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Brazil’s Drums and Percussion

28th Oct 2014

The drums and percussion of Brazil are the foundation for the amazing sound that is best heard in Samba music. It is this influence of sound, however, that has transcended the borders of Brazil, and has made its way into a variety of genres today. These instruments are alive and well, allowing for tantalizing nuances in tone and timbre when it comes to rhythm in music.


The similarities in Brazilian drums and percussion and those found in a standard drum set are many. Bass drum sounds can best be heard in Surdo drums and Timbal drums, although Timbal drums can also be played as accent percussion and more closely resemble conga drums. Surdo drums are two-headed drums, however, and played with the hand or a mallet; a definite difference to the bass drum that is played with a pedal. Repinque drums are part of the Surdo drum family, but, with a higher pitch that resembles a tom drum.

A Brazilian snare drum sound can be heard in the Caixa drum, and the evolution of both drums can be traced back to times of war. Additionally, both the snare drum and the Caixa are played with drum sticks, and typically are the drums that provide the driving beat within the rhythm.

Frame drums are also a part of Brazil’s percussion, and include the Pandiero and the Tambourim. Pandiero drums resemble tambourines, complete with jingles, but are tunable. Pandiero drums, however, also resemble tambourines, but without the jingles.

In addition to the Brazilian drums, there are other percussion instruments that are native to the culture and music of the area. Whistles, strings and horns are commonly heard in Brazilian music, as well as various bells and shakers. Bringing all of these instruments together, or, picking one or two to enhance a drum set or spice up a drum circle can make a world of difference in the sound symphony that is possible.