Capoeira Instruments - Pandeiro

Panderio, the instrument of BrazilHow does one of the simple capoeira instruments like the pandeiro get a big title like "The Instrument of Brazil"?

By being used all over Brazil, that’s how!

This little drum is a key instrument in the world of Brazilian music.

It is also very important within Capoeira. It’s the next instrument in line after the berimbau. Here it faithfully keeps the beat of the game.

Read and learn how this little drum lives up to it’s title…

Significance in Brazilian Culture

I remember looking at the pandeiro and thinking nothing of it. To me, it looked too simple to be that important.

I was wrong, very wrong.

This capoeira instruments potential is only limited by the person playing it. Its diverse sounds, rhythms and beats are use everywhere in Brazilian music and culture. It’s essential in samba and played throughout Mardi Gras.

It is also very essential as one of the key capoeira instruments. In capoeira music, the pandeiro is the second instrument to start playing after the berimbau. It provides the beat and base for the music.

You can see this importance in traditional capoeira regional games. In this style, the berimbau is accompanied by two pandeiros.

I know, just from looking at it, it’s hard to see how important it is. The simple design can hide its musical depth.

Parts to the Pandeiro

At first glance it’s easy to mistake the pandeiro for a simple tambourine. On a closer look however, its parts tell a different story. There are a few key parts to this hand drum that make it what it is.

Parts of the Brazilian panderio

  • Frame – The frame is what holds the instrument together. It holds the cymbals and provides the base for the head to attach to. Also this is the part of the instrument the player holds. It is normally made from wood, but can be made from plastic or metal.
  • Head – The head is the part that the player strikes to make its sounds. This is where the panderio has the biggest difference from the tambourine. The head can be tightened or loosened on the frame, allowing for tuning of high or low notes. It is normally an animal skin, however this can also be synthetic skin.
  • Cymbals – The cymbals are attached to the frame of the drum. They differ subtly from the tambourine in that they jingle less than those in the tambourine. This makes them sound clearer and more distinct.

These simple parts come together to create one of the capoeira instruments that has a lot of musical potential. To make use of this potential, you first have to learn the basics in playing it.

How to Play

There’s a lot of variety that can come from playing this simple little drum. The secret is knowing what you can do with it. From there, you have the freedom of doing whatever you can imagine.

The first step though is holding the pandeiro…

You can’t play it if you can’t hold it!

  1. Hold it with your weaker hand
  2. Grab it where there is a large space between the cymbals
  3. The fingers wrap underneath while the thumb rests on the top

Now that you’re holding it, you can try its different notes

  • Finger tap (F) – Tap your finger tips on the top of the head.
  • Wrist tap (W) – Tap your wrist on the top of the head.
  • Palm slap (P) – Hit the center of the head with your palm.
  • Thumb slap (Th) – Hit near the edge of the head with your thumb.
  • Shake (S) – Shake the pandeiro making a rattle with the cymbals.
  • Finger/Thumb roll (R) – Holding the frame vertically, run your thumb or finger around the edge of the head. It helps if your finger or thumb is a little wet when you do this.

Basic Rhythms

With the variety sounds that this drum can make, there are an unlimited number of rhythms that can be played. However like other capoeira instruments, there are some basic rhythms that are played in the roda that you can learn and use right away.

These basic rhythms below are the first I learned to play in capoeira:

  • Rhythm 1 – Th, P, Th, S
  • Rhythm 2 – Th, Th, P, Th
  • Rhythm 3 – Th, F, W, P, Th
  • Rhythm 4 – P, Th, P, Th, S
  • Rhythm 5 – Th, P, Th, F, W, F

Start with these and experiment with more. In time you'll learn to do amazing things with this and other capoeira instruments!

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