About me


On the conclusions page I wrote about a few of the possible ways a research idea such as this can be expanded. Much of my research would not have been possible without the internet and email, and hopefully this web page will provide a further step. To further the idea of this site, I am happy to send a copy of my research questions to any interested players, and hopefully add their responses to this site sometime in the future. You can email me at scottweatherson@europeantimpani.com

From 2005-2014 I was the Principal Timpanist of the Macao Orchestra. This was my first full time orchestral job, and many of the things I learnt writing my thesis I was able to put into practice there. Even though my former ensemble is based in a region a long way from Europe, I have answered my own research questions to give a bit of information about the equipment I used in that orchestra. For many years the Macao Orchestra had only one set of timpani, made by Concorde. The design is an amalgamation of aspects of Ludwig and Adams timpani, using Ludwig balanced-action pedals, paired with copper bowls from Adams. The sizes are a standard set of 4 (32”,29”,26”,23”), but given the opportunity I would add a 25” drum to give a better tone for notes from eb-f, and only use the 23” for notes f# and above. Recently the orchestra purchased a set of Adams ‘Dresden Classic’ timpani, which will become the primary set for all concerts except outdoor programs.

I use Remo Renaissance heads on my timpani. Macao has a very humid environment in summer, and quite dry in winter, plus the timpani do a lot of traveling; they are used in many different venues, including run-out concerts and even outdoor performances. For these reasons I’ve decided not to change to calf heads, even though this would be my preference. Still, I’m happy with Renaissance style heads and prefer their warmth and projection over other plastic head varieties. To me these other heads give a tubby and unfocused sound, although this is partly because my playing style and stick choice are more suited to Renaissance (or calf). I usually change the heads every 12-18 months, not surprisingly needing to change the inner heads earlier than the outer ones. Because the orchestra plays in a number of venues around Macao, the drums endure quite a lot of traveling, and I find myself having to clear the heads very regularly.

The balanced action pedals on the Concorde timpani are fast and convenient to use. Also, even though fine tuning is meant to be very easy with a clutch-less pedal, I find that minor adjustments to cope with changing pitch in the orchestra are much easier and more accurate when using a master tuning handle. In this respect the ratchet clutch pedals on the Adams Dresdens, especially when combined with the fine tuning handle, are much more reliable. The ratchet pedals come with all the usual issues to avoid, such as noisy ratchet scrapes and the danger of pedal slippage when opening the clutch, but the benefits to accurate and secure intonation far outweigh these problems. About tuning gauges, I must admit to using them regularly, but naturally they are a guide only and fine tuning must be done by ear.

With the balanced action Concorde timpani I often changed my setup style (to the annoyance of the stage hands in my orchestra). Having studied both systems, I feel comfortable in either situation. As a young student in Australia I played with the low drum on the left, but in Amsterdam the Germanic system is used. As a student there I completely changed my technique and approach to timpani, and now it feels very natural to play big, full notes on the low drum with my right hand. The only downside to playing this way is the odd positions of the tuning gauges; a minor inconvenience and easily adjusted to. Having the low drum on the right gives me direct communication with the bass drum player and takes the low, loud sounds away from the trumpet players who sit right next to the timpani. However with the pedal positioned to the
side of the kettles on the new Dresden drums - which were ordered in the ‘international’ configuration - changing from left to right is not possible any more. I always sit when I play, with the stool in a medium high position to give more control over the playing height. I can play low and into the drum while still avoiding the rims, or with a high and light stroke without any extra effort.

I’ve recently purchased a pair of belted timpani (Riemenpauken) made by Lefima-Aehnelt, sizes 26” & 29”. The range on each drum is almost an octave, and so can easily accommodate the F-f octave range of all classical/early romantic repertoire. They sound they produce is pure and clear, whether with wooden sticks for early repertoire or with regular felt mallets; again because of the climate in Hong Kong, the drums have Renaissance heads.As can be seen in the photo, these timpani have no pedal mechanism, and even no frame - they rest on quad-legs in the same fashion as hand-tuned baroque timpani. Portability is not a problem, they can even be hand carried if necessary, although the two drums together weigh almost 80kg!


Lefima-Aehnelt Riemenpauken (belted timpani)

© Scott Weatherson 2014

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