Pitched drums, such as Timpani (also known as kettle drums), are vital in orchestral music.
Chances are if you’re working on sync music or with string instruments and horns, you’ll have use for Timpani.
Finding a great sounding Timpani VST plugin can be tricky, as many sound pretty terrible. Don’t worry, as I’ve taken care of the hard work, sharing five of the best Timpani plugins you can use in your compositions.
Note: Few Timpani VSTs will be standalone. Most will come included in either an orchestral VST library or a percussion library.
1) Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack (Paid)
Right out of the gate we have Orchestral Percussion SDX. The library sounds fantastic, being that Toontrack tracked the instruments in the main hall at Galaxy Studios.
Each instrument is multi-sampled, giving more realism to each sound.
Let’s take a look at some of the features:
- 120+ individual instruments
- Playback up to 11-channel surround
- Extreme detail and great articulations
- MIDI clips included
The major downfall of the library is that it does require Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 to function. If you already own SD3, Orchestral Percussion SDX may be a great option!
2) Big Bang Cinematic Percussion by SONiVOX (Paid)
Big Bang is an excellent, yet affordable, library that includes loads of great-sounding percussion (including timpani). The best way I can describe the sounds are epic.
Let’s take a look at some of the features:
- Multi-take round-robins
- Multi-velocity samples
- 8 User-assignable stereo outputs
- 8 User-assignable effects busses
- MIDI learn
- Over 200 percussion instruments
- 15GB of samples
- RTAS and AAX support
At the time of publishing, Big Bang Cinematic Percussion is on sale at Plugin Boutique for $59.
3) Timphonia by Modwheel (Paid)
Here’s a standalone timpani VST! Timphonia by Modwheel is one of the best-sounding kettle drum plugins I’ve heard so far.
The library includes 11 “regular” Kontakt patches (yes, Kontakt is required, unfortunately) with hits, flams, ruffs, rolls, with both mallets and sticks.
Timphonia also includes 18 “irregular” Kontakt patches including extended techniques such as pedal bends, bowed cymbal on timpani bends, coin spins, broomstick rubs, shell hits, rubber ball bounces, and more.
As stated, you will need the full version of Kontakt and 7.1 GB of space on your hard drive.
4) Spitfire Percussion (Paid)
Don’t get me started on Spitfire percussion. There is absolutely nothing better. This library is incredible.
For all you composers out there, look no further than Spitfire Percussion.
The instruments were recorded meticulously at Air Studios with the world-renowned Joby Burgess.
The library is rather expensive, but the Timpani samples sound so realistic. To give you an idea, there are a total of 43109 samples included in the instrument.
Kontakt is also not needed as the free player does not time out due to Spitfire’s license with Native Instruments.
5) Kettle Drum – Timpani (Free)
For those on a budget, check out Kettle Drum – Timpani by Samsara Cycle Audio.
Unfortunately, this Timpani VST is not the greatest. It sounds rather monophonic, and it seems that there is limited sustain of each pitch.
I can only recommend using this if you’re doing pop or hip hop production and intend to mess it up with effects.
Here are a few other free timpani VSTs to try out:
Things to Consider When Buying Timpani VST Plugins
Depending on your needs as a composer and producer, you may select plugins differently.
Using Kettle Drum VSTs for Effect
If you’re not an orchestral composer and plan to use Timpani in production (like hip hop beats for example), you might get away with using a free instrument.
The free timpani VSTs I’ve found tend to sound terrible when compared to their realistic-sounding counterparts.
When used in pop production, however, they may seem exceptional in your mix with some effects.
Using Timpani VSTs For Orchestral Composition
If you’re composing realistic sounding music for movie trailers, TV spots, video games, etc… you will need to fork out the cash, unfortunately.
Timpani VSTs aren’t always standalone. Even when they are, often it’s better to purchase the library that has all the orchestral instruments recorded in the same room.
The instruments gel better if they’re from the same library in my experience.
The Kontakt Player Times Out
I sound like a broken record on many of these posts, but the Kontakt Player isn’t the greatest.
For one, it times out after fifteen minutes. If the instrument you choose to buy runs in Kontakt, be sure you own Kontakt. There is nothing more frustrating than dealing with a plugin stopping due to a time restriction.
If you don’t own Kontakt, pick a standalone library.
What Are Timpani Drums?
The Timpani is a set of four or five pitched kettle drums that play in orchestras, symphonies, and even marching bands.
Percussionists playing Timpani control the pitch of the drums with a foot pedal located at the bottom of each.
There is a pitch indicator on each drum, but often they are inaccurate, so it’s best to use a pitch pipe.
Famous works that feature Timpani include E. Berlioz: “Symphonie fantastique,” “G. Mahler: Symphony No. 2,” and “J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio.”
Looking for more VST percussion? Check out my other roundups.
- Best Xylophone VSTs
- Best Tambourine VSTs
- Free Drum Kit VSTs and Samples
- Best Drum Machine VSTs
- Best Acoustic Drum Samples
Have you used any orchestral percussion libraries or standalone Timpani VSTs? Which ones do you like? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and share if you found the article helpful.
Thanks for reading.
Is there timpani software that can be added to a 4 pad set that can be used by a community band? Is there a 4 or more pad set that has timpani already programmed into it that could be used by a community band in place of real timpani?
It is totally possible to use four electronic drum pads with a software library. It will be a pain to setup, but it would work. You could use Ableton Live, or a similar program, to run the VST software and change tunings when needed.
I haven’t heard of a 4 or more pad set that has timpani pre-programmed in. Some pads, like the SPD-SX, have timpani samples, but usually are only C and F IIRC.