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Which timpani mallets are best?

Timpani drums have a resonant sound that adds power to an orchestral piece. However, it is not solely the drums that provide the distinctive sound. The timpani mallets are one factor that determines the instrument’s timbre. 

No matter what sound you are after, it is important to have well-made mallets that feature the type of head you desire, along with a handle that feels good in your hands. Vic Firth American Custom Timpani Mallets, for example, are a top choice. The mallets deliver a crisp attack with a resounding decay, making them highly versatile for a broad range of music.

What to know before you buy a timpani mallet

What is a timpani mallet?

If you are playing in a band, a drum set might be best. However, if you are playing in an orchestra, you’ll most likely use timpani drums. To produce a sound on these dynamic drums, you will need a quality pair of timpani mallets.

There are two main parts to a timpani mallet: the handle and the head. The mallets come in a broad range of sizes, and they are manufactured using a variety of materials that allow the performer to produce a specific sound. This sound will vary from song to song, so it is important to have a variety of timpani mallets on hand.

Types of timpani mallet heads

Ball mallets: A ball timpani mallet has a ball at the end of the handle. This ball is typically a small bag or solid sphere that is attached tightly to the handle. The benefit of this design is there is no seam, so no matter how you strike the drum, the sound will be uniform. Unless the mallets are made out of wood, they generally have a softer sound than cartwheel mallets.

Cartwheel mallets: These mallets are made by wrapping material, such as felt or cork, around the handle so they resemble a wheel. The benefit of these mallets is that they are typically harder, so they allow a crisper playing style. Keep in mind that these timpani mallets often have a seam. If the player strikes the drum on the seam, it may not produce the best sound.

What to look for in a quality timpani mallet

Level of hardness

The level of hardness of the head of the mallet is the biggest factor in the types of sounds produced. Soft mallets allow the performer to produce a warmer sound to create smooth, crescendoing rolls. Harder materials produce a sharper attack and allow the performer to better articulate the rhythm. There is no best level of hardness because the ideal sound will vary from song to song. Because of this, it will become important to own a number of timpani mallets that feature varying degrees of hardness.

Handle material

The handles of timpani mallets can be made out of virtually any material. Cheaper offerings may be made out of plastic while higher-end models will use quality wood. It is even possible to purchase carbon fiber timpani mallets. 

Size of the handle

Some timpani mallets feature thin handles, while others have thick, tapered handles. As you become a better musician, you will learn which type of handle is best for your hands. Ideally, you want a handle that is large enough to hold easily, but not so big that it is hard to control.

Quality case

Some timpani mallets come with a case. If the timpani mallets you are considering do not come with a case, however, because you can easily purchase a stick bag separately.

How much you can expect to spend on timpani mallets

You can spend as little as $6-$7 to as much as $100 for a pair of timpani mallets. A budget of around $30-$40 will allow you to find a quality pair that isn’t overly costly.

Timpani mallets FAQ

How many timpani mallets do I need?

A. If you are just starting out, one high-quality pair of general purpose medium-hard mallets may be enough. However, eventually you will want a variety of timpani mallets to cover a broader range of music. At this point, you’ll want to add a hard timpani mallet so you can play passages that call for rhythmic articulations. You will also want to get a soft pair of mallets so you can play smooth rolls.

Can I ever have too many mallets?

A. Since timpani mallets are the item that gives your timpani drums a specific tone color, the wider the assortment of mallets that you own, the wider the range your musical expression can encompass. While you do not want to own so many mallets that you can not easily store them, as you become a better player, your collection may grow fairly large.

What’s the best timpani mallet to buy?

Top timpani mallets

Vic Firth American Custom Timpani Mallets

Vic Firth American Custom Timpani Mallets

What you need to know: These are top-quality timpani mallets that are medium-hard to allow for better rhythmic articulation.

What you’ll love: This pair of Vic Firth mallets is manufactured using a high-grade felt for durability. There is no seam, and the handles are made of maple to give the player a combination of great feel and excellent response.

What you should consider: These are high-quality mallets that have no consistent problems.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top timpani mallets for the money

Promark MT3 Multi-Purpose Felt Mallets

Promark MT3 Multi-Purpose Felt Mallets

What you need to know: These affordably priced general purpose timpani mallets feature soft felt heads for warmer tones.

What you’ll love: This mallet can be used on timpani, concert toms or a suspended cymbal. The handle is made out of oak for reliable performance and durability. Promark is owned and operated by D’Addario & Co, and all the drumsticks are manufactured in the U.S.

What you should consider: While some felt these mallets were a little lighter than expected, it didn’t affect the performance.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Innovative Percussion GT-3 General Series Timpani Mallets

Innovative Percussion GT-3 General Series Timpani Mallets

What you need to know: These well-made, general purpose timpani mallets are best for a serious percussion student.

What you’ll love: The heads of these mallets have a wooden core to help produce a crisper rhythm. They feature tapered maple handles, high-quality German felt covers and woven felt liners.

What you should consider: These mallets have a medium soft head, which makes them better suited for rolls than articulation.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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