In Search of the Missing Fundamental: by Richard K. Jones
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This WEBook can serve as a primer to all students of timpani who wish to bridge a gap; a gap between their understanding of the acoustical properties of timpani, and how that understanding can be of value with the mundane and sometimes feared process of tempering the instrument. It can also bridge the gap between the readers knowledge of the physics of timpani, and the many misunderstandings about the instrument that are still being promulgated within contemporary timpani culture and its ever growing community of practitioners. It is written primarily for students of timpani/percussion, but it should be of interest to any musician and to students of science as well.

Having a working knowledge of the acoustics and physics of timpani is certainly not necessary in order to gain a technical and musical mastery of the instrument. However, gaining a basic understanding of how the instrument functions acoustically, and the physics of how and why this happens will help the player develop a fuller understanding of the instrument, and an appreciation for the uniqueness of how it produces pitch. In today’s highly competitive market for timpani positions, every student needs an X factor. A mastery of timpani pitch can certainly be one.

At the crux of this WEBook is a discussion about the content and structure of timpani pitch, how the instruments produce that pitch, and how humans perceive that pitch. To better comprehend the differences between timpani pitch, and the pitch that other orchestral instruments generate, reading chapters one through four in sequence is recommended. The mathematics involved are relatively simple and easy to understand, plus there are many charts, graphs, sound clips and videos to accompany the information.  These additions will aid in the overall understanding of the material presented.

This WEBook is not intended to replace a rigorous study of the acoustics of music, or the physics of timpani. It is simply a codification of my research and observations about the instrument that I play. Enjoy!

Richard K. Jones
October 2011
Lincoln, Ne

Table of Contents

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