Adrian Bending
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Leonore is 1 !


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timpani trolleys

Bespoke timpani trolleys so that you can transport your timps easily, but remove the wheels for stability when playing.

Prices from £100 + VAT including locking wheels. A painted or varnished finish adds an extra charge.


Elgar – The Dream of Gerontius (July 2023)

Elgar – The Dream of Gerontius, Gabrieli Roar 2023, concerts and recording, July 2023.
Diary clashes meant I was very happy to play percussion and the timpani part was excellently navigated by the fabulous Jude Carlton 👏👏👏👏👏 of Royal Northern Sinfonia.
It is interesting to think about the writing and development for timpani at the turn of the 20th Century. Our instruments developed slower in Britain at the time and Elgar (1900) was clearly writing for hand-tuned timpani. Compare this to ‘Salome’ (1905) and Mahler symphonies (1901-10).
Elgar I would suggest seems to be writing for the whole orchestra in a way that meant his music could be performed by regional, youth and amateur orchestras who probably didn’t have state-of-the-art instruments. Strauss on the other hand must have known that some of his harder operas with unusual instruments could only be performed by a handful of elite companies in major cities.
Although german timpani started to come into Britain at this time, this was rare and didn’t happen quickly and the most elite orchestras would have used timpani like this for the hardest and newest repertoire for some time to come.
The timpani part of Gerontius is taxing but cleverly written. It seems to assume that 3 timpani is normal (because he specifically mentions using a 4th drum), but we would always use 4 in any case to try to reduce the amount of quick changes. Frequent and relentless changes can be frustrating and tiring as it is hard to get the drums to settle, because as soon as they do, they frequently need to be changed again…
This was compounded this week as one day of rehearsals had to be moved to an outside venue. Anyone who has played timpani outdoors will agree it presents a whole new set of difficulties but here Jude got through this most difficult of situations very impressively indeed.
As I had time to watch quite a bit of the culmination of ‘The Ashes’ cricket, I was able to muse on the interesting parallels between cricket and outdoor timpani playing; both requiring a high level of attention to the weather, how this is completely beyond one’s control yet can drasticallty affect how your day is probably going to go!
The percussion instruments are; British bass drum, 30″ (date unknown), Dresden snare drum (early 20th Century), modern Premier glockenspiel, Istanbul 17″ cymbals, Wuhan 30″ tam tam, Sabian triangle and sleigh bells.
The bass drum is probably early 20th Century.  It is 30″ in diameter, a modern one would be approx 36-40″.  This sort of drum was made for amateur orchestras and wind and brass bands but would also have been used by professional symphony orchestras.  The main difference from a modern drum is the tensioning.  On this drum the tensioning is done by ropes.  And with the leather sliders we can tune the drum – this is mostly to do with getting a suitable sound from it and the tension of the skin changes dramatically with the weather!
The side drum is a german drum made in Dresden and it is probably about 100 years old.  Modern drums are the same proportions as this.  Modern drums tend to have plastic heads (which now are quite a close sound to natural heads) but many modern players are going back to using natural heads.
Metal instruments don’t tend to last very well. Metal fatigue means they can crack or deterioate and just lose their good sound.  And so the cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel, tam tam and sleigh bells are all modern instruments, but were chosen for their sound as to what we think would have been used in Elgar’s time.  It is dangerous to generalise but today’s players often choose louder percussion instruments because they need to project across modern orchestras which tend to be louder than those using old instruments.  We don’t need to worry so much about this.  For example the cymbals are only 17″ in diameter and quite thick and therefore have shorter and more percussive clash sound.  Modern orchestras would tend to use thinner and so louder perhaps 19″-21″ cymbals for this piece.
Sticks and heads – we try to use sticks that are identical or similar to those of the period, since hardly any originals survive.  We use calf-skin drum heads that we believe are as similar as possible to what Elgar would have heard.  Skins definitely do not survive 100 years! And so the choice of sticks goes hand in hand with the heads and pursuing the eventual sound, as true as possible as far as we can guess!, governs our choices.
Players (L-R); Jon French, Becky McChrystal, me, Luke Taylor, Nick Cowling and Jude Carlton
My timpani and percussion score part of this piece will be available soon.


Why build a cargo bike for timpani?

I’d experimented with taking timpani on the train.  And although accessibility on public transport has become much better, I still needed a vehicle to get the drums from my home to the station.  After that it definitely worked but it seemed to be a lot of lugging around of heavy things when there was a better solution awaiting….


Cases for large hand-tuned / belt timpani

3 sizes are available:

Large: 104cm x 104cm x 80cm, for timpani up to 29″/30″ including Lefima 29″ belt timpani
Medium: 98cm x 98cm x 74cm, for timpani up to 26″/27″ including Lefima 26″ belt timpani
Small: 96cm x 95cm x 72cm, for timpani up to 23″/24″ including Lefima 23″ belt timpani


Hardcase bass drum cases for timpani

3 sizes are available:

HN26B, here in red, is 95cm x 45cm, weight 31kg, for timpani 25″ – 27.5″.
HN24B, here in green, 88cm x 45cmweight 30kg, for timpani 23″ – 25″
HN22B, not shown, is 79cm x 45cmweight 28kg, for timpani 20″-23″

Some of the cases have 4 extra wheels. All of them have two built in wheels

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Stands can be transported in lightweight Le Blond boxes.  This one, for up to three stands, has dimensions of 97cm long x 40 wide x 13 deep and weighs around 15kg.

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Gilbert & Sullivan

Performances 7-8 June 2023 at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Princess Ida’ with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment performed here less than half a mile from where it was first performed in 1884 at The Savoy Theatre.
The timpani are 24″, 24″ & 27″ Hawkes with thick English calf heads (range is low G up to E). Percussion includes a Dresdner snare drum, early C20 (?) English bass drum, Istanbul cymbals.
Since this part is definitely written for only one player (perhaps a space issue?) the percussion contribution cannot be as involved or interesting as in other G&S works.
Other works premiered around this time include ‘Carmen’, Brahms 4, Dvorak 7, ‘Parsifal’ and ‘Manfred’ Symphony.

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Saint Saens timpani – January 2023

Saint Saens concert January 2023

with our extra timpanists for ‘Phaeton’ Florie Fazio and Tom Hunter


And the debut of my strohfiedel!


YouTube channel

Please visit my YouTube channel to watch films about all sorts of things…


Translation work

Cheap storage unit for rent – must be sorted by the end of March 2023

Shurgard, Purley Way, Croydon (oppostie IKEA)

Ground floor. 160 square feet. £200/month (inc. £10k insurance). Access hours 0600-2300

contact Miranda Allen

Co-directing the Rameau film at Acland Burghley


Sheet music for orchestral excerpts

Turn of the Screw page 1


Turn of the Screw page 2





Figaro Overture


Janacek ‘Intrada’


Nocturne p1


Nocturne p2

Lefima hand-tuned timpani – SOLD


A pair of Lefima hand-tuned timpani. Sizes 23″ & 25″.  Lefima wooden trestles included

These drums were previously owned by Janos Keszei

Offers in the region of £4000

Contact Dan Gresson +44 (0)7973 120165

Located in Ashtead, Surrey

Yamaha marimba

Yamaha 4.5 Octave Intermediate Acoustalon Multi-Frame II Marimba

Practice instrument so hardly ever dismantled hence in immaculate condition

Offers in the region of £3000

Contact Tom Pritchard +31643813134 or Sarah Heartfield +44 (0)7876 345872

Located in Manchester or Yorkshire

Ludwig Universal timpani

25″ & 28″ Ludwig Universal timpani

With discs and covers

Offers in the region of £2200

Contact Liz Barker

Located in Hook, Hampshire



Kolberg Rossmann timpani sticks

These sticks are all ‘as new’.  Please contact Adrian Bending  Try before you buy if near London, otherwise postage charges apply.  Each pair is £100 inc. VAT.


















Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum

14″ x 5.5″.  Immaculate condition.  Grover snare mechanism added. Silk and wire snares.

Contact Adrian Bending


Timpani stands

Timpani stands.  Length approx 90cm.  These stands are capable of huge height differences and are therefore suitable for seated or standing playing with all kinds of timpani.  Sapele wood with rubber covering.

£100 each. Contact Adrian Bending

Le Blond cases for 2, 3 or 4 stands are in stock, from £50.  Please contact me for options and prices.


Short Lefima timpani stands

Short Lefima timpani stands.  Suitable for seated playing only. Some usage marks on the wood.  £150 inc VAT

Contact Adrian Bending


Bags for timpani stands.  £25 inc VAT.

Kolberg stick rake

As new.  Holder for 10 pairs of sticks.  Also fixes to any standard cymbal stand.  £120 inc. VAT.  Contact Adrian Bending


expert strohfiedel players

How I made a strohfiedel

Huge thanks are due to Pete Woods of for his advice and guidance with this project. Without this I am sure mistakes would have been made resulting in a less successful instrument!


I salvaged some notes from an old Leedy xylophone where the frame had broken beyond repair. We believe the notes are Honduras Rosewood.  This wood could be 150 years old.  The xylophone was probably made before 1930 and the wood would likely have been stored for many decades before it was decided what to make with it.


The first job is to establish which notes go in which rows.



The positions are marked for the eyelets that take the string.


It is very important that the notes are kept parallel and equally spaced.


At this point the beech strips that the notes rest on can be fixed in position. Thanks to for supplying this excellent beech crucially cut precisely to size.


Originally the notes would have been laid on straw, but we figured rubber tubing would work just as well and be much easier to work with. The tubing is not mounted in a straight line because the holes drilled in the notes do not line up with each other. This is because the holes were drilled for mounting the notes in the modern piano keyboard layout and so they are not in the ideal positions for mounting the notes in this way.


Finally cutting the board to a more manageable size.


Sanding the edges and rounding the corners a little.


A couple of coats of varnish.


Cleaning the notes with white spirit. Water would soak into the wood and could cause problems.


Putting a tiny bit of wax on the notes helps this beautiful wood really shine!


The most time consuming and fiddly job; putting felt piano washers between all the notes and eyelets and stringing the entire instrument.


My strohfiedel is not a true copy because the instrument should have a few duplicate notes (see below). This is so that these important notes are available for both the left and right hands to play. A set of modern keyboard xylophone notes only has one of each note.



Strohfiedel debut at the Royal Festival Hall

Matt Dickinson in rehearsal at Blackheath.

with timpanists Florie Fazio and Tom Hunter who joined us for ‘Phaeton’.

Tea with Netty – OAE podcast


Article in ‘Classical Music’ magazine, August 2021


What exactly are these: old or new, big or small?

These timpani were popular in Britain at the start of the 20th century.  Here is a photo of Elgar conducting the London Symphony Orchestra at the Queen’s Hall in 1911 just a year before their famous ground-breaking trip to New York. The timpani in the photo appear to be very similar indeed to my Hawkes drums.

These drums are hybrids.  Although smoother and slicker the tuning system uses essentially the same engineering as in Mozart’s time.

Hawkes early 20th Century timpani


Potters cavalry timpani

But surely what matters is what the drums sound like?  The major difference is that the bowls have been made deeper to increase the decay and maximum volume. Also permanent built-in legs have been added.

Hawkes early 20th Century timpani


Potters cavalry timpani

Unfortunately the collars remain small as per earlier drums but due to the volume of the kettle thinner heads work well providing a purer, more modern sound with longer decay.

And so although orchestration and timpani techniques had advanced significantly in 200 years, Elgar was restricted in his options to write harmonically (as timpani parts were becoming by 1900) due to the primitive tuning system.  In all his parts one can see where choices have had to be made where, for example, some notes were replaced by ‘less-than-ideal’ ones or left out altogether.  Something that one cannot say about all composers; Elgar certainly understood the limitations of the instruments at his disposal and his writing is still dramatic but intelligent to work within these immovable limits.

Not just limited by the tuning system Elgar most often seems to write as if the player only has three drums.  Although this is undoubtedly restricting there is one major and shrewd advantage in that writing for small, realistic forces means that your music is more likely to be played more often by amateur and youth orchestras.

The tuning changes in Elgar’s 1st Symphony are very similar in in speed and difficulty to the tricky quick changes Mozart writes in the Act II Finale of Cosi fan Tutte.

It is interesting to compare Elgar to what Richard Strauss was writing for timpani at the same time.

Probably inspired by the new fast-tuning single crank timpani, the writing in Strauss’ operas (including Salome, Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten) was radical and ambitious, the proof of that being that they are today still amongst the most technically challenging parts we have to play.

Utterly different to Elgar here the timpanist must find 12 different pitches in a section that lasts just a couple of minutes.  And another huge difference to Elgar; Strauss must surely have been aware that through his enormous orchestration (including such unusual instruments as the heckelphone) and fiendish technical demands that many of his larger works would only be performed by the largest and most elite orchestras and opera companies.

So… are these deep English hand-tuned timpani any good?  Well, some would quickly say no.  In some ways they are the worst of both worlds, definitely possessing the most primitive tuning system of all the available types of large-bowl timpani ruling out their use for certain repertoire as we see above.  Or to put it a completely different way; although the tuning system and relatively small collars suit earlier repertoire the bowls are far too big for smaller ensembles playing this music.

On the other hand, unless you are playing complicated tuning repertoire these timpani are perfectly good for most repertoire with a reasonably large orchestra.  Compared to pedal or single-crank drums they are much more portable and robust and very much more affordable.  With the use of small gels in the middle of the heads some excess decay can be taken away for smaller ensembles playing earlier repertoire and/or when playing in big acoustics. Due the need to match the resonance of the bowl with the resonance of the head (note; the small collar is ‘out of sync’ with this), this explains the need (as I said earlier) to use thin modern heads.  And so while gels reduce decay and volume and clever stick choices can be made, deep drums with thin heads can never achieve a proper baroque or classical attack or sound.

BBC Radio 3 ‘Inside Music’

So enjoyable to be asked to devise two hours of radio and speak about some of my favourite music!  Huge thanks to Drew Leckie and Sam Phillips for being so brilliant, making me at ease and ensuring it all went smoothly.



video and photos

video and photos

The Evolution of Timpani Part 1: Introducing the Baroque Timpani



You can hear them in this Gabrieli Consort and Players recording of Bach’s Easter Oratorio and Magnificat.

Making the drone shot


machine timpani

I only have one of these in working order but 2-3 more to renovate.  While the mechanism is a clever invention it probably fell out of fashion due to being slightly fragile, and also rapidly superseded by pedal timpani.


Verdi Requiem (1886) OAE/Alsop BBC Proms 2016


Wagner Das Rheingold (1869) OAE/Rattle Baden Baden 2004




Wooden timpani

Obviously these drums are very unusual. The bowls are made of strips of quite thin wood rather like barrels and are therefore extremely light.  When played loudly the wood sometimes rattles and vibrates and so some work needs to be done on these drums to make them usable in performance.


video and audio



Bach Weihnachts Oratorium highlights with Gabrieli Consort & Players / McCreesh, November 2020


BBC Documentary: Messiah at the Foundling Hospital, Gabrieli Consort & Players / McCreesh


The Evolution of Timpani Part 1 Introducing the Baroque Timpani


video and audio

Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique with OAE and Sir Roger Norrington

2nd timpani Scott Bywater.  Percussion Glyn Matthews, Ben Hoffnung, Richard Horne.

In rehearsal:

In concert: Helsinki, 1 September 2013

1st Movement

2nd Movement

3rd Movement

4th Movement

5th Movement


Haydn “Paukenmesse”. BBC Proms 2015.


Hear these drums in Beethoven’s 4th & 7th symphonies with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields directed by Joshua Bell.Joshua-Bell-CD-cover


Here is a video about Gabrieli Consort and Players’ Grande Messe des Morts recording in 2010.  At 4′ 48″ I talk about sponge-headed sticks.


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