How to Clear a Timpani Head

Clearing a timpani head is to tune each lug on the drum to the same note. It’s an art unto itself and requires some experience, trial and error and patience.

Watch this Video Demonstration Where I Clear a Timpani Head

The first step in the clearing process is to ensure the head is mounted properly. The head is centered on the bowl, and the tension is even at every lug.

1. Use a Drum Dial

Using a Drum Dial is very helpful when clearing the timpani head. After you mount the head on the drum and have waited at least 12 hours for the head to settle make sure that each spot on the head in front of each lug has the same tension according to the Drum Dial.

2. Mute the Middle of the Drum

Put a small towel or mute in the center of the drum. This will allow you to hear each individual playing spot by eliminating the entire head to resonate.

3. Listen: The Most Important Step

Using a very hard mallet like a Grover Percussion Ultra Staccato mallet listen to the pitch of the playing spot right in front of one of the lugs and use this playing spot as a reference point. Play another playing spot and compare it with the first one. Is it the same pitch or higher sounding or lower?

If it’s the same pitch move on to the next lug and compare that pitch with your first one. If it’s lower in pitch you must tighten the lug, but only tighten it a little bit; a quarter turn at the most. Then listen again and compare it to the first playing spot. If it’s still low give it another tightening turn and listen again.

If it sounds good move on to the next lug and the next until you’ve compared each playing spot around the drum with the first playing spot.

Take the mute off of the drum and listen again to the entire drum sound. Hopefully it sounds clearer than before you started your clearing process

Common Problems You Might Run Into When Clearing Your Timpani Head

  • If the head is too old or damaged or not mounted evenly or the tension is uneven you’ll have trouble clearing the head.
  • Only adjust your tuning lugs moderately by tightening or loosening a little bit each time. Move the lug a quarter turn and listen again before doing any more
  • Don’t try to clear a head if your ears are tired. If you’re not fresh it will be hard to precisely hear each tuning spot.

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