Timbales are famous single-headed drums, usually coming with a metal casing, originated in Cuba, but they slowly gained a major role in many different genres and styles across the world. Without them, Latin music would not be the same.
While their structure, appearance, and playing method could resemble tom-toms, their sound is quite different, resulting in a higher pitch (due to their smaller size) and a more muffled tone.
My top recommended timbales are the Latin Percussion LPA256 Aspire Series Timbale Set. This is a great quality set from a respectable and well-known manufacturer.
My second recommended timbales are the GP Percussion LT156 Timbale Drum Set. This is an affordable set suitable for beginners or those on a tight budget.
The 5 Best Timbales (2023)
Let’s compare these in more detail.
1. Latin Percussion LPA256 Aspire Series Timbale Set
LPA256 is a nice, mid-range set made for beginners and people who’re looking to maybe expand their existing set. This set consists of two 13 and 14” drums, which are 6.5” deep, timbale drumsticks, and a cowbell. The shells of drums are made out of steel, which will provide you with sturdy, quality drums for the years to come.
Even though the price is relatively affordable, you’ll get fully tunable quality drums, with standard tuning keys. You can use this set as a stand-alone timbales classic set, or you can add it to your existing set, expanding your sound range and giving you something new to play with.
2. GP Percussion LT156 Timbale Drum Set
The GP Percussion LT156 Timbale Drum Set is low-end and affordable. This is a basic timbale set, consisting of two drums (13” and 14” in size) as well as the cowbell. With them, you also get a double-braced, heavy-duty stand that will take anything you throw at it and a premade bracket for the drums which you just slide onto the stand, and voila! You have your timbales.
LT156 isn’t the best quality item, but if you’re a beginner or just looking for a cheap, sturdy set that will do for practice and teaching, this is the set for you. The sound quality is good, so you don’t have to be afraid they will sound below average. The price is really low and for the amount, you won’t find anything better than this.
3. Latin Percussion Tito Puente Timbales
If the drum set is waving the name of the most famous timbales player of all time, then you know for sure it’s a high-end product you’re looking at. The Latin Percussion Tito Puente Timbales is one of the LP’s top-line products and you can easily see why when you see them, let alone hear them.
In this set you get two drums, 14” and 15” wide and 6-1/2″ deep. The shells are made out of stainless steel with chrome-plated hardware which gives them the appealing look. In the set, you’ll get a heavy-duty stand and two drums, a cowbell and sticks, and a tuning wrench. Overall, this set is a professional one and very worth the price.
4. Pacific Drums by DW Mini Timbale
Since drummers don’t usually play just the timbales these days as they did in the past, there’s more and more demand for smaller timbale drums that you can just add to your existing drum set, without having to haul the whole timbale set with you. DW Mini Timbale by Pacific Drums is just such a drum.
This is a single timbale drum shell, 10” in width. It’s meant to be added to your drum set when you’re looking to expand your sound and add something new to your playing. And it does that perfectly. Since it’s small, it won’t add too much weight when you’re traveling, but it will still provide you with enough of a nice, Latin sound when playing. Plus, it is very affordable.
5. Lp Lp845-K Mini Timbale Set
Finishing the list with another mini drum that can be added to your existing set. The LP845-K is a great little timbale set consisting of 6” and 8” shells that are permanently welded together on a small drum holder with a clamp, which you can then attach to your drum stand or hi-hat stand.
Since they are on a clamp, there’s a negative side of them not being very movable, so you need to find them a perfect spot on which you will be able to put them. The sound quality is great, so they will fit even the best drum sets out there easily. This is a great addition for professional drummers who are looking to expand their sound and try out something new. But beware that the price is matching the quality too.
What are timbales made of?
Timbales shells are traditionally made out of metal, which gives them that authentic crispy, bright sound, and sets them apart from other drums used around the world. But in recent years, several manufacturers started producing wooden shells, like maple, which are usually used for traditional drums.
In what music genres are timbales used in?
Timbales are employed in many Latin genres and styles, such as danzòn, mambo, cha-cha, salsa, rumba, cumbia, and Afro-Cuban jazz. However, many rock and pop drummers often included timbales in their drum sets too.
For example, Alan White, the drummer of the English progressive band Yes, carried four timbales in his drum set. Larry Mullen Jr., the drummer of U2, also plays this Latin instrument.
Quite surprisingly, these Cuban percussion instruments work especially well in heavy metal bands too. In the Armenian band System Of A Down, for example, John Dolmayan often uses a set of mini timbales, while Dave Mackintosh, the drummer of the power metal band DragonForce, uses a medium-sized variety called attack timbales.
The distinctive yet versatile sound of this drum fascinated many players from all over the world and in any genre, although the best timbaleros probably remain the great Latin-American musicians of the past, such as Tito Puente or José Luis Quintana.
What kind of sticks are used to play timbales?
Even though a lot of timbale sets come with standard drumsticks, traditional timbale sticks are a bit different. They look similar to the standard drumsticks, but they are flat. This means that they do not have that “bead” ending like standard sticks. This gives off a bit different sound, but nothing too drastic. Timbales can of course be played with standard drumsticks just as well.
What are common drum patterns used for timbales?
Timbaleros can rely on a solid group of patterns to play their parts and enrich their songs. Many of these rhythmical models were developed throughout the 1940s and the 1950s, by inventive percussionists who opened the doors to new ways of playing.
The most used pattern in the danzòn genre, however, is very traditional and is called baqueteo. Similar rhythmical models can be found in mambo, rumba, clave, and many other Latin styles as well.
Timbales can also be coupled with other percussive instruments. In mambo songs, for example, the listener can often perceive timbales associated with the distinctive sound of cowbells, usually played by the same percussionist. They can also be played with bongos: José Luis Quintana started this non-traditional use of the instrument in the 1970s that still lasts.
All of the schemes highlighted above are usually employed as an accompaniment. The pattern timbaleros often used on solos, instead, is called tìpico and it was developed by Manny Oquendo. Other drummers, such as Tito Puente, also included rhythms from rumba and other styles into their solos, producing some variegated rhythmical layers.
In conclusion, these simple yet characteristic percussion instruments can be a real asset for drummers in any genre or style. They can add a brisk touch to the rhythmical discourse or work exceptionally well in fill-ins.
I hope that this article has helped you in learning about what is out there on the market as far as the timbales are concerned. I have also included plenty of other information to help you understand how timbales are used in the music world.
My top timbales pick are the Latin Percussion LPA256 Aspire Series Timbale Set, a great quality set hailing from a well-known manufacturer.
My budget timbales pick is the GP Percussion LT156 Timbale Drum Set, an affordable set suitable for beginners and those on a tight budget.
Featured image by Dennis Hill from The OC, So. Cal. / CC BY