Timpani Head Size Guide

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When purchasing a replacement head for your 23" timpano, singular for timpani, logic would indicate you need a 23" head, right? Timpani, unlike a Snare Drum or Concert Tom, use a different method to determine the size head that is needed for any particular drum. Timpani heads actually extend beyond the edge of the bowl, thus needing a larger diameter head than the actual size of the drum itself. The crucial piece of information needed to determine the proper head needed is how far the head extends beyond the bowl. Please check the Evans Timpani Head Chart (click for PDF) or the Remo Timpani Head Chart (click for PDF) first to see if your timpani model is included.

If there appears to be little to no space between the lip of the bowl (also known as the bearing edge) and the counter hoop ( or rim), then you have what is commonly referred to as a drum with a regular collar (See diagram 1). These drums are generally made before 1978 and include older Ludwig, Slingerland or Leedy drums. Determining the actual size of the drum itself can be tricky. Before 1978, manufacturers such as Ludwig made drums in many different sizes. (i.e. 20", 23", 25", 26", 27", 28", 29", 30") A good rule of thumb for pre-1978 drums is to add 1" to the drum size to obtain the actual head size that is needed. The exception is for older 23" drums. These drums need a 24 1/4" head.

Regular Collar Timpani
Diagram 1

If your drums were made after 1978, manufacturers began to standardize sizes and your method of determining correct head sizes is much easier. You will notice that there appears to be a 1"-2" space between the lip of the bowl and the counter hoop (See diagram 2). This is what is commonly referred to as an extended collar. This means you will add 2" on to the size of the drums. After 1978 the manufacturers standardized most of their drum sizes to 20", 23", 26", 29", and 32". This means you will buy heads that are 22", 25", 28", 31", and 34" respectively. The exceptions to this rule are the top of the line drums such as Adams Philharmonic, Walter Lights or the Yamaha 9000 series drums. While Premier drums are also exceptions to the rule, in general, post 1978 Ludwig, Yamaha, or Adams, the 2" rule will apply.

Extended Collar Timpani
Diagram 2

In the end, the best way to determine the correct size head you need is to take the head off the drum and measure the outside diameter of the head. Outside diameter means from one side of the metal ring to the other. You will hear all sorts of tricks that allow you to find the head size without taking the head off of the drum. The most common being measure across the top of the drum and subtract 1/2". Due to the fact that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, we do not recommend this method for purchasing the correct head needed.

Once you have purchased the correct heads for your drums, write the model number and size on each head with a permanent marker (just big enough to see but not so big that parents see it from the back row of the Auditorium) so next time you need timpani heads for that set of drums, the process of ordering will be effortless.

Everyone here at Steve Weiss Music, Inc. is committed to helping our customers order the correct Timpani heads the first time. Shipping costs for sending incorrectly ordered Timpani heads back and forth can be costly and is the sole responsibility of the customer. If you still have any questions regarding the correct sizing of your particular Timpani, we suggest you contact our sales department prior to ordering.

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  • Al Hobbs

    What kind of lubricant is best for plastic timp heads to keep them from creaking while being tuned. I always used a hard stick type wax called "Door Ease" on calf heads (on the rim of the bowl) but I was wondering what is best for plastic. Thanks

  • Zubin

    I just bought a used 28" slingerland timpano. The counter hoop extends 2" beyond the bearing edge. The head that came with it is a regular collar 29" slingerland head. Since it's a regular collar head, and the counter hoop extends 2" past the bearing edge of the bowl, it's obviously impossible to put the head on and tune it since the counter hoop can't pull the head down (the head wasn't on the drum when I got it. It came separately.) Do I need a 29" head with an extended collar, or a 31" head with a regular collar? Or will either one work? Thanks!

  • Kyle

    I just purchased a 1920's Leedy 29" bass drum and in need of a proper drum head. Would a 29" Timpano head work? The shell is exactly 29", outside to outside diameter. I hope to hear from somebody soon, thanks! - Kyle

  • Steven King

    I have come across a "Ringer Ludwig Timpani" with a serial #5861. Could you tell me by this # what the age would be? I looked up through the Ludwig Serial # index, and it says that # would be 1963. But I have doubts about this being correct. I thought Ludwig didn't buy the patent from Ringer until 1969. Did they have a different Serial # index for the "Ringer Ludwig Timpani" for finding out the manufacturing date? Could you tell me the age of this Timpani with the Serial #5861 , I have been told that the 58 in this # may be the head size 58cm, and the 61 could be the 61st made in this size. This seems to make sense, but I would like to know the correct information. Any clarification would be helpful, and any info you can add as to where i might be able to offer this for sale would be greatly appreciated. It is just the one Ringer Ludwig Timpani Thanks, Steven King

  • Ed Stello

    "The exceptions to this rule are the top of the line drums such as Adams Philharmonic, Walter Lights or the Yamaha 9000 series drums. While Premier drums are also exceptions to the rule, in general, post 1978 Ludwig, Yamaha, or Adams, the 2" rule will apply." The second sentence here seems a bit confusing. (it may just be to me) Could you try that one again?

  • John Gerling

    Would be helpful to mention something about inserts, their purpose and whether or not needed on certain drums.