Timpani, or kettledrums, are a percussion instrument commonly employed in classical music. The instrument consists of a skin stretched across a copper bowl, though less expensive models may employ a different material. The instrument is commonly played with a stick or mallet, which is used to strike the head. Pedal operated timpani are also common.
The sound produced by the drum can vary on any number of factors, including the drum's size, shape, tuning, material, and the type of mallet used to strike it. Traditionally, the timpani is used as an accent instrument, and provides a large booming sound.
The kettledrum has existed since at least the 6th century. Historically, the instrument has been used by militaries, governments, royalty, and in any other situations requiring its commanding sound. Along with the trumpet, the timpani were the signature instrument of cavalries. This pairing has carried over to its use in classical music, where they can frequently be heard alongside one another.