Tympanum: tool description, composition, history, use

Tympanum: tool description, composition, history, use

The tympanum is an ancient musical instrument. Its history goes deep into the centuries. It is associated with the orgiastic cults of the ancient Greeks and Romans. And in modern music, the drum has not lost its significance, its improved models continue to be used by musicians in jazz, funk and popular music.

Tool device

The tympanum is classified as a percussion membranophone. According to the method of sound production, it belongs to the group of drums, tambourines, tambourines. The round base is covered with leather, which acts as a sound resonator.

The frame was wooden in antiquity, at the present time it can be metal. A belt was attached to the body, holding the tympanum at the level of the musician’s chest. To enhance the sound, jingles or bells were attached to it.

A modern percussion musical instrument does not have a strap. It is installed on the floor, it can have two drums in one rack at once. Outwardly similar to the timpani.

Tympanum: tool description, composition, history, use


The tympanum was widely used as early as the XNUMXth century BC. Ancient literary sources tell about its use in the religious and cult rites of the ancient Greeks and Romans. To the accompaniment of the drum, street processions took place, it was played in theaters. Dynamic, exuberant sounds were played to achieve an ecstatic state.

The ancients had two types of tympanum – one-sided and two-sided. The first was covered with leather on only one side and looked more like a tambourine. It was supported from below by the frame. Double-sided often had an additional element – a handle attached to the body. Bacchantes, servants of Dionysus, followers of the cult of Zeus were depicted with such tools. They extracted music from the instrument, striking it rhythmically with their hands during bacchanalia and amusements.

Through the centuries, the tympanum passed, almost unchanged. It quickly spread among the peoples of the East, medieval Europe, Semirechye. From the XVI it became a military instrument, was renamed the timpani. In Spain, it received another name – cymbal.


A descendant of the tympanum, the timpani is widely used in music. It is known that Jean-Baptiste Luly was one of the first to introduce the parts of this instrument into his works. Later it was used by Bach and Berlioz. Strauss’s compositions contain solo timpani parts.

In modern music, it is used in neo-folk, jazz, ethno-directions, pop music. It has become widespread in Cuba, where it often sounds solo during carnivals, incendiary processions, and beach parties.


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