TimbalesThe two individual drums that comprise this set of timbales are single-headed membranophones with cylindrical bodies. (The two cowbells and the plastic woodblock mounted above the drums will be dealt with in separate entries.) Timbales are strongly associated with Latin American, in general, and Caribbean, in particular, dance music, and wherever these traditions have spread timbales will likely be found. It is part of a battery of idiophones and membranophones that provide the distinctive rhythmic patterns underlying Latin American dances. It is also used as an auxiliary percussion instrument called for rarely in orchestral works but more frequently in contemporary solo mixed-percussion and percussion ensemble works.

The cylindrical tubular shells of the pictured timbales are made of thin sheets of bronze alloy. While the two drums vary slightly in diameter (but have the same depth), they are otherwise identical in design. Equally spaced around the circumference of and securely fashioned to the shell are six inverted L-shaped metal braces. Each drum’s synthetic membrane is stretched over a metal flesh hoop with a diameter slightly greater than that of the shell it will cover. Each head is placed over its respective rim opening, followed by a heavy metal ring collar (or counterhoop) of the same diameter as the flesh hoop. These collars each have six ‘bumps’ equally spaced around their outside face, and in each bump there is a vertically drilled shaft. The six collar bumps are aligned with the six braces, and one of each is connected to the other by a carriage bolt serving as a tension-rod. A nut is screwed onto the threaded end of each bolt underneath the protruding end of the brace. It is with this above-described mechanism, and with the use of a tuning wrench, that the amount and evenness of tension on each drum’s membrane can be controlled.