Timpani (;〔(definition of ''timpani'' in the Oxford Learner's Dictionaries )〕 (:ˈtimpani)), or kettledrums (also informally called ''timps''),〔 are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum, they consist of a skin called a ''head'' stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a ''timpani stick'' or ''timpani mallet''. Timpani evolved from military drums to become a staple of the classical orchestra by the last third of the 18th century. Today, they are used in many types of musical ensembles, including concert bands, marching bands, orchestras, and even in some rock.
''Timpani'' is an Italian plural, the singular of which is ''timpano''. However, in informal English speech a single instrument is rarely called a timpano: several are more typically referred to collectively as ''kettledrums'', ''timpani'', ''temple drums'', or simply ''timps''. They are also often incorrectly termed ''timpanis''. A musician who plays the timpani is a ''timpanist''.
==Etymology and alternative spellings==
First attested in English in the late 19th century, the Italian word ''timpani'' derives from the Latin ''tympanum'' (pl. ''tympana''), which is the latinisation of the Greek word τύμπανον (''tumpanon'', pl. ''tumpana''), "a hand drum",〔(τύμπανον ), Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, ''A Greek-English Lexicon'', on Perseus〕 which in turn derives from the verb τύπτω (''tuptō''), meaning "to strike, to hit".〔(τύπτω ), Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, ''A Greek-English Lexicon'', on Perseus〕 Alternative spellings with ''y'' in place of either or both ''i''s—''tympani'', ''tympany'', or ''timpany''—are occasionally encountered in older English texts. Although the word ''timpani'' has been widely adopted in the English language, some English speakers choose to use the word ''kettledrums''.〔
〕 The German word for timpani is ''Pauken''; the French and Spanish is ''timbales''. The Ashanti pair of talking drums are known as atumpan.
The tympanum is defined in the ''Etymologiae'' of St. Isidore of Seville:
ラテン語:Tympanum est pellis vel corium ligno ex una parte extentum. Est enim pars media symphoniae in similitudinem cribri. Tympanum autem dictum quod medium est. Unde, et margaritum medium tympanum dicitur, et ipsum ut symphonia ad virgulam percutitur.
''The tympanum is (instrument made of ) skin or hide stretched over a hollow wooden vessel which extends out. It is said by the symphonias to resemble a sieve, but has also been likened to half a pearl. It is struck with a wand (), beating time for the symphonia.''
The reference comparing the tympanum to half a pearl is borrowed from Pliny the Elder.〔''Natural History'' IX. 35, 23. Quoted in 〕
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