Is installing after market Timpani gages possible?

Our timpanist, god bless him, had no gages on our ancient drums and I don't spare him a single tuning change because of it. We are not ready yet to purchase new timpani, so I thought about trying to install gages on our existing drums. They are Ludwig standard timpani and Ludwig's website does offer single gage purchase, but makes no mention of if they are just replacements or can be installed on previously gage-less timpani. Can anybody here offer any help on whether or not this is possible and how it may be achieved?

You guys are a great resource! You give me faith that machines will never replace people because I've been all over google looking for an answer.
Joe's suggestion is definitely the coolest!

I bought some used drums many years ago (Ludwig dresdens) which came with third-party gauges. They were made by a company called Planet Percussion and were actually pretty slick. They used a sort of cable mechanism (think of a bike gear/brake cable) and were made to fit a variety of drums. I don't know if they're still in business any longer, but you might be able to find some via Steve Weiss, other specialty drum shops, or maybe even Ebay.

In fact - I just did a search on Ebay and found [url=http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=350382193117]a pair[/url]. They're a bit spendy ($450), but can vouch that they're designed pretty well.

The DIY'er in me still likes Joe's idea best, though!
Yep, certainly possible, especially with Ludwig pedals.

It is also easy to make your own cheap gauges for marching band or ";quick and dirty"; pit orchestra work. For each drum you need a small C-clamp, some fishing line, a small weight (a large nut will do), and some masking tape.

Clamp one end of the fishing line to the top of the pedal, and run it up to the rim of the drum, over two of the lugs, and down about 12 inches. Cut the line and tie the end to the weight; now the line will stay taught.

Tear off a small piece of masking tape and fold it over the fishing line where it is resting on the head, making sure the fold is symmetrical so that there is little or no adhesive available to stick to the head. In pen, draw a small line on the tape that is pointing at the rim.

Place a larger piece of masking tape on the rim. Tune the drum and mark the relevant notes on the tape on the rim. Be sure to look straight down at the rim and head while marking and tuning.

When temperature, humidity, or instrument moves cause the old marks to become invalid, tear off the masking tape on the rim and make a new guide.


Is this as good as a real tuning gauge? Of course not, but doing a set of four drums will run you about 10 bucks in supplies. In the rough world of marching band this stuff will break, too, so be prepared to spend a bit of time fixing it when arriving at a performance site. One thing that helps minimize the breakage is (if you use a nut as a weight) to pick the nut up and place it on a lug when transporting instruments, so it doesn't swing back and forth banging into bowls.

The tape on the head will occasionally buzz as well, but it's not something that can be heard outdoors in a marching band performance setting.

My percussion teacher taught me this trick in college, and it saved my butt playing percussion in a West Side story pit. I've used it for my marching band pits every year I've taught them whenever the music calls for timpani note changes. The pit always has spare tape, fishing line, and a pen in their equipment bag.
Yes, many years ago I added gauges to old Ludwig timpani that did not originally have them. It is quite simple and easy to do. If my memory serves me, the installation instructions and all hardware come with the gauges, but I would double check that. Just make sure you get the right gauges for the style of timpani you have and you should be good to go. If you need more help let me know.

Matt
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