In Search of the Missing Fundamental: by Richard K. Jones
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In A Nut Shell

A Quick Guide to Tempering Timpani

1. Clean and condition the head and let it set overnight with low tension on the head.

2. Make sure the drum is well acclimated to the room environment. Play on the drum for a short time to make sure that the air inside of the drum is equal to that of the external room air. Take the drum to its lowest threshold of pitch where each tension rod has no play.

3. Center the head on the bowl.

4. Use the DrumDial™ to adjust the tension evenly at each tension lug point on the drum.

5. Using cross-tuning, temper each pair of opposing tension lugs to the same pitch with an electronic tuner to unify vibrating mode (1,1) which is the frequency from which the perceived pitch of the instrument is defined.

6. Focus on getting each pair of tension lugs exact or as close as possible.

7. Take the drum into playing range and play on it for a minute or two.

8. Repeat steps five through seven until the pitch centers and soft strokes and loud strokes are consistent. When you get the drum to the point where the soft strokes and the loud strokes sound the same, strike the drum at various dynamic levels. Listen for the immediacy, clarity and sustain of the principal tone. You should hear a strong, immediate and sustained principal tone as well as several near harmonic overtones at all dynamic levels.

The tympanist must be a musician, not a mere drummer. And by musician I mean a player in the possession of a developed ear to recognize the different tones, as well as a sense of rhythm and tempi.

— Alfred Friese