For Bruckner's 7th Symphony, the Timpani notes appear as:

  • 1st movement (E major):

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  • 2nd movement (C# minor):

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  • 3rd movement (A minor):

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  • 4th movement (E major):

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The thing is, Bruckner uses only the tonic note of E for the first movement. In the second movement, he uses C and G for the C major part instead of the tonic-dominant of C# and G#. The third uses A and E which is awesome. The fourth uses E as tonic, but uses C instead of B for the second note. Why did Bruckner break the rules for the normal tonic-dominant tuning?

  • 4
    There are no rules..! There's theory.
    – Tim
    Feb 17, 2019 at 15:54
  • That's right. I've also checked the score for Beethoven's 8th in F dur, and the 1st and 3rd mvts require F-C which is good. The 2nd mvt has no timpani at all (and has no development section too), and the 4th mvt requires F-F which is not tonic-dominant, but rather tonic-tonic.
    – user53472
    Feb 26, 2019 at 5:22
  • The only movement that follows the standard tonic-dominant tuning is the 3rd mvt, in a-minor, as listed above. However, in the c-minor part of the "scherzo" section, it re-tunes to C-G, and for the "trio" in F-major, it uses C-C. The rest of the mvt uses the tonic-dominant of the home key, which is A-E. In fact, I like how the timpani re-tunes its notes in order to match the key whenever there is a modulation. However, the "trio" only has the dominant note and has no tonic.
    – user53472
    Mar 6, 2019 at 11:17
  • 2
    @MaikaSakuranomiya Where did you hear this rule about timpani needing to be tuned to tonic-dominant? I have never seen it in an orchestration text.
    – Peter
    Mar 6, 2019 at 15:13
  • 1
    I don't know why you think the trio uses a "tonic unison tuning". There's no point in tuning two timps to the same pitch. It's just that only one timp is needed in the trio.
    – Rosie F
    Mar 15, 2019 at 16:23

1 Answer 1


Because those were the notes he wanted! (And there are some mid-movement re-tunings you haven't mentioned.)

The interesting part about the 2nd movement is not so much the timp. notes - C and G are absolutely conventional for music in C major - but the fact that a movement nominally in C# minor includes a section in C major.

  • Yes. Although the 3rd mvt uses A-E (tonic-dominant) for its original as it is in a-minor, it re-tunes into C-G for the c-minor section and C-C (not F-C!!!) for the F-major trio.
    – user53472
    Mar 7, 2019 at 13:45
  • It seems unusual but inspiring that Bruckner tuned the timpani in unisons (E-E for 1st mvt, and C-C for trio of 3rd mvt), because even Beethoven sometimes tuned them in octaves! (Ex. F3-F2 for 8th IV and 9th II)
    – user53472
    Mar 7, 2019 at 13:49

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