I’m looking for a cheaper alternative to the timpani, that may be used in a middle school band.
Thanks in advance.
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One option is a keyboard with timpani sounds. Roland, for example, has some options that sound great and will even play a roll for a held key (not sure about glissandos with the pitch wheel). You could also trigger the keyboard with a drum pad via midi to preserve more of the visual aspect of drumming for a performance if you want.
Electronic drums could possibly work too, but since timpani are tonal, the interface for finding pitches on a keyboard will be less problematic and error prone.