The origins of the Timpani
Tonal range and how the pitches are adjusted
What is the timpani's tonal range?
The tonal range on a single timpani might be from C to A♭. The lowest note is C, and notes up to A can be played as the head is tightened. However, since the head can be tightened indefinitely, "pitches within pitches within pitches" of semitones can be produced. For this reason, the timpani uses a tuning indicator, which is a measurement scale used as a guide in tuning the pitch.
What is the purpose for using multiple timpani when performing?
Timpanists generally perform with not just one, but four or five drums placed together.
Timpani come in sizes from 50 to 80 cm in diameter. The larger the drum, the lower the tonal range. This is why timpanists use both small and large timpani, adjusting the sound according to the key of the music played. For instance, the player might adjust the low drum to a scale of "F-B♭ -A-F" or "B♭ -A-E♭ -A". The timpani might also be used to add to the chords played by wind and string instruments, or to play exactly in motion with a melody, or even to play a solo from time to time.