Topic: How playable is this on timpanis?  (Read 1441 times)

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Offline Matt Tucci

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How playable is this on timpanis?
« on: April 11, 2017, 08:18 PM »
I'm writing a piece for piano and timpani and I was wondering how possible it would be to play what I have written. At first I figured it'd be fine but then I looked back at it to try and see specifically what I would have to be doing with my feet and now I'm wondering. The slurs are there due to me thinking that maybe there should be a way to indicate the fact that one must change the note of the music by using their foot on the foot pedal, and those would be the specifications. The link is underneath.

Offline Bart Elliott

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Re: How playable is this on timpanis?
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2017, 08:02 AM »
Wow  :o

What you have notated is almost near impossible to play, however there are two factors that could make it playable: if the tempo of the piece were slow enough or if the timpanist had the appropriate number and sizes of timpani available to allow for fixed tuning.

Keep in mind the performer only has two hands and two feet.

The slur markings are fine; good job.

I would think through the piece to see if there are reoccurring pitches that could be assigned to a drum as a fixed pitch ... or at the very least a pitch that is rarely changed on a given drum.

Personally, the sixteenth-note figures in measure 4 is not going to work well unless the temp is quite slow. You have to keep in mind that timpani do not produce EXACT pitches, like a string, brass or woodwind instrument; the pitch is approximate. Quick changes like this don't allow for the pitch to be fully realized. You'll hear a pitch bend but not a clear half-step pitch change ... unless the tempo is slow enough. Physics is working against you here — the membranophone (ie. timpano) not being able to reproduce an EXACT pitch, as well as the resonance factor of the instrument — all making it difficult for these quick half-step pitches to be fully recognizable, let alone achieved at a brisk tempo with only two hands and two feet.

One other solution, besides having as many as eight timpani, is to have two timpanist perform the piece. Break the part up between two players; now you've got four hands and four feet working for you.

ISSUE: Keep in mind that not everyone has more than 4 or 5 timpani at their disposal. Writing a piece that requires 8 or more timpani limits who can actually perform the work. This would be a non-issue for one of the major orchestras or a university with a large percussion program. The schools I've attended and orchestras I've performed with have used 8+ timpani from time to time, for various music works, but it does take a lot more planning and organization; sometimes even borrowing instruments from other music groups or schools. Just think through the logistics before you make your final decision.

Good Luck!


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