Timbaleros work the groove selecting tasteful rhythms, accents and fills - amongst the most notable is Jose Luis Quintana "Changuito" formerly of the Cuban supergroup Los Van Van. Although sometimes considered non-core to a line-up, the addition of timbales can achieve a higher level of excitement and versatility to a band's sound. And excitement's what salsa's about.
The typical timbale setup also includes two bells: a smaller high-pitched bell called the chacha bell, and a larger one called the mambo or timbale bell. A woodblock-sounding equivalent like the LP Jam Block is commonly found as well.
Two other additions are: a "crash-able" cymbal with a strong bell sound and high definition on the body, like the Zildjian Azuka Timbale Cymbal; and a trap-set bass drum.
Brands to investigate as a starting point are Latin Percussion, Meinl, and Toca. My preferred brand is Meinl, because of tone, quality, workmanship, support and design (for example the tuning hardware takes up less depth giving me more room to play on the shells).
What to play
The best sets
of instructional material for beginning timbaleros is, by far,
that by Birger Sulsbrück and Victor Rendón. It depends on
your learning style.
Latin-American Percussion: Rhythms And Rhythm Instruments From Cuba And Brazil by Birger Sulsbrück. (External link)
Salsa Guidebook For Piano & Ensemble by Rebeca Mauleón. (External link)
Close-Up On Bongos And Timbales, Vol. 2 - DVD by Richie Gajate Garcia. A good video for learning the basics. (External link)
The Art Of Playing Timbales, Vol. 1: Book & CD Package by Victor Rendón. A well-planned course from beginner to intermediate level. (External link)
A Master's Approach To Timbales by Jose Luis Quintana "Changuito". This is the ultimate guide to mastery through the laying down of good practice. (External link)
Additional resources are available on www.descarga.com under Instructional -> Afro-Latin Percussion (External link)
& Merengue Society