The Responses (part 1)


The following is part of a transcript of the responses I received from the timpanists with whom I was in contact, see the biographies page for information about each player.

What sets of timpani (make, model) do you regularly use in your orchestra?

Frank Aarnink - Two Adams philharmonic light sets (20” 23” 25” 26” 29” 32” with Dresdener and 21” 25” 26” 29” 32” with Berliner pedals) – both with calf skin?. Also we use an old pair of Dresdener (23” 26”) machine timps and an old ringer pair (26” 29”)

Fausto Bombarderi – Ludwig Ringer (32” 29” 26” 23”) with Berliner pedals – calf skin, Ludwig Chicago (32” 29” 26” 23”) – white plastic skins, baroque timpani (made in Europe in beginning of 1900) (29” 27”)

David Corkhill - Ludwig Professional Symphonic

Dieter Dyk – A: 1 set of 5 pedal-timpani (1Kolberg 1995, 2 Dresden 1936, 2  Günter Ringer 1966) 81 cm/72,5 cm/65 cm/ 60 cm/52 cm

B: 1 set of 4 pedal-timpani (Ringer 1966, 2 Dresden 1936, 1 Kolberg 1987) 78 cm/72,5 cm/ 65 cm/ 59 cm  and one crank-timpani (Dresden 1936) 52 cm

All timpani except the crank-timp have the Kolberg-pedal rebuilt in 1987, stepless tuning!

C: 1 pair of Richard Ludwig (Leipzig 1895) 61cm/68 cm

D: 1 set of 4  Screw-timpani, ( 2 Wunderlich from Altenburg ca.1900/ 2 Lefima from Cham) rebuilt to crank-timpani in 1995 by Kolberg and in use since than.

E: one pair of crank-timpani (Kolberg 1993) 61 cm/68 cm to complete the Richard Ludwig pair to a 4 piece set

F: one pair of crank-timpani (ev. Dresden 1900) rebuilt to pedal-timpani ( By Kolberg in 2003 ) 60 cm/66 cm

G: one set of 4 Kolberg- pedal timpani (1987) 77 cm/ 72 cm/ 66 cm/ 64 cm

H: one set of 4 Schnellar crank-timpani, manufactured by  Wiener Schlaginstrumentenbau in 1998 (76 cm/ 68 cm/ 61 cm/56 cm (private ppossession ) in use since 1999

Gerald Fromme - 6 Ringer Models - only 2 with Pedals (the middle pair)- 2x23”, 1x 26”,28”,31”,33” – Renaissance skin (1970)

4 old Dresden models - modified, all with pedals - 2 x 28”, 2 x 31” – Renaissance skin (1940) – soon to be changed to goat skin

1 Aehnelt bass timpani with pedal – 34” (1990)

7 Hochrainer timpani - 3 x 26”, 3 x 28”, 1 x 23” – goat skin (1970)

 (Vienna Phil. with goat skins without pedals, you can hear every “new year concert” on TV)

Jim Gordon - Adams Philharmonic  (32” 29” 26” 25” 23” Dresden pedals, renaissance heads) Adams Professional  (32” 29” 26” 23” premier pedal, renaissance heads) and a pair of 19th century hand drums, possibly of German origin (26” 29” calf heads)

Peter Offelder – Hardtke - At the moment the best Timpani builder in Germany, very good service (with Berliner pedals), Ringer (with Berliner pedals), Dresdener

Mike Quinn – Günter Ringer, American Drum (M. Light), Dörfler, Kolberg Baroque

Guido Rückel - I’m using a Set of original Ringer Timpani, build around 1970 (I think 1971,

because they are the same as the Timpani of the Berlin Phil.)

In our Orchestra we have many different timpani:

5 original Ringer, 5 Winkelmann (build around 1984), 6 Aehnelt, 2 original Dresdner with Pedal, 2 Original Dresdner without Pedal (these are my private Instruments), and 3 Lefima Baroque timpani.

Most of the time I’m using the Ringer, and the other Solo-Timpanist, Mr. Stefan Gagelmann, is using the Aehnelt.

Louis Sauvetre - One set of  Ludwig Ringer timpani with renaissance heads and Berlin pedal, one set with two Ludwig Ringer (32” 24”) and two Gunter Ringer (29” 26”),all the set with calf heads and Berlin pedals

Wolfgang Schuster – Viennese timpani, system of Hans Schnellar / Hochrainer / Schuster with goat skin. Adams pedal timpani with renaissance heads.

Maarten van der Valk - a) Baroque Timpani made by the English company George Potter and sons, in Aldershot/near Guildford

b) German made (no name) Baroque Timps.

  1. c)"Machine" Timpani by Dutch maker A.A. van den Hoek.

Nick Woud - Set of Adams Philharmonic light (Marinus Komst model) (32” 29” 26” 23” 20”)

Pair of Schnellar pedal drums (28” 25”), Schnellar rotary piccolo (18”), pair of Schnellar machine drums (28” 25”)

2 Van den Hoek machine drums (28” 25”), 22” Dresdner machine drum.

Set of Adams Symphonic (32” 29” 26” 26” 23” 20”)

How long has each set of drums been used in your orchestra?

Frank Aarnink - The Adams about 14 years, the ringer much longer, and the Dresdener about 2 years

Fausto Bombarderi – Ludwig Ringer : 10 years, Ludwig Chicago : 30 years, Baroque timpani : 1 month

David Corkhill – 1 year

Gerald Fromme - Ringer since 1970, Dresden since 1940, Aehnelt since 1990, Hochrainer since 1970

Jim Gordon - Philharmonics- 5 years, Professional - 10 years, hand drums- 10 years. When we bought our Adams drums I was looking for instruments that sounded good in the hall and also met my own standards regarding sound production. In addition Adams had just improved their pedal design and several improvements concerning bowl suspension and maintenance also helped in my decision. I compared several sets from different manufacturers but the Adams set were the best option for us.

Peter Offelder – Hardtke – 1 year, Ringer – 50 years, Dresdener – 10 years

Mike Quinn - Ringers 32 yrs, Lights 13 yrs, Dörfler 1 yr, Kolberg 8 yrs.

Guido Rückel - The Ringer since the seventies, the Winkelmann and the Aehnelt from the eighties

Louis Sauvetre – unknown

Wolfgang Schuster – Schnellar timpani since 1921, Hochrainer timpani since 1953, Schuster timpani since, 1982

Maarten van der Valk – since 1993

Nick Woud - Adams Philharmonic : 2 years, Adams Symphonic : 15 years, Schnellar pedal and rotary timpani : 90-100 years, Schnellar machine timpani : approx 5 years, Van den Hoek: maybe 45 years

How many drums are in each set and what are their sizes?

Frank Aarnink - Adams Dresdener pedal 20”,23”,25”,26”,29”,32”.

Adams Berlin pedal 21” 25” 26” 29” 32”.   Ringer 26” 29”   Dresdener about 23” 26”?

David Corkhill - 4 timpani: 32", 29", 26", 23"

Gerald Fromme - Ringer 2x23”, 1x 26”,28”,31”,33” / Dresden 2 x 28”, 2 x 31” / Aehnelt 1 x 34”, Hochrainer 3 x 26”, 3 x 28”, 1 x 23”

Jim Gordon - Philharmonics  32 29 26 25 23”   Professionals 32 29 26 23 “     Hand drums  29 26 “

Mike Quinn - Ringer  5   Light 7 } standard sizes    Dörfler  5   32/29/26/26/24

Guido Rückel - Normally I’m using 4 timpani, each set is 5 Timpani (4+piccolo), the Aehnelt has an additional custom build Bass-Timpani (tuning below C is possible!!)

Ringer:  78, 72, 66, 60, 54         Winkelmann:  78, 72, 64, 58, 54

Wolfgang Schuster – 29 ½ “ 27” 25” 22 ½ “ 21 ½ “

Maarten van der Valk - a) 4 drums, sizes 27/half -26 -23 and 21/half inches.

b) 2 drums, sizes 22 and 25 inches. 

c) 2 drums, sizes 24 and 27 inches.

Nick Woud - Adams philharmonic : 32” 29” 26” 23” 20”

Adams symphonic : 32” 29” 26” 26” 23” 20”

Schnellar pedal timpani : 25” 28”     Rotary piccolo Schnellar : 18”     Van den Hoek : 25” 28”

Why do you use these sizes of timpani?

Frank Aarnink - They were already here, mostly I use the 25” instead of the 23”

David Corkhill - They cover the entire range, but if additional instruments are needed (usually 29" timps) the orchestra hires them as necessary.

Dieter Dyk - Different periods in the development of our cultural art-music asks for equivalent sizes. For example: At the time of Bach and Händel the sizes of the normally played instruments were small ones. The common usage was upon the horse, so they could not be too big. Also in the church, a small diameter was sufficient. So at the court indoors small instruments were asked for because of the relation to the not too big halls. An exception was the cavalry, there they used sizes like 30” / 32” as the Blenheim timpani show. These big instruments were not meant to be taken upon the horse, but on a lafette (I do not know this word in English)

These instruments were taken by the English as war spoil from the French at the battle of Blenheim in 1704. Brought to England, they were hid in the Tower as treasure. Händel used to ask King George when he had to perform his Messiah for the permission those instruments to be played at the “hallelujah”. The common sizes were 16”-17” and round about that. I personally own a pair of kettledrums from 1687, Eisleben /Germany with exactly this size. The classical period (Mozart,

Haydn, Beethoven) used average between 19”-21” to 20”-22”. Since the making of kettledrums was not only of military purpose and the concert halls grew bigger, the instruments became bigger as well. The difference between the diameters of the two drums also changed. At Bach’s time it was only 1”, later 2” in order to have a better balance in the tuning of a perfect fourth. Since Beethoven asks for one octave distance ( f-F) the difference grew to 3”.

The so called early romantic measure is 20”-23”. Then the sizes (diameters but not necessarily the depth) grew again, because the musical role, especially for the opera, asked for more sensitivity and bright and loud sounds. The sticks changed from wood to flannel or felt. Berlioz was the first who wanted the timpani to be ordinarily played with sponge headed sticks. And not at least, the skins changed more and more from the use of both calf and goat to the calf side, because it even in very loud

passages – played with felt or flannel – keeps a certain quality (not with the wood stick). The goat skin is not reacting to felt as clear as the calf. With goat you use harder (flannel) sticks. At the beginning of the 20th century, the sizes changed again. And the calf became thinner by a new technique of splitting. Softer sticks were the following need. To answer your question: we are convinced, that each period has its own character, and if we want to find out what’s so special about it, we can take the material conditions as a signpost or guide. Independent from acoustic conditions.

Gerald Fromme – Because their sound is the best in my opinion.

Jim Gordon - I like the 25” for all notes above E and the Adams model has a bit more range and is better in tune. The other sizes are standard but suit the timbre of the orchestra for most repertoire

Louis Sauvetre – I don’t have other drums for now

Maarten van der Valk - They appeal to my wish of sound, playing with this orchestra.

Nick Woud - To be able to attain the ideal sound on each drum (modern ones). The older ones we use as they are. They sound great even when we play a note which is (basically) too low for the drum.

For what repertoire, or periods of music, is each set of drums used?

Frank Aarnink - The Adams for everything, the Ringer’s for when I feel like, for Brahms/Beethoven and so, the Dresdener for Mozart/Bach, maybe Beethoven.

Fausto Bombarderi - Ringer for romantic and when I need a lot of sound. Generally they stay in the auditorium. Chicago Ludwig for concert in other concert hall. Baroque timpani, for classical program. We are 45 musician so we do program not so big. Some time we do a big programs and free-lance musicians help us. Every program we perform in different places: auditorium, church, sport arenas. Normally I use the Ringer set calf skin in the Auditorium of the orchestra and I play with the Ludwig Chicago plastic white in the other situations. This depends of course the repertoire so some time I use the baroque timpani everywhere.

David Corkhill - All repertoires: differences in period style are effected by use of different sticks, different sizes of instrument, and personal technique.

Dieter Dyk - Set A and B : Brahms, Dvorak, Bruckner and Mahler up to the present (all kinds of sticks like flannel, hard to soft felt and if asked by the composer - wood) (set A: renaissance, set B : calf- some times goat) My colleague K.H.Benzinger, playing the A set, does not like to have too much problems with tuning. I, playing the B set, love the natural sound better and take the risk. I prefer goat, because it is more easy to play – the roll for example- it keeps the tuning better, is dryer in our overwhelming acoustic, lives longer, costs less!

Set C and E: Mendelssohn, Weber etc. to Schumann (calf, hard felt and flannel)

Set D: Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven (goat, wood)

Set F: Schubert to Schumann (goat, wood)

Set G: modern music, renaissance skins, unusual sticks and things to put upon the head (like cymbals, gongs or temple bells)

Set H: for special tasks from Schubert to Mahler (flannel and wood, goatskins)

Gerald Fromme - In principle I play the classical period and romantic on the Hochrainer timpani, however I also enjoy playing modern pieces on the pedal timpani, which I use when you must tune quickly. I decide from piece to piece.

Jim Gordon - The Adams Philharmonics are used for 90 % of our repertoire, the Professionals for 20th century pieces with pedalling problems and the hand drums for Haydn. Mozart & early Beethoven

Peter Offelder – My orchestra plays all types of music, not specialised repertoire, so there is no need for Baroque timpani.

Mike Quinn - Repertoire not a factor. Rehearsal hall or Theatre. Touring

Guido Rückel - I am using the Ringer for everything except: Early classic (Haydn, Beethoven 1, etc.) : Dresdner Timpani, Mozart etc. : Lefima Baroque

Louis Sauvetre – All for now

Wolfgang Schuster – For all kinds of music we use the Viennese timpani, except contemporary, where we use Adams pedal timpani.

Maarten van der Valk - a) Rameau,Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelsohn, early Brahms.

b) Bach, Handel.

c) Brahms, Schumann.

Nick Woud - The Schnellars, V.d. Hoek’s  for the early, middle romantic and classical repertoire

The Adams Philhramonics for everything else.

The Adams Symphonics for outdoors and modern / setup repertoire

Is there a connection between the size and sound of your orchestra - and the acoustics of your performance hall – and your choice of timpani?

Frank Aarnink - No, the sizes are more related to the music we play.

Fausto Bombarderi - Not about size but about quality of sound.

David Corkhill - I believe the sound of Ludwig timpani complements the best traditions of the Philharmonia sound, but I would use these instruments whatever the orchestra.

Dieter Dyk - Indeed, there is a connection. Only 20 years ago, nobody cared about balance. The modern instruments were also good for ancient music. With the change of interpretation and rediscovering the old instruments you could compare. Our orchestra does not want to have a heavy fat sound, more light in the direction of the Vienna Philharmonic. Now we look for the best balance. In our hall, it is more advantage to play an instrument that does not ring too much, otherwise we are constantly busy with damping.

Gerald Fromme - Not especially. We use Hochrainer the most we can. They have a beautiful dark sound and you can’t overplay. But tuning is hard!

Jim Gordon – Ideally yes, in practise no

Peter Offelder – We play in too many different halls.

Maarten van der Valk - Yes, as mentioned before between size and sound of orchestra and choice of timpani. The acoustic of the performance hall should be approached as well as possible for and by the whole orchestra, so with "it's sound".

Guido Rückel - Yes, the Ringer is the one that has the most “German” sound, it matches the best with the rest of the Orchestra…for my opinion I think, that the Aehnelt are too big. But the smaller Timps (Dresdner and Baroque) have a similar sound to the Ringer, but with a reduced loudness!!

Wolfgang Schuster – The size is not the most important factor – instead the system of the timpani and the goat skin.

Nick Woud - Apart from using the old timpani (Schnellar and v.d. Hoek), that absolutely have created part of the sound of the orchestra, the Adams are quite standard instruments. We will not use too high tensioned drums though, and would rather choose, smaller drums than bigger ones.

Does the performance location or environmental conditions influence your choice of timpani ?

Frank Aarnink - Only when were playing outside I choose plastic.

David Corkhill - No

Dieter Dyk - Some times, but only secondarily – the weather conditions.

Gerald Fromme - Of course. We don’t use natural skins in open air. Its a pity for the music.

Jim Gordon – Depends on the repertoire

Peter Offelder – No! Only the sticks are different in different halls.

Mike Quinn - Yes

Louis Sauvetre - Yes (calf heads don’t travel when possible)

Maarten van der Valk – No

Nick Woud - No, because we use calf heads and are used to the difficulties caused by this.

What are your reasons for using each type of head? eg. different periods of repertoire, performance location (inside / outside)

Frank Aarnink - SOUND!

David Corkhill - Since the revival of calf heads in the UK (and the introduction of their compromise, so-called 'Renaissance' heads) plastic heads have become regarded as poor relations. It is my experience and belief that appropriate style, whatever the period or repertoire, is the responsibility and is under the control of the player more than the technology; plastic heads with the right player can achieve all the right musical contexts a timpanist needs. In brief, plastic is fantastic!  

Dieter Dyk - Instrument type, tuning problems, unusual types of sticks, sound character sensitivity

Gerald Fromme - As I said: the Hochrainer timpani with goat skin we use from the baroque up to the romantic. The sound integrates more with the orchestra because it is indeed warmer. On the other timpani we use renaissance skin, but soon we’ll change the Dresden models to goat skin too.

Jim Gordon - Early model Renaissance heads were encouraging, later models disappointing. Because of many runout concerts, Renaissance heads are my head of choice but I am still looking for a better sound on the 29 and 26 drums. The hand drums have calf heads which please me.

Mike Quinn - Calf has best sound. Renaissance used on Lights

Louis Sauvetre - I like very much calf heads for all the non 20th century music, for musical reasons. For me they have a better rhythmical impact in the orchestra, and if I am not sure the difference is big from outside the orchestra (between calf and renaissance) I definitely don’t play the same when I play calf heads. I  think it is more easy to fit in the sound of the orchestra, to play more deep, to find more colours with one pair of sticks only. Especially the contact with the head is very different.

Guido Rückel - With  the “normal” Timpani we are using Kalfo Heads only, on my small Dresdner I’m using goat-skin (“Ziegen-Fell”). In the Summer my Orchestra (Munich Phil) is playing one open-air concert, there we are using Renaissance. Kalfo-Heads are producing the best sound!!! But, using them on open-air concerts, is like suicide!!! I did this once in my life, it was a nightmare!!!!!

Wolfgang Schuster – The sound.

Maarten van der Valk - The most optimal clear sound and pitch.

Nick Woud - Basically we will play calf heads always, on the pair of Schnellar machine drums are goat skin and outside we will use plastic.

Could you please give your thoughts on Renaissance heads? How do they compare to other plastic heads?

Frank Aarnink - I think renaissance heads are much better to play on then normal plastic heads (the white one’s, I hate the clear one’s) Only for a school or amateur band I would recommend white one’s.

Fausto Bombarderi - I used a lot the renaissance heads. I like but they have more problem them plastic heads and renaissance doesn’t help me for tuning and sound . So I decided to use calf and plastic.

David Corkhill - I referred to them as a 'compromise'. Calf heads have a unique and special sound that not even the best plastic heads can achieve; plastic heads too have their own distinctive quality. Renaissance heads in my view are not able to match either of these in their own sound field and furthermore do not add a sufficiently distinctive new sound to the timpani sound world. Their rough finish also tends to damage many soft timpani stick heads.

Dieter Dyk - In p up to mf they are fairly good sounding clear and distinct. From f to ff and more they loose quality , do not sound organic and have no “centre”. White plastic has more strength in higher ranges and extreme loudness

Gerald Fromme - I’m not very happy with them, but I think the colour is the reason and the sound is better in the audience then on stage.

Peter Offelder – Their sound is close to that of natural skins.

Mike Quinn – Better

Guido Rückel - Of course they are not as good as calf-heads, but I think, they are the best “not-normal-skin” heads, much better than normal Plastic heads!!

Maarten van der Valk - Much better, as speaking for timpani. They have improved and if it were possible on Baroque Timps, I would definitely bring them along on tours for when the weather circumstances are bad.

Nick Woud - Much better though I’m not sure the quality is always good. There seem to be to many different types still going around. I think they absolutely are better than the heads we had before. The Evans heads I tried were impossible, in terms of putting them on the drum and intonation. I liked the “old” Premier heads a lot. Nice sound and good feeling.

Does the conductor of your orchestra have an influence on the choice of drums and heads?

Frank Aarnink – Not yet

Fausto Bombarderi – I decide what I want to use

David Corkhill - No

Dieter Dyk - When David Zinman, our present chief conductor, started, he asked in general for smaller instruments, because he already was very aware of balance, but he did not know the connection between skin and stick!

Gerald Fromme - Sometimes. If they feel competent in particular musical styles. e.g. baroque etc.

Jim Gordon – No

Peter Offelder – They only try to change my choice of sticks

Mike Quinn - Muti insisted on having the Light drums when he first arrived from Philadelphia. They are not used much except for touring.

Guido Rückel - Normally its my choice. Some conductors are really loving the sound of the Baroque Timps (James Levine!!!) for Mozart, Haydn, early Beethoven, others are preferring the “normal” ones, but 95% its my choice, and basta!!!

Louis Sauvetre - Not really, but I try to find the right sound to be close to the style he wants.

Wolfgang Schuster – No.

Maarten van der Valk - Yes, he has on the choice of Timps.

Nick Woud - If a conductor asks about this, they will want calf heads only, so that’s no problem. Sometimes the conductor asks for smaller drums, baroque type, if we play older repertoire but we will finally make our own choice.

How regularly do you change the heads on your drums?

Frank Aarnink - Once a year on the middle set, less often on the other one’s.

Fausto Bombarderi - Calf skin every year. Plastic depending on how much I use.

David Corkhill - Every couple of years, depending on wear

Dieter Dyk - Depends to the state of used condition. At least after 2 seasons. Plastic and natural skins equally.

Gerald Fromme – When the sound gets bad. On average once a year.

Jim Gordon - Renaissance every 2 years, calf 1-3 years depending on use

Peter Offelder – Only if they are defective.

Mike Quinn - Calf  once per year.  Plastic  when necessary.

Guido Rückel - It depends on the Programs : Normally I change the two middle Drums of my 4 Timpani-set 3 times a Season, the two outer Timps 2 times, so I need 10 Heads a Season.

But if it’s a “Loud Season” (much Mahler, Bruckner, Strauss) then perhaps I need more…but mostly 10 Heads, I think that’s o.k.

Louis Sauvetre - I don’t know exactly yet.

Wolfgang Schuster – It depends on their quality.

Maarten van der Valk - Depends on all conditions, like weather, how many concerts, Beethoven 9th symphony or Serenata Notturna. Averagely spoken, once or twice a year.

Nick Woud - Every 5 months we will rotate the calf head on the middle drums 180*

The outside drums last longer. The plastic can last several years because we hardly use them.

How often do you clear (adjust the skin at each tension rod to the same pitch) the skins on your timpani ?

Frank Aarnink – Only when really necessary

David Corkhill – When I change the heads.

Dieter Dyk - Very few! Only, if really necessary after changing.

Gerald Fromme – At the beginning of every rehearsal or concert

Jim Gordon – for every performance

Peter Offelder – Only if the heads have been put out of tune by transport.

Guido Rückel - If the heads are brand new, they are perfectly in tune…(one reason for this is, that I change the Heads for myself with a 3 Day Drying-Period)…but if the Heads are “well-used” it could be possible that I need to retune them every day!!! 

Maarten van der Valk - Checking all the time, depends on tension of skin/weather and how much travelling, or if you want how much change of halls, trucks, plains etc.

Nick Woud - Almost never. If the head is out of tune, we will take it of and wet it and put it on again. That works best with calf. Clearing in the normal way (as with plastic heads) will only destroy the sound.

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© Scott Weatherson 2011