Attention timpanists

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by shedophone, Nov 17, 2003.

  1. shedophone

    shedophone Member

    Just a quick note to say- Read the article on about the development of percussion in brass bands! It has some great tips on the performance, tuning and upkeep of timpani. I find that so many players do not know how to (or just don't) tune timpani properly.

    There is one point in the article i do not agree with. Don't use a glock to get your tuning note! The glock has so many overtones it can be difficult to find the 'true' pitch, and apart from anything else, they're hardly ever in tune with the band. A tuning fork (or well pitched cornet or euph note) is much better.
  2. Railybobs

    Railybobs Member

    Also never use the soft end of a timp mallet to hear the pitch of your timp, for the very reason of overtones.

    i was tought that by Dave King at Salford. Use the hard end gently to hear the true pitch.
  3. bagpuss

    bagpuss Active Member

    I'll agree with you both in principle but I don't agree with not using a glock. Yes there are overtones that come from a glock (and from the timp), but as I was always taught, allow the note to settle before deciding on whether it's sharp or flat. An overtone dies much more quikly than the true note. I always use a glock and whilst the band may be out of tune with the timps or vice versa, it is then easily tuneable up or down. I trust a glocks tuning more than that of a cornet or euph I'm afraid!!!

    I've also noticed that a number of percussionists persist in playng the timps in the same way that they'd play a drum ie. in the middle. I think it says something about the way these people are taught if they don't know that it's wrong to play it in that way.

    Going back to the original posting about care of timps etc, can anyone recommend a company who can overhaul timps? The timps we have are now 6 years old and in need of an overhaul. I've done the usual trick of cleaning and lubricating the pedal assembly while it's in situ, but wouldn't have a clue about taking it apart to overhaul it properly. Any advice gratefully received.

  4. JessopSmythe

    JessopSmythe Active Member

    Ask Ivan for some money for a new set :D :wow
  5. bagpuss

    bagpuss Active Member

    Nice idea mate, but he ain't chairman anymore. Besides, we still have them same treasurer..................blood out of a stone etc.etc.etc

  6. neiltwist

    neiltwist Active Member

    from what i remember hearing somewhere, I thought the glock was purposely sharp so it cuts through more easily, however, I can't remember if this was over the whole range, or just the upper end. Any more info anyone?
  7. bagpuss

    bagpuss Active Member

    No, glock is not sharp to cut through more easily. It cuts through by virtue of it being pitched higher than most instruments and the fact it's made of metal makes it cut through too. Most glocks (especially Yamaha if I remember correctly) are marked on the note bar 'A 440' meaning that the 'A' bar is tuned to 440hz which is the note used by orchestras to 'ensure' (most of the time) that they are all in tune. (I could never work out the relevance of an A at 440hz to a trombonist playing a Bb trombone, but there we go). 'A' at 440hz is also supposedly the note you can sing perfectly first time everytime if you have perfect pitch.

  8. Aidan Geary

    Aidan Geary Member

    An interesting point about the whole A440Hz issue.

    You'll find that most new tuned percussion is tuned at A442Hz therefore immediately making it sharper.

    When I played in London Orchestras, most would tune to A440 - making all the tuned perc. sharp. In Europe (especially Germany) and Chamber Ensembles, A444 is widely used - making the perc. flat.

    Surely then, the band should tune to the glock. But then how many bands tune up regularly anyway? If they do, how many players hide their tuning note within their vibrato? At least in an orchestra the oboe will give an 'A' at the start of each session. Therefore, that is the note to tune to. In a brass band, I guess the percussionist should consultate with the MD and soloists to settle on which 'A' is to be used.

    On the point of overtones on the timpani. Many more overtones are produced if the head of the drum is not tuned to itself. This needs to be checked before each playing, as in many cases, the drums get moved around between rehearsals, and are not handled with care!

    With a fairly hard stick, play a note at the tension bolt nearest you. Then play at the tension bolt furthest from you - these two notes should be the same!!!! Repeat this process around all the tension bolts, using the nearest note as 'home'. That's the way we had to do it with 'hand-tuned' timps. - pedals do not resolve it! Make sure the drums are not carried around by their rims, as this will dislodge the head.

    At the end of the day - the best tuning device we have is our ears.
  9. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    Surely, the fact that you cannot retune a glock then the band is out of tune with the glock? Same thing when bands play with organ. How often is it said that the organ is out of tune with the band?
    I was taught you should always tune to the instrument which is hardest to tune, hence orchestras usually tuning to the oboe.
  10. shedophone

    shedophone Member

    Yep, most new percussion instruments are tuned to A442 (all adams for example). A good glockenspiel may well be 'in tune', but the band will not be in tune to the glock. Imagine the face on your principal cornet if you suggested they took their note from you! :wink:
    More to the point, most bands do not have good glockenspiels. Most players use their badly out of tune glockenspiels to tune their timps, which become out of tune as a result.
    Personally i just use my ears (perfect pitch is a great advantage lol), and i think more people should learn to listen. Its the same with using the gages. So many players do not check them enough, they trust the gages and end up playing wildly out of tune. I've known times where timps have been transported, and the players expect the gages not to have been dislodged at all!
  11. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    So that's it! When you used to play with us, I always said that triangle was sharp :)


  12. Railybobs

    Railybobs Member

    If you need to start retuning a Glock then you can't have taken much care of it in the first place ! ! !
  13. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    Very true, though my old percussion teacher did try it with an old glock he had by removing a bit off the end to try and make it sharper, just to see if it worked. Needless to say, it didn't, much to my amusement. :D
  14. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    Which seems a bit unfair on the harpist!!

    In a lot of cases, bands at concerts will tune to the principal cornet in an offstage room somewhere, often without an electronic gizmo to tell them whether they're at A=440, 442 or anything else. If all the percussion is on stage, then you're in a bit of a no-win situation. I personally usually do tune timps using the glock, and I get good results that way...but I have to agree with shedophone's point that the most important thing you can use for tuning is your ears, same as any other instumentalist. If you tune timps to a glock and it works, then stick with it - if it doesn't work, find a different method.

    Our conductor once asked me if I could make the tubular bells sharper.... :roll: (drummerboy - I know what you're thinking - don't say it!)

  15. bagpuss

    bagpuss Active Member

    Yeah, I'll agree with you on those points. However it depend on your definition of 'new'. Our glock (premiere) is tuned to A440hz (it says so on the note bar. With reference to tuning a band, most people I know use one of these tuning machines, 90% of which are set at A440hz.

    Will agree and partially disagree on these points. The head MUST be in tune with itself otherwise you have absolutely no hope of getting it in tune with anything let alone the band. With regard to carrying the timps around by the rims, I have always found that provided your tension is even all the way round (therefore head in tune with itself), then if the head is dislodged whilst carrying it by the rim, it's not likely to be dislodged by much and also, it will dislodge evenly making it much easier to re-tune of necessary before playing it. With regard to perfect pitch.....I WISH I HAD IT!! Having said that, when I tune to a glock (or anything else for that matter) I can always tell if the timp is minutely out of tune and it will grate on my ears. Most other people can't hear the difference but I can. I suppose it's like being able to hear a TV even when it's on standby or the sound is off. (I can hear that too)

    Couldn't agree more. It's a shame that more people don't use them (judging by some of the efforts I've heard on contest platforms!!!!)

    Sorry if that's a bit bitchy!!!!

  16. bregeband1223

    bregeband1223 Member

    I agree

    We percussionists that all agree :D