Timpani (also known as kettledrums) are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum, they consist of a skin called a head stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper, and more recently, constructed of more lightweight fiberglass. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet. Unlike most drums, they are capable of producing an actual pitch when struck, and can be tuned, often with the use of a pedal mechanism to control each drum's range of notes.
Timpani evolved from military drums to become a staple of the classical orchestra by the last third of the 18th century. Today, they are used in many types of musical ensembles including concert, marching, and even some rock bands.
Timpani is an Italian plural, the singular of which is timpano. However, in informal English speech a single instrument is rarely called a timpano: several are more typically referred to collectively as kettledrums, timpani, or simply timps. They are also often incorrectly termed timpanis. A musician who plays the timpani is known as a timpanist.
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