Why the Timpani Pedal Slips and How to Avoid it

Timpani pedal slips are a common problem for balanced action timpani like Yamahas and Ludwig Symphonic drums and what happens is that the head tension and the pedal spring tension aren’t in sink so the pedal won’t stay in place as you play or when you tune.

Timpani Pedal Won’t Stay on Lowest note

Here’s the problem; you try to tune your 29” drum to an F and as soon as you take your foot off of the pedal it starts to go up as if a ghost were pushing on the toe. You can’t play this way because the pitch keeps rising and you play out of tune.

Tighten the timpani head and you should make this problem disappear

This is happening because the tension on the pedal is greater than the tension on the head so usually by tightening the head you will find that the pedal and head become balanced and the pedal will stay on any note within the drums range pretty well.

Every pedal on a balanced action timpano has a spring tension adjustment, but you should only use this as a last resort. If your drum is in the right range and tightening the head causes the drums range to be diminished you might have to loosen the spring tension adjustment to solve the problem. This is a rare situation so like I said, try to stay away from this as a solution.

Timpani Pedal Won’t Stay on the Highest Note

This problem is the opposite of the above scenario. You tune to the drums upper range and the pedal slips and goes lower all by itself and gets worse when you play the drum. This is probably a situation where the head tension is too high and as such the pedal tension can’t balance against the head’s very high tension.

This usually occurs when you are trying to tune a note on the drum that is beyond the upper range. For instance, your 29” can make a comfortable C#, but to get to a D you’ve had to tighten the head quite a bit. You probably have to lower the head tension and be satisfied that the C# is as high as that drum will go or you can tighten the pedal’s tension adjustment slightly.

  • The pedal tension and head tension need to be in sink for the drum to function properly
  • If the pedal wants to rise; tighten the head
  • If the pedal wants to fall; loosen the head
  • If necessary and only in rare situations you can either tighten or loosen the pedal’s tension adjustment
  • Always tighten or loosen anything with the greatest moderation. Just turn the tuning lugs a quarter turn at one time
  • Same thing for the tension adjustment on the pedal. Only moderate adjustments are necessary

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  1. Wayne C. Thorne says:

    I am an assistant tutor with the youth orchestra here in Barbados. Do you conduct masterclasses in timpani fundamentals; as well as maintenance and care of timpani? The orchestra has a set of Ludwig balanced action pedal drums. There are 32″ 29″ 26″ and 23″ . I am particularly interested in a masterclass or similar type program during the summer. Tuning and clearing the drum heads as well as pedal adjustments are of crital importance to me.

    Yours sincerely

    Wayne Thorne

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