An illustration of a mechanical kettledrum showing the system of cords inside. Timpani (also known colloquially as kettledrums or kettle drums) are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum, they consist of a skin called a head stretched over a large bowl commonly made of copper. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet. Unlike most drums, they produce a definite pitch when struck, and can be tuned, often with the use of a pedal. Timpani evolved from military drums to become a staple of the classical orchestra by the last third of the 18th century. Today, they are used in many types of musical ensembles including concert, marching, and even some rock bands.