Timpani vs. Bass Drum: What’s the Main Difference?

Timpani vs. Bass Drum What’s the Main Difference

If you are wondering about “What is the difference between timpani and bass drum?” So let’s read this article from beginning to end to get valuable information now!

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Timpani vs. Bass Drum: Comparison Table

The drum is a hollow, open cylinder (the body) with a membrane (the head) stretched over both or one of the openings. It is one of the most familiar and ancient musical instruments, which are common in most human cultures.

Nowadays, drums come in various types, such as snare drums, bass drums, kettledrums, tenor drums, and side drums. All of them are important to a gig.

Now, we will discuss timpani (or kettledrum) and bass drum and learn about the difference between the two. Let’s start with our comparison table!

Timpani (Or Kettledrum)

 Bass Drum

  • Timpani is a musical instrument in the percussion family.
  • Categorized as the hemispherical drum.
  • The largest drum of the drum set.
  • Produce a note of indefinite pitch or low definiteness.
  • Typically cylindrical.
  • Are percussion instruments
How to play
  • Played with a drumstick.
  • Played with a wooden stick
  • Concert bands
  • Marching bands
  • Orchestra.
  • Orchestral.
  • Concert bass drum.
  • Marching bands.
  • Drum corps.
  • Play different notes
  • The powerful percussion instrument.
  • Dominate the sound of a band.
  • Make the lowest sound.
  • Produce various sounds, from roaring thunder to the softest whispers.

Timpani vs. Bass Drum: What’s the Difference?

Here we will compare timpani vs bass drum in some essential aspects.


  • Bass Drum

The bass drum is large and can produce a note of indefinite pitch or low definiteness.

It is usually cylindrical, and its diameter is more significant than its depth. Its heads may be made from plastic and calfskin.

The bass drum is available in various sizes, but the size doesn’t dictate the volume it produces.

  • Timpani

Timpani, or kettledrum, is an instrument belonging to the percussion family.

It is also known as the hemispherical drum with a body similar to a sphere’s section whose cut conforms to the head.

Many modern kettle drums are made from fiberglass, although most were previously made with bronze or copper bodies.

How to play

  • Bass Drum

Drummers play the bass drum by hitting the drumhead with sticks that feature large soft heads, often covered with felt or sheepskin.

  • Timpani

Drummers play timpani by striking its head with a special drumstick named a timpani mallet or timpani stick. Drummers can also use various mallets, varying in composition and hardness.

Most kettledrums are pedal kettledrums, allowing drummers to tune accurately and quickly to specific pitches using a movable foot pedal.


  • Bass Drum

The bass drum is the biggest member of the percussion family, making the lowest sounds. It produces a boom and low sound when the drummer uses the mallet to hit the drumhead.

In marches, people use it to project tempo. It will also provide the beat and keep the players in step.

  • Timpani

The kettledrum is unique as you can tune it, as it’s a variable-pitch percussion instrument. People generally use timpani in sets of two or more.

There are some special effects possible with a kettledrum, and the most notable is “Glissando,” which is available only on drums with a pedal.

Most orchestras come with four kettledrums of different sizes, allowing a musician to tune to different pitches.

Also, timpani players must have an excellent ear as they typically need to change the pitches of the drums during their gigs.


  • Bass Drum

Bass drums can be used in several musical genres. In addition, the role can also be different for different types of bass drum.

For example, concert bass drums are typically heard or seen in ensemble, orchestral, etc.

Meanwhile, pitched drums are generally used in drum corps and marching bands and are usually played in a set of three to six drums.

  • Timpani

Today, we can use timpani in a wide range of ensembles, such as marching bands, concert bands, orchestras, and some rock bands.

Timpani vs. Bass Drum: Which One Is Better?

There is no answer to this question because no one is better than the other. Both have essential roles in a gig, contributing to a drummer’s performance.

It means their roles are not interchangeable. Successful performance requires a combination of these two types of drums and many other instruments.


What Is Special About the Timpani?

  • Kettledrums were military drums
  • The player can change their pitch
  • Kettledrums are costly instruments
  • Timpani are cumbersome instruments
  • Kettledrums are traditionally made of copper
  • The “Timpani” comes from a Latin word

Is the Timpani High or Low-Pitched?

All sets of four timpani include a large drum for low notes, two middle-range drums, and one small drum for high notes.

Is the Timpani Made From Bass?

Yes. Most kettledrums have a bowl-shaped shell usually made of brass or copper. The membrane (synthetic or calfskin material) is secured by one metal hoop.

What Are Timpani Drums Sometimes Called?

Timpani is also known as Timpano, kettledrums, temple drums, or timps.

Why Is Timpani So Important?

There is no denying that the timpani is essential as it supports rhythm, adds color and melody, and enhances harmony.

The timpani, along with the piano and xylophone, is the percussion instrument tuned and may sound various notes.

What Is the Purpose of the Bass Drum?

This drum is beneficial in many musical genres. Besides, the role can also be different for different types.

For instance, concert bass drums are commonly heard or seen in ensembles, orchestral, etc.

Meanwhile, pitched drums are generally used in drum corps and marching bands and are typically played in a set of three to six drums.

Why Does the Bass Drum Have the Lowest Pitch?

The bass drums produce the lowest pitch due in part to their design, with the diameter much greater than the depth and a struck head at both ends.

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