Timpani Mallets: Your Ultimate Guide

When I first started to play percussion and timpani there were only a few manufactures of sticks and mallets in the market place. Vic Firth was just getting started with his snare drum stick and timpani mallet production and distribution.

If you wanted a timpani mallet there were sticks made by Ludwig and Payson as well as Hinger and Firth. But, if you look at an online catalogue of percussion equipment like Steve Weiss Music, Percussion Source , Lonestar Percussion, and Woodwind and Brasswind there are about twenty different timpani mallet manufactures listed and each of those companies has a wide assortment of mallets from which to choose.

Before you go any further, if you’re looking for how to wrap your own timpani mallets, we’ve got an in-depth guide for that. Learn how to wrap ball-style timpani mallets, cart-wheel style timpani mallets, butterfly style timpani mallets, chamois mallets, and more. We cover the tools and materials you’ll need and we’ve got detailed video lessons to show you how its done.

Check it out: How to Wrap Timpani Mallets.

Watch this video for a description of different timpani mallets

  • There are many many many many varieties of timpani mallet
  • You only need 2 or 3 pairs to start with
  • Something very hard for playing articulate passages
  • Something medium hard for general playing and rolling
  • Something pretty soft for smooth rolls and big tone

What are the Styles of Timpani Mallets

When it comes down to it though, there are two basic types of timpani mallet construction; the ball stick mallet and the cartwheel mallet. All mallets have a shaft hardwood, maple, bamboo, synthetic material like carbon fiber or aluminum.

On the end on the shaft is a core of wood, felt, cork or masking tape to name a few and then the core is covered with what is called a ball wrap or a cartwheel wrap of a variety of felt types ranging from soft white piano felt to harder felt similar to what covers a pool table and even leather.

Ball Stick Timpani Mallets

A ball style wrap is like a small bag that is sewn tightly around the core of the timpani mallet which forms a ball. Some ball mallets have one thin wrap while others may have a combination of several wraps of various thicknesses.

The diameter of the ball mallet will be anywhere from ½ inch to over 2” and can be very hard or extremely soft. Since ball sticks are made with this bag sewn over them there is no seam on the playing service of the mallet.

One of the obvious benefits of playing with a ball style mallet over a cartwheel mallet is that there is no seam so the entire circumference of the mallet head is consistent. The player doesn’t have to worry about rotating the mallet to avoid the seam.

The limitation of the ball wrapped mallet lies mostly with the material that can be used to make the wrap which has to be fairly soft in construction in order to make a suitable bag that will wrap smoothly around the core to form the ball shape.

Cartwheel Wrap Timpani Mallets

Cartwheel sticks are made by wrapping a strip of felt around the core’s equator and sewn together forming a seam. If you are playing with a cartwheel stick you must be careful not to play on the seam of the felt because there will be a difference in the sound produced from the plain felt and the felt with the seam which is harder.

Cartwheel mallets can be made with harder felt and other material that are difficult to form into the bag wrapping style and the cartwheel mallets can then offer different sounds that aren’t possible with most ball style wraps.

How many timpani mallets do you need?

Having said all of that the beginning timpanist really only needs two or three pairs of mallets:

  • A hard pair for playing articulate passages in music
  • A medium hard pair of mallets for general playing
  • A soft pair that allows the player to play smooth rolls and legato passages can be added to your mallet collection as you gain experience and encounter more complicated music

 

As the player develops his/her skills and gets involved with playing different styles of music they will start to fill in the spectrum of sound that can be produced on timpani with a wide variety of mallets.

  • Timpani mallets that are very soft
  • Timpani mallets that are medium soft
  • Timpani mallets that are hard
  • Timpani mallets that are medium hard
  • Timpani mallets that are very hard
  • Timpani mallets that are not so very hard
  • Timpani mallets that are somewhat soft yet harder than the medium hard
  • Etc, etc

 

Mallets that are made of soft felt produce a quality of sound that mallets made with harder felts can’t produce and vice versa. Then there are different cores and wrappings of different cores, so the permutations of wrap and core and shaft are almost infinite.

What Timpani mallets should I start with?

If you’re not careful you could spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on timpani mallets before you really know what you need. There are mallets of all different price ranges, but most commercially available mallets are suitable for either the student or professional.

As you develop you own style of playing you may find that you like playing with bamboo over a maple turned shaft or you might like a carbon fiber handle instead.

To start with you can’t go wrong with a pair of mallets from Vic Firth. If you buy a pair of hard, medium and soft mallets that he has available you’ll be well outfitted for a long time. His line of American Custom or the slightly thinner shafted Tim Genis models are all excellently made and produce a wonderful sound.

Where should you go to buy Timpani mallets?

Here is a listing of timpani mallet makers from all around the world where you can find timpani mallets and much more. Some mallets like those from Vic Firth and Regal Tip are moderately priced with other mallets like those from Mostly Marimba and Freer Percussion being on the higher end, price-wise.

All of the mallets from all of these manufacturers are all very fine indeed.

Here’s a List of All the Timpani Mallets Manufacturers World-Wide

Timpani Mallet Retailers & Manufactuerers in the United States

Austrian Timpani Mallets

Bulgarian Timpani Mallets

Canadian Timpani Mallets

Timpani Mallets from the Czech Republic

French Timpani Mallets

German Timpani Mallets

Italian Timpani Mallets

Japanese Timpani Mallets

  • Kato – this link has the latest brochure of Kato sticks and his contact details (brought to you with authorization from Mr. Kato himself)
  • Playwood
  • Yamaha

Timpani Mallets Made in the Netherlands

Spanish Timpani Mallets

Timpani Mallets Made in Switzerland

Timpani Mallets Made in the United Kingdom

 

Did we leave you off the list? Please let us know using our Contact form if you’d like to be added.

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Comments

  1. Hello,

    I see your online publication and I’m proud to kindly invite you to visit my mallet brand website.

    It’s under construction and not all the things I make are yet included, but you can take a look about my work.

    At the same time, I’ll be receptive to all your commentary or questions. Feel free to say or ask anything, I’ll answer as fast as I can.

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    Best regards from Barcelona.

    Dani.

  2. Brooke Ford says:

    Hi Andrew Old lady Brooke here again. I have a question re timpani mallets. This season I will be playing Brahms Symp. No. 1. The music seems to call for soft mallets in places for long, rich rolls, and then staccato mallets. Do you recommend the Freer mallets that are soft and hard on the same ball, or do you have another “solution” for music like this Brahms?

    Thank you for all you do for us.
    Brooke

    • Hi Brooke,
      I’m also a grand parent so be careful with the “old” comments. 🙂

      Brahm’s 1 has its challenges, especially when you’re dealing with needing
      articulation and then immediately needing a smooth roll. The Freer two tone
      mallets came into use in the last few years as the mallet of choice for
      auditions so the player could really make the distinction between the
      articulate passage and the roll without the orchestra playing along. I
      personally don’t think its necessary to do this when you have the orchestra
      playing because your sound will be blended with the rest of the band. I
      would use a hard general mallet that has the necessary articulation that
      can be enhanced with your technique and at the same time have a decent
      rolling quality. In some passages there is time of course to make a quick
      switch to a roller mallet, too. Having said all of that, the Freer mallets
      really make passages like this a lot easier to play.
      I don’t own a pair of the Freer’s but I’ve made some by gluing a piece of
      felt onto one side of some Vic Firth Ultra Staccatos and they work well for
      similar timpani parts with the same type of challenge. I think the piece
      was Brittan’s St Nicholas Suite that I played last year and the part has an
      rhythmic and articulate solo followed by a solo pianissimo roll. Because it
      was a solo I decided to use my Freer knock-offs and the result was positive.
      Thanks for all of your questions and enjoy!
      Andrew

  3. Very descriptive blog, Ι likeԁ that bit. Wilⅼ there bee a paгt 2?

  4. Gleimhart says:

    Hello. I am studying to be a composer and was wondering if you could tell me about how long on average a good timpani note will take to decay to silence. Let’s say, one in the middle of a timpano’s range, struck double-forte or so.

    And what is the general decay time for timpani notes, low to high, biggest drum to smallest, across the board? 4 to 8 seconds, or something like that?

    Thanks for any insight you can provide.

    • Thanks for your question. In general the timpani sound only sustains enough to be heard by rolling. If you play a single note the sound will resonate for only a short time and that depends on the acoustics of the hall you are playing in, too. If you want the sound to last you must indicate a roll for the time you want to be filled by the timpani sound.
      Hope that helps and feel free to ask other questions if you need.
      Andrew

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