How and When to Play a Buzz Roll on Timpani

It doesn’t happen very often but when you are playing timpani with wooden sticks for baroque and early classical music like Bach, Hayden, and Handel or sometimes Mozart and you come across a roll in the timpani part it makes sense to play a buzz roll instead of a standard hand to hand timpani roll.

It makes a lot of sense to play a buzz roll especially when the dynamic is very quiet. If you play a single stroke roll you will sound way too loud and not blend in with the sound of the orchestra very well.

  • A perfect opportunity for a buzz roll is when there is a fermata over the rolled note
  • Or when the dynamic is very soft

To play a buzz roll on timpani you want to get a lot of buzz per stroke, so in other words, don’t play your buzz really tight. Just relax and let the mallets buzz as much as possible on the timpani head.

Should You Always Buzz when Playing with Wooden Sticks?

This does not mean that every time you are playing with wooden sticks that you should play a buzz roll. You have to take into consideration many things. The style of music, the size of the ensemble with which you are playing, the hall in which you are playing, the dynamic of the passage in question, and the list goes on and on.

  • Just realize that when you see a roll in your part and you are playing with wooden sticks you have a choice to make and you are allowed to play a buzz roll if it makes musical sense to do so.

In this video lesson I demonstrate the playing of a buzz roll on timpani

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