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There's something about those deep-sounding drums tuned to play specific notes that evokes a visceral reaction out of anyone who hears it. Expect any bit of music with timpani in it to be played for maximum What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome? value. For extra awesome, add an ever louder roll.

Compare Drum Roll, Please. For the quiet version, see Heartbeat Soundtrack.

Examples of Dramatic Timpani include:


Live Action TV


  • Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra features this in its famous opening, "Sunrise." It never recurs in the remaining half-hour of the work.
  • Samson and Delilah
  • The finale of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 7 opens with a bravura flourish played on four timpani.
  • The opening of Grieg's Piano Concerto
  • Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 (The Inextinguishable) ends with a duel between two timpanists, placed at opposite sides of the orchestra. Yes, that is as spectacular as it sounds...
  • The "Tuba mirum" in Hector Berlioz's Grande Messe des morts and Benjamin Britten's War Requiem has loud fanfares accompanied by overpowering drum rolls. "Be slowly lifted up" in the War Requiem is accompanied by timpani volleys played on three drums.
  • Havergal Brian's "Gothic" Symphony begins with a short crescendo leading to a loud outburst from two timpanists. The timpani motif recurs at various points, but most impressively near the end of the symphony, "Non confundar in aeternum," which involves six timpanists.

Real Life


  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Miles Gloriosus enters the scene to dramatic timpani flourishes; in most showings, his entourage reflects this by having several drummers.
  • In Der Ring Des Nibelungen, the Giants' Leitmotif is accompanied by pounding timpani at their forceful first entrance in Das Rheingold. The timpani motif stays with Fafner after he becomes a dragon, with the interval altered from a perfect fourth to a tritone.

Video Games

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