Timpani rolls can be very challenging to execute well in a MIDI environment. Unless your virtual instrument library includes a looped timpani roll patch, it leaves us with two choices. One is to record timpani rolls in real time by MIDI keyboard as either an audio or MIDI track in a sequencer. The other is to write out rolls in a notation program for playback.
Creating timpani rolls by notation seemed to be an obvious choice given the limitations of what I have available through my software sampler. However, the results clearly demonstrated that playback from notation suffers from a few serious drawbacks. I tried searching some of the music forums for another alternative, and as a result of that search, I found two things. First, it appears this problem continues to vex electronic musicians. Second, the only alternative I could find was the keyboard option. If you're in the same boat here, you came to the right place.
In spite of my limited skills, I recently tried giving real-time keyboarding a chance. Although I determined that it simply wouldn't work for me, I did make some discoveries that led me to develop a different method for creating timpani rolls which, at least to me sound surprisingly realistic. I'd like to share this method with you, and to do so, I have a tutorial I offer for your consideration. However, before I send you to my tutorial webpage, there are a couple of things I'd like to say:
1. My tutorial is intended primarily for those of you who find it difficult or impossible to create good timpani rolls through real-time keyboarding. However, even if you are able to do it (or if you have looped roll samples in your virtual arsenal), I invite you to check out what I have to offer. Perhaps there are a few aspects of my method that could help you improve on the techniques you are already using.
2. I'm not a timpanist, but I played in community orchestras for a number of years, so I have brought some observation and basic common sense to bear on how I approached this project. I welcome feedback from current or former timpani players, especially on any suggestions they might have on how I could improve on the methods and procedures I've developed.
When you go to my tutorial website, you'll have the opportunity to audition some timpani roll samples. Once you hear them, you can decide whether or not all this will be worth your time and attention. So here we are, the "world premier" (timpani roll, please!):