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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, March 21, 2011


The PMC Quick Note is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

Balancing a Timpani Head

Editor's Note: With contest season on us, we have had a big increase in timpani head orders and requests for adjustments. I wanted to help by finding a good article on timpani adjustments and this article certainly does the trick. The original material comes from the Conn Selmer Keynotes Magazine and the author is Al Payson. Here is a link to the source material:

Percussion students need to be grounded in some knowledge of basic music theory. This should include scale study, intervals and the ability to sing and match pitches. Knowledge of these fundamentals will serve them well not only in tuning the timpani to the correct ranges, but also in performing in tune when playing with the band or ensemble.

Ranges. In order for the pedals to work properly, the timpani must be tuned to the correct pitches: 32" DA, 29" FC, 26" B flatF, 23" DA. If the heads are adjusted properly, the pedals will also work properly. There should never be a need to change the adjustment of the main spring screw, above the pedal. Care must be taken to tune each tuning post to the same tension around the drum.

There are several aids that help with this. The most accurate way to accomplish this is to use an electronic tuner; it is also important to use the ear. Proper tuning will produce a tone that rings evenly, with an absence of "beats." When the heads are adjusted properly, the overtones will ring steadily and will not waver.

Selecting mallets. Students should have at least three pairs of mallets: soft for rolls and legato passages, medium or staccato for more general passages, and ultra staccato for quick rhythmic performance. Wood ball mallets are also available, but should be used only if specified in the music.

Hand position and grip. The grip employed for timpani will have a great effect on the tone produced. The mallet handle should be placed between the thumb and first finger of each hand, and the fingers should wrap freely around the mallet. A loose grip will produce a lighter, "warmer" tone, while holding the fingers more tightly will create a sound that is darker and will have more contact to the attack. This is helpful when greater articulation is needed.

Stroke motion. The type of stroke used must fit the musical style or tone desired. Full strokes are used on nearly 90 percent of the notes played on timpani (the mallet head starts eight to ten inches above the head, moves to the head, then returns to the starting position). If this motion is very rapid, it will produce a more articulate, ringing sound. If it is slower, the sound produced will be more legato. For more rhythmic articulation, try keeping the mallet handles more parallel to the drumhead, which will cause the mallet head to strike with a flatter surface.

All strokes should strike the head approximately three to four inches from the edge, or lip, of the bowl. Too near the rim will produce a thinner tone, and as the mallet moves toward the center of the head, less pitch and more "boom" will be heard.

Attention to the suggestions above should help your percussion students play with greater musical maturity.

Al Payson is a retired percussionist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for 40 years, and is an elected member of the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. He has many instructional materials in publication, including Beginning Snare Drum Method.

Two Big Moves for Palen Music

Thanks for helping us grow!! Palen Music Center in Joplin is expanding. We are moving 50 feet down the road into our new, larger facility located in the Crown Plaza and will be open on July 1st, 2011. We will be in our current Joplin location until July 1. At that time, our new address will be: 1202 S. Range Line- Suite 5,6 & 7 Joplin, MO . We can't wait! Thanks again for helping us grow! More lesson studios, more showroom floor, ability to do Performance Week in our own facility. Giddy up - let's go!


Also -- Coming May 1st -- New location and expanded lesson facilities for our Broken Arrow location. We are moving to 929 N. Elm Place (71st and Elm) where we will have eight lesson studios and more room in the repair shop. Construction has started and we are excited to make the move.


The existing locations in Joplin and Broken Arrow are open and happening! Thank you so much for helping us continue to expand. We appreciate your support!

Instrument Specials from Disney
Each year, the Disney theme parks obtain equipment from Conn-Selmer for all of the school groups that come perform. Each spring, the equipment is sold at a discount to schools wishing to purchase the items. Palen Music Center works closely with Conn-Selmer to help move the equipment. Over the years, we have been very impressed with the condition of the instruments and the resulting schools have been thrilled with the savings. Below is a listing of equipment and the reduced pricing. The items are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and once the items are gone they cannot be reordered at these prices. Take advantage of these specials and act quickly before they are all gone. Contact information for our road reps is found at the bottom of this Quick Note.


Here are just a few of the great deals available. For a complete list, including descriptions, photos, and prices, click here.


Ludwig 36" Concert Bass Drum $940.94
Musser 4.3 Octave Kelon Marimba w/Motocart Frame $3,725.21
Ludwig Concert Trap Table w/Stand $84.71
Ludwig 4-piece Polished Copper Timpani w/Pro Tuning Gauges $6,661.00
Musser Xylophone on All-Terrain Cart $1,737.91
Musser Vibraphone on All-Terrain Cart $3,208.69
Ludwig Element Fusion Drumset with Hardware $470.06


Many more great deals! Click here for the full list.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Brett Palen, Eric Matzat, Jason Moore, and Paul Bowen (417) 882-7000
Columbia Jake Herzog (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Harlan Moore (816) 792-8301
Joplin Dave Coble (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Bryan Snyder (918) 770-6827


If you would like to submit material, make corrections, give comments, or wish to be removed from this mailing list, please contact Eric Matzat.  

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