Premier Pro Symphonic Timps (Job No: 1209)

Premier Pro symphonic timpani are just like elites but with a standard collar. Gibberish! Elites are top of Premier’s range of timpani, they have a fine tuning wheel under the bowl, and the counter hoop is three inches oversized, meaning three inches bigger than the bowl. This is the extended collar. Therefore the Pro symphonic timps are identical with the exception that the counter hoop is only one inch bigger than the bowl, which is referred to as “standard”. The use of the term collar originates from the days when calfskin was predominantly used on drums, and it is the amount the head is stretched down below the bearing edge.

When I overhaul a set of timps, there is a lot of work involved over a period of days or even weeks. My approach is to fix everything properly; I am after all a professional and that is what I am being paid to do. However not everyone is as conscientious, and in the end, you get what you pay for. So when I work on timpani, I am fixing problems associated with wear and tear, and the dogs dinner that the previous person made of the job. The posts on timpani pick out examples of problems I encounter, rather than me writing, and you reading the same thing every time I do a set of timpani (which is why I have coloured this bit blue).

The heel on the base casting is prone to wear. It is the third point of contact the the floor, the other two being the casters, so when the drums are moved the heel can drag. As the heel wears away the tuning mechanism beneath the base casting starts to foul against the floor, which obviously is a problem. Easy fix, just screw a bit of something to the underside of the heel. And this is what happens to that solution:

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As can be seen, one has survived, one has fallen off leaving steel spikes, and one has been gone so long the steel spikes have worn completely away. A 30% success rate is just not acceptable to me, neither is having those steel spikes! Why have they come off? The answer is simple, the repairer didn’t know what they were doing. As the plastic heel drags on the floor it is applying a sheer force to the screws, and screws are very weak in that direction, so they “sheer” off. Secondly, plastic is softer than aluminium, so it is never going to last (durr)!

So the first major obstacle is trying to get the sheered, hard steel screws out of the soft aluminium which is not easy, and can sometimes take an hour. A frustrating, horrible job. Then I have a new block of aluminium, to bring the thickness back to original, welded to the castings.

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From the top side, it can be seen that the heat from the welding burns the paint.

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Which is then cleaned up and masked off, ready to be painted.

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As the drums are moved about, the struts can work loose, so they need to be tightened up. This requires a bit of feel – it is a steel screw into an aluminium casting, and aluminium doesn’t hold a thread very well. I commonly find screws that have stripped their threads due to being overtightened. Now sometimes I strip a thread, but I replace the bolts. The problem is exacerbated by the wrong bolts being fit in the first instance – Yes that is a manufacturing defect regardless of age. Because I am a genius, I buy the longest screws that fit!

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As Premier were developing the timpani various improvements were made. One issue was that on the larger drums, the heads were at such low tension, they had insufficient power to lift the pedal mechanism. Other manufacturers have a balanced action to overcome this problem. Premier went the same route and fit a spring to help lift the pedal. This is seen between the mechanism and casting on the left hand side.
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This spring was also insufficient in power, so a more powerful spring was fit in a new place. This is what I have retro fitted to this mechanism.
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The casters that are fit to Premier timpani don’t work. The route cause of the problem is that the casting was designed at least forty years ago for casters which have long since become obsolete. It is the brake lever on new casters that catch the frame. Premier fit spacers to lift the casters (bad idea from a mechanical engineering standpoint) and even ground away part of the casting.

Being a self proclaimed genius I use casters that fit, and they are the same as used on ludwig drums. However they are not available in europe, so I have to import them by the hundred. Once I have converted the drums to accept them, replacing the casters can be done by the customer.
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2 comments on “Premier Pro Symphonic Timps (Job No: 1209)

  1. Ron Carlisle

    Dear Paul,
    So glad to see that you addressed the (I assume chronic) problem that Premier timpani often do not have enough residual pedal tension to return the drum quickly and precisely to its lowest note. I’m in the US and bought a used pair of 25/28 Concert model timpani several years ago. Love the generally rugged construction of the drums and learned to play on old Leedy clutch and pawl timpani, so I’m used to the Premier-style pedal. The pedal return problem was a big negative, however. Failing to find anywhere to adjust anything that might fix that, and after playing around with head tension unsuccessfully, I developed my own fix for this problem. I got a short length of 1/4″ threaded rod, an extension spring of suitable length, an M9 bolt about 1 inch long (I believe it was an M9, but can’t really remember off the top of my head ) and a few washers and nuts for the threaded rod. I attached the bottom of the spring via the threaded rod (inserted through the holes that are conveniently already present) and the top of the spring via the M9 bolt screwed into the threaded retainer at the top of the rod on which the pedal travels. (Remove and retain the winged bolt.) The whole process took about 10 minutes to figure out and install and immeasurably improved the problem. Had I known about your solution first, I probably would have tried something like that, but I would have needed more details from you about how to obtain and insert that compression spring, which I assume is your idea and design, not Premier’s. I then retrofitted these drums with some older Ludwig extended collar counter hoops 27″ and 30″ diameters with the lugs drilled at an angle so that the threaded rods insert at a slight angle (as on the Premier Elite drums) and new heads. End product has been, in my opinion, a MUCH improved sound and much better pedal function. Does kind of make me wonder why Premier doesn’t do this themselves. In this day and age, I can’t conceive of any reason for any copper bowled Premier timpani not to have extended counter hoops and a pedal that comes back positively and with “authority..” Would love to know more about your compression spring retrofit, however. Greatly enjoy reading your web page.

    Reply
    • pauljefferies

      Hi Ron

      Thank you for your kind comments and I apologise for being so slow in replying. Summer is always a busy time for me and this year my workload has been tripled by personal and domestic projects. Something has to give, and unfortunately that is correspondence.

      I cannot take the credit for the return spring design on the Premier pedal mechanism. In fact I use stock spares that I then modify to suit the age of the drums. Premier have been using return springs for a long time – I certainly know they were in common use on the series 2 drums, but cannot remember if I have seen them on series 1. The problem for me is that Premier only fit return springs to the larger drums (30 & 32) whilst I think that the 28 also needs one. However I do only use the steel rod version because the plastic return rod just bends and is therefore ineffective. Finally it is not just a matter of fitting the parts to any mechanism, I do it in conjunction with a lot of other work around the pedal arm with the overall aim of improving response and feel. In terms of set up, I use more return spring tension that Premier (because those drums are not set up properly) but not massive amounts like on, for instance a Ludwig timpano where there is so much spring tension that no feel of what is happening at the head is perceptible.

      With regards to the extended collar Premier do make them – the Elite series. Premier use a three inch extension, so 28″ bowl = 31″ counter hoop; 30″bowl = 33″c/hoop, etc. This makes manufacturing sense because the 28″ Elite counter hoop is the same size as the 30″ standard hoop which with a one inch over size would be 31″. This is another example of my main bone of contention with all mass produced instruments and is something that musicians are largely unaware; the reason why the instruments you play sound the way they do is not through design, but by happy accident. There are so many examples of the manufacturing process dictating design that I no longer refer to mass produced percussion instruments as “musical instruments” instead I class them as product. Essentially in my view they may as well be making street furniture or car parts, after all they would make more profit and that is their main target. The whole point of a musical instrument is for it to be “musical”, so in choosing the size of the counter hoop Premier should have chosen the one that sounds the best not the easiest to make.

      Paul

      Reply

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