Timpani Do’s & Don'ts by Kirk Gay

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Do's Dont's
Always put the covers back on the timpani when you are done playing to help protect the head. Never lean, or set anything like books, food/drinks, or other instruments on the timpani.
Always put the pedal up (tighten the head) and hold by the struts when moving the drums. Don't hold the rim when moving the drums. It can shift the head.
If the pedal is slipping, check the pitch range of the head to make sure the drum is in the correct range for its size.

If the pedal is slipping do not adjust the spring tension until the head is tuned to the correct range.

Always play in the playing spot, right over the pedal and a few inches in from the rim. Do not play in the center of the head.
Always use felt timpani mallets unless specifically requested by the director or composer. 

Never play with drumsticks or other hard mallets on the timpani.

Use a single stoke roll on the timpani. Rule of thumb: higher pitch = faster roll, lower pitch = slower roll.

Do not play a buzz or crush rolls on the timpani.

Try to lift your mallets off the drum after you strike the head. Avoid down-strokes into the head when you play.


Yamaha Artist Kirk Gay obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Percussion Performance from Northern Illinois University. Mr. Gay marched in Star of Indiana Drum & Bugle Corps from 1986 - 1989 where he was 1989 DCI Timpani Individuals Champion and two time DCM Timpani Individuals Champion. At UCF, Mr. Gay teaches student lessons and is the director of "Black Steel", the UCF steel drum ensemble. He is an endorser and clinician for Pro-Mark sticks and Sabian Cymbals.