How to Play the Timpani
Where does the player strike the head?
Timpani heads are not struck in the center
The timpani is not struck in the center of the head, but rather close to the rim and towards the player. The wave node runs across the entire head from the center in a straight line, and the vibration's antinode is located at the rim.
Although the pitch of the sound will not change according to where the head is struck, different harmonics will be produced, which changes the timbre. When the antinode is struck, the lowest fundamental tone will ring out clearly, making a loud, full tone with orderly vibrations. When the node is struck, the higher harmonic tones will ring out clearer than the fundamental tone, and the note will sound muddier but higher. On rare occasions, the sheet music may indicate that the center of the head should be struck, but the sound will not sustain for long.
The changes in the head as seen from above when the antinode is struck look like the illustrations shown here.
The white parts contract while the black parts expand; and in the next moment, the wave is reversed and then reversed again, with waves traveling across the entire surface. That said, this motion is not visible to the naked eye. There are other changes to the head that occur, as the head changes according to the tension and the place where it is struck.