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Timpani, or kettle drums, are large drums made up of a membrane tightly stretched across a copper hemispherical drum.
They are tuned instruments, meaning they can play different pitches. In an orchestra there are usually 4 timpani played by one percussionist, and they can be tuned quickly and accurately to specific pitches through the use of a movable foot-pedal. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani mallet.