We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


Timpani Tone and the Interpretation of Baroque and Classical Music

Steven L. Schweizer

Publication Date - 06 July 2010

ISBN: 9780195395556

224 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


Timpani Tone and the Interpretation of Baroque and Classical Music explores the nature, production, and evolution of timpani tone and provides insights into how to interpret the music of J. S. Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. In drawing on 31 years of experience, Steven L. Schweizer focuses on the components of timpani tone and methods for producing it. In so doing, he discusses the importance of timpani bowl type; mallets; playing style; physical gestures; choice of drums; mallet grip; legato, marcato, and staccato strokes; playing different parts of the timpano head; and psychological openness to the music in effectively shaping and coloring timpani parts.

In an acclaimed chapter on interpretation, Schweizer explores how timpanists can use knowledge of the composer's style, psychology, and musical intentions; phrasing and articulation; the musical score; and a conductor's gestures to effectively and convincingly play a part with emotional dynamism and power. The greater part of the book is devoted to the interpretation of Baroque and Classical orchestral and choral music. Meticulously drawing on original sources and authoritative scores from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, Schweizer convincingly demonstrates that timpanists were capable of producing a broader range of timpani tone earlier than is normally supposed. The increase in timpani size, covered timpani mallets, and thinner timpani heads increased the quality of timpani tone; therefore, today's timpanist's need not be entirely concerned with playing with very articulate sticks. In exhaustive sections on Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart, Schweizer takes the reader on an odyssey through the interpretation of their symphonic and choral music.

Relying on Baroque and Classical performance practices, timpani notation, the composer's musical style, and definitive scores, he interprets timpani parts from major works of these composers. Schweizer pays particular attention to timpani tone, articulation, phrasing, and dynamic contouring: elements necessary to effectively communicate their part to listeners.


  • Is the only book on the market detailing the interpretation of Baroque and Classical music for Timpanists
  • Provides a discography of seminal timpani performances of the major pieces discussed in the text
  • Demonstrates the previously unrecognized importance of timpani tone to late Baroque and Classical composers

About the Author(s)

Steven L. Schweizer has served as timpanist with the Topeka Symphony and Florence [SC] Symphony Orchestras. He is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Political Science Department at Newberry College.


"This book will help any player breathe new life into their approach to the Baroque and Classical era timpani parts. Well-researched, authoritative, and thorough, it is a tremendous resource for the timpanist of any level." --Jack Brennan, Principal Timpanist, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

"Steven Schweizer provides a comprehensive and thorough explanation of the proper performance practices, tone production, and other useful information for the timpanist's correct interpretation of Baroque and Classical repertoire. I highly recommend this insightful book to the student and professional timpanist." --John Tafoya, Chairman, Percussion Department, Professor of Percussion, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

"If you are looking for an in-depth exploration of what artist-timpanists seek in their playing, a wonderful tone quality appropriate for specific musical styles, here it is! This reference thoughtfully delves into aspects of timpani playing usually uncovered only in private lessons." --Mark Yancich, Timpanist, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

"This is a highly satisfactory book, which is both scholarly and of more general appeal. Schweizer has gathered, assembled and illustrated his material in such a way that it can be assimilated in a handful of concentrated sittings, which will be as generally enlightening on this area of musical performance as it will directly inform the professional. It seems likely that Timpani Tone and the Interpretation of Baroque and Classical Music will re-enliven the style of already competent and committed timpanists. In fact, it goes further. It throws new light on some of the wider issues which have to be understood in order to make the most of the music of the period. Recommended without hesitation." --Classical.net

"Important and up-to-date...Recommended reading for college timpani students especially." --National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors Journal

"It should be included in the timpanist's library." --American Musical Instrument Society

Table of Contents

    Symbols and markings
    About the Companion Website

    Chapter I: Theory and Practice of Timpani Tone Production
    The Timpani
    Acoustics of the Timpani
    Timpani Mallets
    Playing Style
    Timpani Heads
    Playing the Head
    Playing the Head: Techniques
    Changing Tone by Changing the Grip
    Stick Selection and Tone Production
    Using Physical Gestures to Color Tone
    Choice of Drums
    Playing In and Around the Playing Spot
    Tone Producing Strokes
    The Grip
    Psychological Openness to Music
    The Theory of Contrast

    Chapter II: Musical Interpretation and the Timpanist
    The Composer's Style, Psychology, and Intentions
    Phrasing and Articulation
    Creating Emotion
    Aids in Interpreting Music

    Chapter III: Interpretation of Baroque Music
    Timpani, Mallets and Tone in the Baroque and Classsical Eras
    Technical Considerations in Interpreting Baroque Music (1650-1750)
    Henry Purcell and Johann Sebastian Bach
    George Frideric Handel

    Chapter IV: Interpretation of Classical Music
    Approaches to Interpreting and Performing Music in the Classical Era (1750-1800)
    Franz Joseph Haydn
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart