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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Timbales (or tymbales) are shallow single-headed drums, shallower in shape than single-headed tom-toms, and usually much higher tuned. The player (known as a timbalero) uses a variety of stick and hand strokes, rim shots, and rolls on the skins to produce a wide range of percussive expression during solos and at transitional sections of music, and usually plays the shells of the drum or auxiliary percussion such as a cowbell or cymbal to keep time at other parts of the song.

The shells are referred to as cáscara (the Spanish word for shell) which is also the name of a rhythmic pattern common in salsa music that is played on the shells of the timbales to keep time. The shells are usually made of metal but some manufacturers offer shells made of maple and other woods. The heads are light and tuned fairly high for their size.

Timbales is also the French word for timpani, thus the French refer to Afro-Cuban timbales as timbales latines. In fact, timbales were invented in the early 20th century as a more portable replacement for the standard timpani used in Afro-Cuban orchestras.

Traditionally, a pair of timbales is mounted on a stand and played while standing. They may be played with drumsticks, or more traditionally with timbale sticks which are straight sticks with no shoulder or head. The head diameters usually range from 12" to 16" with a pair normally differing in size by one inch. As with the bongos, the smaller drum is the "Macho" (male) and the larger the "Hembra" (female) and rhythmic figures tend to cast the two drums in sexual roles, with the macho providing the sharper, attacking sounds.

Manufacturers have recently produced small timbales (usually called "timbalitos" or "mini timbales") with diameters of 6", 8" or 10"; usually they are sold as pairs and are mostly suitable for kit drummers.

A small, fairly heavy salsa-type cymbal or a cowbell may be mounted slightly above and between the two timbales a little further from the player. Older players consider it bad taste to use both a cymbal and a cowbell, but younger players have abandoned this tradition, even incorporating timbales into larger percussion sets including drum kits.

Skilled players strike the heads, rims, and shells in rapid succession to produce lively latin rhythms; likewise, it is common for a timbalero to do so during purchase. Like many other drums, music shops may be understandably reluctant to let a browsing customer play the shells of timbales they have for sale.

Due to the great timbalero Tito Puente (among others), it is now acceptable for a player – especially a band leader – to use more than two timbales, and a great timbale solo is quite a spectacle.

Rigo Tovar, Mexican cumbia superstar, is another notable timbalero. His mastery of the timbales can be heard on several of his songs, most notably his hit single, "Matamoros Querido."

"Timbales" is also a Spanish euphemism for the vulgar term cojones, since they come in pairs, are rather large, and make a lot of noise (meaning that using them will produce notable side effects afterwards).

External links

  • Karl Perazzo three-part timbale video lessons
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