Are your timpani players frustrated because the pedals will not stay in the correct position? Understanding the basics of timpani mechanics can help you resolve this issue quickly and get your percussionists playing the correct pitches.
The pedals are held in place on a specific pitch by a two-spring system. The first spring is in a large casing at the base of the timpano and is adjusted by the large knob in front of the pedal on Ludwig instruments and by a tension screw under the pedal on the front of the base on Yamaha drums. The other spring is the head itself. These two springs must be in perfect balance for the pedal to function properly.
First, the drums must be tuned to the proper ranges for the springs to balance – below are ranges for each drum:
32″ D – A
29″ F – C
26″ A – E
23″ D – A
20″ F – C
Some instruments will be able to extend past these ranges at the upper end. Press the heel of the pedal to the floor and tune the head using a cross-tuning technique to the lowest pitch in the range. Once the head reaches this pitch move the pedal up the chromatic scale to determine if it is pulling to the toe or pulling to the heel.
If the pedal is pulling to the heel the counterspring needs more tension. Turn the large knob (or the tension screw on Yamaha instruments) clockwise a few turns and check the pedal again. Eventually you will place enough tension on the spring for the pedal to hold itself.
If the pedal is pulling to the toe position the counterspring is too tight. Turn the knob or screw counterclockwise a few turns and check the pedal for correct operation.
To remedy small amounts of heel or toe pull on the pedal most
instruments will have “brakes” that place pressure on the horizontal push rod and can be adjusted with a regular drum key. There should be a small hole on the side of the pedal base that will allow you to access this adjustment screw.
There are other factors that could be hindering the correct operation of your instruments including mechanical issues in the pedal mechanism, a bent push rod or spider rod, a broken counterspring, an incorrectly adjusted vertical push rod, or simply heads that are too old. If you find that your issue cannot be corrected with the above information please give us a call and we will be happy to perform a “house call” on your instruments to get them working again!