…The Anatomy of a Kettle Drum

(Every Percussionist Should Know…)
…The Anatomy of a Kettle Drum.

Life is easier if you can tell the doctor that your left little toe hurts, from there one could get even more specific; the top right corner of the nail.  It’s the same when customers talk to me about their instruments.  Most instrument are pretty simple, but the modern timpani are not, so I thought it was time that I create a guide.

Below is a drawing I have reproduced and altered from an old Premier spare parts manual.  I have only used Premier because I had it readily to hand.  Regardless of the make and model, essentially the component parts of a kettle drum are generic.

I can’t be bothered learning all the various names or numbers that manufacturers come up with to differentiate themselves from the others.  If you need a part, explain what you need, and I will worry about part numbers – you receive what you actually need.

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  1. Tuning key – this replaces the old T handles.
  2. Tuning bolt, not a T bolt – believe it or not they look like the letter T.
  3. Insulation washer.  I use PTFE, Premier have nylon semi-spherical washers.
  4. Indicies indicate the note or pitch on a tuning gauge (don’t worry most tuning gauges are simply rubbish – they are the bane of my life! (exaggeration)).
  5. Head, whether made of plastic or skin it is a timp head.  Skins were the thugs in the late 70’s that wore Doc Martins shoes, bomber jackets and had Nazi swastikas tattooed on their faces (I bet they regret those tattoos n6.  ow!)
  6. Bearing edge
  7. Tuning Lug.  Lug is a universal engineering term for anything that protrudes out.  I can’t stop thinking of the kid at school who had sticking out ears…
  8. Counter Hoop.  This holds the flesh hoop and enables tuning.
  9. Suspension Hoop.  It suspends the bowl.  Cheaper drums do away with this part and attach the struts directly to the bowl.
  10. Bowl.  Made of silver, copper, glass fibre, aluminium or ceramic, on timps a bowl is a bowl.
  11. Strut or Leg.
  12. Knee.
  13. Grip rod.
  14. Clutch.
  15. Pedal and pedal cover.
  16. Toe and more specifically the Heel.  Think about it, the toe’s stick out, and the heel is like that part of your shoe.
  17. Pedal Arm.
  18. Base Casting.
  19. Caster.  Premier have the Tilt Stem attached.  A wheel is a wheel, it’s the round thing, the complete unit is a caster.  Ask for a wheel, you get a wheel!
  20. Central Pull Rod.  Ignore all the clever names manufacturers come up with.  All the tuning rods converge at the spider which is attached to a central rod which is pulled down by the pedal arm.  Hence the name.
  21. Fine Tuner.  This changes location, on Premier drums it is called a crown wheel (probably because it looks like the Crown paint manufacturers logo).
  22. Tuning Rods.  These are the radial rods, the other ones are vertical rods.

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