Ed, I thought this was worth sharing. At my lesson last week, I talked with my instructor (Benny) about his New Yearâ€™s Eve gig (he was flown to China to play with the Shanghai Symphony at the new Shanghai Grand Theater. There was a player from the London Philharmonic (Nick Betts) in the section with him (which he really enjoyed), as well as key players from other major orchestras scattered throughout the ensemble. He said that he was sitting right in front of Rainer Seegers, who is the Principal Timpanist in the Berlin Philharmonic. While I had never heard of Rainer, Benny told me that he is one of the finest timpani players that he has ever heard! During meals, Benny said that he would have conversations with Rainer to pick his brain about how he achieves his marvelous sound. There are some really good (common) ideas here that I want to share. Rainer said the many times a conductor would ask for a different sound and would suggest using a harder mallet. He would set down his mallets, pretend to pick up a different set, and then use the set that he had been using, producing a completely different sound (satisfying the conductor). He said, â€œThis is not an equipment issue. Many timpani players do not know what sound is going to come out of their instrument before they play. You must hear the sound in your head before you produce it and let your body produce that soundâ€. Sound familiarâ€¦ This reminds me of a story that Kenny Werner tells about Bill Evans. There was a big celebration for Bill Evanâ€™s 50th birthday. Lots of prominent piano players and students were there. There was a grand piano in the room that had a specific characteristic sound. Many great players would sit down to play and the piano sounded like everyone expected that it would. Eventually, Bill Evans was invited to play and he shared the keyboard with another player. Werner said that he was amazed at what he was hearing. When Evans was playing the bass line, the sound was jumping from the instrument while the treble sound was a little thin. After Evans switched places with the other player, the treble line took on new brilliance and clarity while there was something missing in the bass. Eventually, Evans played for the party alone, and the sound of the instrument was completely transformed to the sound of a Steinway B (Iâ€™m guessing that is the instrument he was known to play on). The sound (even for pianos and timpani) is clearly in the hands of the performer. Werner said that Bill Evans had shock absorbers for arms and could coax out very strong sounds, not because he was working hard, but because his fingers knew exactly where and when to go. He would practice â€œthe minimumâ€, but within this minimum he would explore the material so completely, that he mastered it. Back to Rainer, when Benny asked him about music, Rainer said that when he performs music, â€œHe does not perform for the conductor or the audience, he performs for the composerâ€. I thought that was a very interesting perspective. Benny went on to clarify that. He said Rainerâ€™s Wife is an early music musician. To her Bach is modern music! Rainer said that to capture what the composer was trying to convey, you have to have a complete perspective about the music. Where is the fire in the music with respect to what came before it historically? Is it Italian, or German? Observing these subtle (or not so subtle) differences will lead to a great performance! (One of these days Iâ€™m going to finish those David Krauss notes that I took in 2004 â€“ theyâ€™re still sitting in my practice room. He really nailed the subtle differences between German, Italian, and strict time in his talk). I wish that I could relate Bennyâ€™s excitement in words. This orchestra was just fantastic, and his conversations with Rainer were the high point of his trip.