Play the timpani drum in a professional orchestra or group.

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Salary Range
Highly Variable

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Timpanists do?

A Timpanist is a person who makes a whole lot of noise. In this job, you’re part of an orchestra, playing the timpani—a kind of kettledrum, which has a skin stretched over a large bowl—and sometimes other percussion instruments as well. You’re well trained in percussion, and you probably have a love for large, grandiose orchestral music. You might be able to rock out on the drums, but that’s not where your interests lie.

As a Timpanist, you likely began your training with a snare drum, which is a good introduction to your work as the driving rhythm of a large orchestra. You might also have some experience playing the piano or guitar, giving you knowledge of music beyond percussion, and improving your overall musicianship.

There’s some debate as to whether Timpanists are Musicians or Technicians, but in order to be successful at playing the timpani, you should be a little bit of both. The technical side of your work requires that you have impeccable timing and an ability to keep a steady tempo, but you should also be able to stray from the written beat and play by ear.

That ability can also give you a leg up on the competition, which you’ll face quite a bit of since there aren’t that many symphonies around. But there are also other venues for the timpani. For example, your work could lead you to a rock or pop concert stage, though that’s rare. Or, you could find a position with a traveling ensemble.

Any way you slice it, make sure you can beat the timpani like no other.

Should I be a Timpanist?

You should have an associate's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • High Achiever: You love the challenge of tackling difficult work.
  • Social: You're happiest working on teams or with other people.
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.

  • Also known as: Church Organist, Timpany Player, Trombonist

    How to become a Timpanist

    We recommend at least an Associate's degree. Check out these schools offering Timpanist-related education!
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