How to Play the Timpani
The mallet has an effect on the quality of sound
There are various kinds of mallets used to strike the timpani, and the player can change mallets to change the tone during the performance. Different mallets are used according to the sheet music and the sound to be expressed, such as the softness or strength of the sound.
Material like felt, flannel, or cork is used for the mallet head that comes into contact with the timpani head surface, while wood or bamboo is often used for the handle. Although bamboo seems like an unusual choice of material, its light weight and ease of use makes it especially popular with skilled players. Two straight bamboo rods with nodes at the same positions are held together for use as a pair of mallets.
Mallets were once shorter
In the age of Bach and Mozart, smaller timpani were used. Mallets were short and made of wood, producing a relatively light sound. Mozart would be quite surprised to hear the deep, soft sound of timpani today!