Small Timpani

Small Timpani

1111museum1(2010-04-01) Donated by Jerome and Lisa Deupree

Timpani, or pitched drums, have existed in various sizes for hundreds of years. As technological advances occurred, whether it was in the types of materials available for construction or in newly designed methods of tuning the pitch of the heads, the instrument also evolved.

An intriguing set of four small timpani, all identical in size with a unique tuning system, are included in the PAS museum collection. These drums, each of which is 5½ inches in depth by 9 inches in diameter, are constructed with a double-bowl design from molded fiberglass. Each drum consists of an outside bowl, an inside bowl, a drumhead of either plastic or calfskin mounted on a hoop, a metal counterhoop, and a screw mechanism located at the base with which to adjust the pitch of the drum. The metal counterhoops are firmly attached to the outside bowl with eight nuts and bolts that hold the head firmly in place against the outside bowl. The inside bowl is raised to provide tension against the head by turning a metal wingnut screw located at the base of the outside bowl. As the inside bowl is raised or lowered, the change in tension adjusts the pitch of the head.

The inside bowls are roughly finished on their outside surface, visibly showing their fiberglass composition and smoothly finished on the inside to provide appropriate resonance for the head. The outside bowls are roughly finished on their inside surface and smoothly finished on the outside for appropriate appearance. All bowls have a single vent hole that allows air to escape when struck, and the outside bowls are attached to a flat metal bar with four nuts and bolts on a reinforcement plate through which the tuning screw is mounted.

The drums are mounted in pairs on a flat, metal crossbar through which the tuning screw protrudes, and both of the crossbars are attached to a central wooden brace. This arrangement results in a square of four drums, all mounted on a stand that rises to a maximum height of 44½ inches. There are no identifiable markings on the drums that positively identify the manufacturer, but as the use of fiberglass for commercial purposes generally began after World War II, these drums likely date from the post-war period.