the ground, not on stool.

Jim GordonSitting on a high stool

Peter Offelder – Sitting

Mike Quinn – sitting in a high position

Guido Rückelsitting, low

Louis Sauvetre - Both, depends what I have to play. I like better to sit then I can keep my feet on the pedal. It is also more comfortable. If I have to move a lot, I like better to stand.

Wolfgang Schuster – Sitting in a high position.

Maarten van der Valk - Sitting, stool is in a medium position.

Nick Woud - Sit, in a rather high position. This will create generally a better sound, because the distance of the drums will take out the aggressiveness of the sound.

Could you please give your thoughts on how playing position affects the sound of the timpani?

Fausto BombarderiDepends on which character I want.

David Corkhill - Briefly: 1. the stick head must strike the timp head when the stick becomes parallel with the timp head  2. the player must sit upright and relaxed in order to have overall control of all the instruments and preserve a good flow of oxygen to the brain and body.

Dieter Dyk - If too high, danger of digging the sound in to the drum, because the wrist can- not go away quick and complete enough to let the skin vibrate. There are basic differences also depending to the stick holding position and the intention of what the stroke should effect. Staccato, legato, full sound, depth, hard, soft etc.

Gerald Fromme - The best position is behind the strings (eg. Second violins), because the sound is more integrated in the orchestra and you can better control the timing between strings, woodwinds and brass.

Jim Gordon - I’m always aware of how much stick is striking the head and I want to be able to control or change the angle according to my musical decisions during performance. If I sit too low I can’t do this, but with the stool at the right height  I can control things pretty well.

Guido Rückel - If you are sitting too high, the angle between the Stick and the head is not correct [Herr Rückel at this point included a diagram indicating that he prefers the stick to be flat when striking the timpani, not angled downwards]

Louis Sauvetre - I think I get more easily involved when I stand, more dynamic.

Maarten van der Valk - In general I would say, very natural; the best way you feel comfortable; with certain definite importance’s like straight back, not too much arm length away or too close from the Timps. Very important to lean a bit forward, feet on pedals or if without on the ground; for better moving and rotating body during action (so stool not too low!)

If your orchestra were to hold a timpani audition, what drums would auditionees be asked to perform on, for what types of repertoire?

Fausto Bombarderi - All kinds of timpani. Available and free choice for the musician.

David Corkhill - Ludwig Professional Symphonic (or for my colleague Andrew Smith, Premier) Bach, Beethoven, Bartok, R. Strauss, Janacek

Dieter Dyk - Up to romantic such as Schumann, small instruments goat skins, wooden sticks. All furthers: big instruments, felt or flannel and wood, if prescription

Gerald FrommeThey can choose what they want.

Jim Gordon – Adams Philharmonics

Peter OffelderSame timpani for all repertoire.

Mike Quinn - Depends where the audition is held

Guido Rückel - They would be asked to play on the Ringer/ Aehnelt.

Wolfgang Schuster – Only on the Viennese style timpani.

Nick Woud - The Schnellars for the older repertoire and the Adams for the later.


Please describe the bowls of your timpani, what is their shape?

David Corkhill - hemispherical

Dieter Dyk - Dresden and older: half bowl with a cylindrical collar

Ringer: more conical

Viennese: egg shape (elliptic) , very deep

Gerald Fromme - Hochrainer is like a vase or dome. The sound is darker. The other shape of bowl is known as well.

Jim Gordon - Hand hammered parabolic bowls

Peter Offelder – Traditional

Mike Quinn - Ringers/Dörflers – flat bottom, hard rim   Lights - flat bottom, round rim

Kolberg  round bottom, flared kettle

Maarten van der Valk – George Potter & sons - Hoop diameter and depth almost equal. (straight smile bottom?)

Baroque timpani (German make) - Deeper than hoop diameter. (slightly "disappointed" smile bottom?)

van den Hoek - "drop" shape- pointy in the bottom.

Nick Woud - Schnellars almost v- shaped, Adams : parabolic, V.d. Hoek : very shallow

In what ways do you think the shape of the bowl influences the sound of the timpani?

David Corkhill - I'm not sure, but I like the sound they make.

Dieter Dyk - Round: full warm sound

Conical: more focused tone, bright

Egg: focused and dark

Gerald Fromme - Vase or dome = darker sound. (Dark is beautiful!)

Jim Gordon - The parabolic bowls give a somewhat darker sound, not always ideal

Peter Offelder - The form and the hardness of the kettle make the sharpness of the tone. Also the hammering!! It is the same by the brass instruments about material and mensur of the natural horn.

Mike Quinn - Flat bottom – darker sound   hard rim – better definition

Maarten van der Valk – George Potter & sons - is very bright, clear and direct.

Baroque timpani - heavier, dryer sound.

van den Hoek - clear, deep but bright at the same time.

Nick Woud - I’m not sure, all the drums sound excellent, with all different shapes so the construction and the tension of the sides of the bowls are more important than we think.

Are there any special features about the bowls, for example the lip of the bowl or

thickness of the metal, that also may contribute to the sound of the timpani?

Dieter Dyk - Sharp shoulder: exact shape of tone

Round shoulder: softer shape of tone

Thin material: more sensitive in p and pp passages, not so strong in ff

Thick material: stiff in p, no good attack up to mf, very strong in ff

Copper: warm and lively, even when hammered

Brass: rather cool and stiff, but also bright

Plastic (fibre-glass): dull, no strength, no real power

With frame: closed vibration

Without frame (eg. Schnellar): free ringing, like baroque instruments

Gerald Fromme - Thin metal sounds thin. The lips of Hochrainer-bowls don’t hang in a rim, they move up and down while tuning. There are no unnecessary materials like push-rods or other things around the bowls therefore they sounds free and friendly.

Jim Gordon - If the drums are moved a lot, its a good idea to check if the bowls are symmetric after a while (stage hands are often careless) I use Teflon spray on the bowl before putting on a new head

Wolfgang Schuster - The intention [with the Schnellar design] was to improve the sound's quality, especially in the fortissimo, what actually succeeded. This effect can be described as following: Regarding the dynamics (starting from forte) the timpani of Viennese system stands above the sound of the Timpani of the Dresdner system, which are covered by calf or synthetic heads. The Dresdner Timpani covered with calf skin, has a much more clearer sound in the fields till mezzo piano, because the full harmonics series don't attain to swing. I want to point out, that this is the subjective opinion of those, who play the Viennese timpani. The fundamental difference to the Dresdner Timpani consists in the circumstance, that the skin is not draw down over the kettle at the tuning, but the free swinging kettle is moved up an down. Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss did appreciate these instruments very much, both also knew Schnellar personally. Mahler transported two pairs of the Schnellar timpani to New York; also he wanted to engage Schnellar as guest-timpanist in New York as well as in Amsterdam.

Maarten van der Valk - I believe so. The above question I think explains a lot in this matter. The lip has an influence by how the skin folds over the whole Timp. My experience with this is not much. But I believe that with goat skin for instance a thicker lip works better for the sound, rather than a thin lip.

Nick Woudsee above

Do you use specially designed timpani to obtain notes in extreme registers?

Gerald FrommeWe use the Aehnelt timpani for the lowest notes like Mahler etc. It’s our biggest timpani

Nick Woud - Yes, a 41” v.d. Hoek timpano for the notes below C and an 18” piccolo Schnellar timpano for the notes above d

Of what material is the frame constructed?

Dieter Dyk - Dresden: Cast iron and steel, Ringer: Cast aluminium and steel, R. Ludwig: Cast iron and iron, Schnellar: Cast aluminium, Kolberg: Cast aluminium

Gerald FrommeCast iron

Jim Gordoncopper

Mike Quinn – Cast steel

Maarten van der Valk – metal

Nick Woud - Mostly iron or copper

What is the weight of each timpani?

Gerald Fromme – from app. 30 – 60 kg.

Jim Gordon – 60-80 kilos

Peter OffelderDresdener timpani are very heavy with an iron frame.

Mike Quinn - Enough to make the stage manager complain constantly.

Maarten van der Valk - a) appr. 30, 28, 26 and 24 kg.

b) app. 25 and 23 kg.

c) app. 40 and 45 kg.

Nick Woud - Adams around 85 kilo’s, The Schnellars/ v.d. Hoek maybe 40 or so

Do you think the weight of the drum is an important consideration when purchasing new timpani?

Frank Aarnink - Yeah, for our roadies!

David Corkhill - Yes: they need to be well built and not light - light material absorbs energy.

Dieter Dyk – Yes

Gerald Fromme - Yes. The better the connection to the stage, the better the sound. The most important is: the stage must be of softwood!!!!! The difference is amazing!!

Jim Gordon – You must have been a stage hand at some point in your career.

Peter Offelder – No

Mike Quinn - Only for the stage manager…

Nick Woud - Yes, although never the most important. Also important are the height, sound of course and comfort.  

Back to top          On to Bibliography          Back to home



Hosted by