ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on April 25, 2010

The most important drum in the symphony orchestra is the timpani, kettledrum, or tympanum, a single-skinned drum tuned to a specific pitch. It is made of a large, bowl-shaped copper "kettle," and the tension of the skin, or head, can be adjusted either manually or mechanically to permit pitch changes. Struck with sticks having various felt or sponge heads, it can produce different tone effects. Timpanis originated in the Middle East, where they were carried in pairs by players on horseback. They were introduced to Europe at the time of the Crusades and into the symphony orchestra during the 18th century, when they were played in pairs tuned to tonic and dominant pitches. In modern orchestras, three or more timpanis are usually used.

Beethoven (1770-1827) was the first composer to vary the tuning of timpanis from the conventional tonic-dominant. Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) was probably the first to call for a change of tuning during a single movement. Bela Bartok (1881-1945) made use of the glissando: a rapid, slurring effect made possible only by mechanical tuning.

Photo by Ted Cabanes
Photo by Ted Cabanes

Other Drums

The other drums of the orchestra have two skins and are of indefinite pitch. The tension of their skins is maintained by cords or rods that stretch from skin to skin and can be tightened or loosened. Among these drums are the snare ("side") drum, the tenor drum, and the bass drum.

The snare drum gets its name from its characteristic rattling tone created by snares—gut or metal strings, stretched tightly across the lower drumhead. The upper head is struck with wooden sticks, frequently in "rolls," or rhythmic trills, that are difficult to perform. Eighteenth century composers used the snare drum primarily to create special effects, but it has become standard equipment in modern orchestras.

The tenor drum is a larger version of the snare drum without the snares. Its tone is dull and muffled, and it is used principally in the fife and drum corps.

The bass drum is the biggest member of the drum family. Held vertically by a marching player or standing on a frame in the orchestra, it is struck on one or both heads.

A combination of drums and cymbals called a trap set is used in popular music and jazz. The drummer is seated and beats the bass drum with a foot pedal, keeping his arms free to play the other drums and the cymbals.

The tambourine is a drum made from a wooden hoop with a single head stretched over the top and has "jingles", or small cymbal-like pieces of metal, attached to its frame. It can be shaken or played with the fingers.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)