Back to all articles

The History of Timpani

Given that percussion instruments are the most basic, most ancient form of musical instruments, timpani can trace their ancestry back to primitive human societies. The oldest drum with a plate that could be classified as a timpani is an artifact that dates back more than two millennia. Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Hebrews used percussion instruments similar to timpani, and in fact, the word timpani is derived from the name of an ancient Greek instrument, the tympanon. Notably, the timpani is a pitched percussion instrument; the pitch can be changed by adjusting the tightness of the head to make tones that are distinguishable as "C-D-E". These drums (and their more ancient ancestors) have been important in music for millennia and timpani continue to play a major role in most orchestras today.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.