Tuning Timpani – Rick Gardner

This was in reply to a comment made on a discussion board regarding the pedals on their high school timpani not working properly.

Most of the time the reason the pedals will not work is because of the tuning of the drum, not the spring tension on the pedal. If you are comfortable with tuning a head in general ( keeping equal tension all around the head and tuning the head to itself) then you should check that the heads are tuned to the proper range. Do not turn the tension knob until the heads are in range. Press the pedals all the way down (lowest pitch) and hold them down while tuning the drum. For a 32″ drum, tune it to C; for a ( 29″ to E ) ( 26″ to A ) (23″ to D ). If you have other sizes, let me know.

Now that the heads are tuned to the proper range you may find that you do not need to touch the tension knob at all. If after tuning the head, the toe of the pedal will not stay down, then turn the knob to the right a little at a time until it improves. If the heel will not stay down then turn the knob to the left. After you have it the best you can then turn the pressure adjustment (1/4 turn to the right) in the hole under the right side of the pedal. This will help your adjustments to hold. (Very old timpani will not have a pressure adjustment.) If you want to try this and have questions, send me a message and I will try to help you out.

Do not try this without permission from your band director and remember to make only very small adjustments to the tension knob.

These instructions are for your basic Ludwig timpani with a “balanced action” pedal. Which is the kind that most schools have where the pedals are messed up. If you have some other brand of timpani, let me know and I’ll see if I can help you there.

Note: If you need to remove your timpani heads or remove and replace them I would be glad to assist you with a few more tips. Send any comments or questions to mail@kyband.com.