how to play a smooth timpani roll

there’s a problem

ok, so i’m still assistant timpanist (for the remainder of this year). and recently i was playing this opera called i puritani by bellini. it’s light classical playing. that means, in terms of timpani, i have to play lots of nimble, light, background rhythms.

my sticks have to be hard enough to play articulate rhythms but light enough to blend with trumpets and not get in the way of the singers.

so i chose these sticks made by jeff luft...small-ball felt-core mallets. light and articulate. perfect.


towards the end of each act, there will be lots of those rhythmic passages, and then there will suddenly be this giant timpani roll that’s all solo and the conductor and everyone on earth (it seems) looks directly at me!

my roll has to be smooth and powerful. and broad. and crescendoing. and perfect.

but since i chose to use light, articulate mallets, it sounds more like “bligabogldkgavlknlelkeevke” instead of “LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL”.


i had to practice. my timpani roll had to be smoother.

in order to work on it, i used 2 exercises (that i’ll teach you today) and i played around with 4 different variables. and then i made a video.

want to nail your next audition?

here's the 5-part audition preparation method i used to win a job in the met orchestra.

(for any instrument!)

rob knopper

hailed by @nytimes and james levine as needing 'louder triangle notes'. recorded delécluse: douze études for snare drum, percussionist in @metorchestra.