In Search of the Missing Fundamental: by Richard K. Jones
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Check Your Work

Since the nature of playing timpani is to strike the instruments, the clear tone and well-defined pitch garnered by the process above may be but a transient event as the drums will gradually lose temperament as they are played on and as the heads stretch and wear out naturally. However, if the drums remain in a stable environment, and care is taken during transport and storage and as long as you don’t perpetually over play the head, you shouldn’t have to do the full process as described above but once when you install new heads and then only routinely fine tune the drums as explained in step six. Once the drums have initially been tempered, you should be able to completely fine tune a set of four drums in as little as fifteen to thirty minutes. The most difficult and time-consuming part is getting the drums through the initial stabilization and tempering process.

Be patient and don’t expect results overnight. Sometimes it takes a while for a head to settle. Again, don’t be afraid to try, just do one drum at a time perhaps and do it a bit every day if possible. Practice tempering your timpani regularly as you would any other technical skill.

This process will to go slowly the first few time you attempt it. However, as you practice doing this it will get easier and faster. For best results, remember to always let the drum sit for as long as possible in a stable environment with the tension off of the heads before adjusting.

If the procedures outlined above fail to produce less than satisfactory results, then one or more of the following is probably true and your instrument needs professional attention.

1. The bowl is not in-round.

2. The lip of the bowl (bearing edge) is not smooth, level and free of any nicks, dents and imperfections, so it is not creating an air-tight seal between the bowl and head.

3. The counterhoop is not flush and in-round.

4. The flesh-hoop is false and/or not free to move inside of the counterhoop.

5. The head is not true and perhaps is defective or worn out.

6. The mechanics of the timpani are not functioning properly so that a uniform or equal tension cannot be maintained at all lug points.

7. The proper range (MSR) for the size of the drum are not correct.