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The Kettledrum

The kettledrum, also called the tympani, is the only kind of
drum that has a definite musical pitch. It consists of a rounded
bowl of copper, brass or silver, over which a piece of vellum or
vellour is stretched tightly by means of tuning handles that
work in a metal ring surrounding the drum head. The vellum
head may be slackened or tightened to produce any one of the
notes within the instrument's range.

The normal range of the kettledrum is one octave, from F
below the staff in the bass clef to F on the fourth line of the
bass staff. In some instances, however, as in Wagner's "Parsi-
fal," low E is used, and in a few unusual cases higher notes are
used. It is possible, as a matter of fact, to force a 25-inch kettle-
drum up as high as A, and a 28-inch one can be tuned down
as low as E flat.

Each kettledrum gives but one note at a time, so two or
three, each tuned to a different note, are used in an orchestra
or band. When there are two drums, they are generally tuned
to the tonic and the dominant or the tonic and the sub-
dominant of the key, in which the music being played is

kettle drum


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