A full set of timpani can cost as much as a car, making them some of the most financially difficult instruments to replace when damaged. It is important to protect these expensive instruments during performance by using appropriate playing techniques. It is also important to protect them when they are not in use.
Head protectors are essential.
Timpani covers are typically made of vinyl and have two main components: the head protector and the skirt. The head protector is disc-shaped and rests atop the timpani head. Depending on the manufacturer, it may have layers of felt and foam sewn into the wooden disc. These layers protect the head from any objects that come into contact with it. The diameter of the head protector is the same as the diameter of the head it covers.
Protect the goods. Use drop covers.
The cover also features hanging material which surrounds the outside of the instrument. Shallow drop covers hang approximately 12-inches below the head, covering the counter hoop and top of the struts. Full size drop covers have enough length to cover the suspension ring, the entire length of the struts, the bowl, and the base. They’re useful in academic or professional situation by keeping dirt out of the important mechanical parts. Drop covers also protect the instruments from side impacts of other objects.
Unless you want broken equipment, cover your timpani when moving them.
It is important to use drop covers and head protectors during the entire duration of any move. This will limit the introduction of dirt and other objects to the head and upper mechanical parts. If the timpani are being relocated a long distance, it is necessary to use flight cases.
Flight cases are a life saver.
Flight cases are heavy duty synthetic or wooden cases built to secure the timpani inside and protect them from harsh impacts and environmental elements. These cases typically come equipped with wheels for easy transport. While these cases are relatively expensive— upwards of $1,700— it is important to remember the delicate nature of the instrument’s mechanics and the enormous cost of repeat instrument replacement.