Site Resources for Capoeira Music Practice

last updated 5/12/2024

Baqueta
The baqueta is a thin stick made of wood or bamboo used to strike the arame of the berimbau in order to produce a note.
Bateria
A percussion orchestra, such as the group of musicians playing instruments in a capoeira roda, or in a samba, maracatu, timbalada, etc. ensemble.
Berimbau
The berimbau de barriga is an Afro-Brazilian form of the musical bow, and is the central instrument of the capoeira bateria. The instrument is formed of a piece of wood (traditionally beriba, masaranduba, or jacaranda), with a wire (arame, traditionally pulled from discarded steel-belted radial tires, although often using piano wire or other steel wire) strung from a peg or point at the bottom, and wrapped over two layers of belt leather both nailed and glued to the top, and then wrapped around the wood and fastened with a piece of string. The tension, and thus pitch, of the berminbau is set by a string affixing the cabasa to the stick by wrapping around the arame. This string, near the point of contact with the wire, is where the weight of the instrument rests at the tip of the little finger of one’s off hand while playing. The berimbau is played by moving the dobrã or pedra using the thumb and index finger of the off hand, and striking the arame with the baqueta in the dominant hand.
Caxixi
The caxixi played with a capoeira bemibau is a small rattle constructed as a basket typically holding seeds. The rhythmic noises it makes are produced both incidentally from the movement of the hand holding the baqueta, but also intentionally by making a hard stop so the seeds inside collide with the piece of gourd foring the bottom of the instrument.
Chiado
This is the “Tch” sound made when playing the berimbau by having the pedra or dobrão just light touching, but not pressing, into the arame.
Dobrão
The dobrão (sometimes called a vintem) traditionally refers to a copper 40 réis coin from the 19th century, but often indicates metal plugs, washers, other coins, metal lighters, etc. The dobrão is used to create different notes when playing the berimbau.
Pandeiro
The pandeiro is a small versatile hand-held frame drum with jingly metal bits (platinelas) suspended in the frame (aro or armação) across which a skin (pele) is streched to make a drum head. The pandeiro is similar to a tambourine, but the version most traditionally used in the capoeira bateria makes a less-sustained tone which is more percussive sounding.
Pedra
The pedra is simply a small smooth stone used to create different notes when playing the berimbau.
Viola
The viola is the name of the berimbau tuned to the highest pitch in a three berimbau bateria, and in this role it tends to stress improvised variations. It is also just the word for a berimbau with a higher tuning. The word also means a kind of double stringed guitar.

“Say it while you play it” is a maxim I have heard from many professional and amateur percussion teachers over the years. This form of practice simply means that when we play a note, we speak the note also. This practice helps us not only learn the tactile feel of the instrument with our hands, but also invokes the part of our brain involved in speech. When we do this we develop the capacity to better hear the music we are playing currently, the music others are playing currently, and the music we want to play. It also aids in remembering music.

Say it while you play the berimbau: The berimbau makes three basic notes:

  • The lower-pitch open note where the dobrão or pedra is held not touching the arame, and we say “Dong”;
  • The higher-pitch closed note where the dobrão or pedra is pressing hard against the arame, and we say “Ding”; and
  • The buzzing note where the dobrão or pedra is just touching the arame in a relaxed manner without pressing hard, and we say “Tch”.

There are also more complicated notes (or pairs of notes) played on the berimbau:

  • The low-pitch open note ‘hammers onto’ the buzzing note by first hitting the arame with the baqueta with the dobrão or pedra not touching the arame, and then shifting the dobrão or pedra forward until it is just touching the arame in a relaxed manner without pressing hard. When we play these sounds we say “Don-ch”; and
  • The high-pitch closed note ‘hammers off of’ the buzzing note by first hitting the arame with the baqueta with the dobrão or pedra is pressing hard against the arame, and then easing the dobrão or pedra back off until it is just touching the arame in a relaxed manner without pressing hard. When we play these sounds we say “Ding-ZZZ

Say it while you play the pandeiro: The pandeiro in capoeira makes heavy use of the following notes (there are others, such as used in pandeiro for samba):

  • The most tonal note we make by quickly rotating the thumb of the free hand inward and down to strike near the edge of the pandeiro with the side of the thumb, which bounces off the pele (i.e. the skin which makes the drum head). When we play this note we can say “Dum” (sounds like “Doom”).
  • The most important note played during the pandeiro in the capoeira rhythm is hit strongly in the center of the pele with the palm of our free hand flat and fingers splayed. This is played as a ‘dead hit’ (i.e. the player hits the pele and holds the hand there to immediately mute the sound). When we play this note we can say “BAH”.
  • An elaborate version of the pandeiro’s capoeira rhythm raises and lowers the instrument to get the platinelas (i.e. the metal discs suspended in the aro or armação, i.e. the frame of the pandeiro) to rattle without hitting the pele. This sound is actually two notes: the first is the platinelas hitting the bottom of the apertures in which they are suspended as the instrumen is raised, and then they hit the top of these apertures when the instrument is lowered. When we play these two notes we can say “Shake-Ah”.
  • The elaborate version of the pandeiro’s rhythm also features a ‘pick-up’ note immediately before the “Dum” which starts the rhythm’s phrase. We play this note by tapping almost straight down with the middle finger (alternately, with the index, slightly bent middle, and ring fingers) of our free hand. When we play this note we can say “dit”.

There are some notes played on the pandeiro which are generally used only in ornamentation or variations:

  • There is a staccato series of rapid notes produced by moving one’s index finger or thumb (or, for some skilled people their elbow, forehead, or other convenient body part) in a stuttering and digging-in motion across the pele. When we play this note we can trill “dllll”.
  • Finally, one can give an expressive sound to “Dum” by tensioning the drum with the thumb of the hand holding the pandeiro. For example, in the fifth and final variation I demonstrate, the second “Dum” can make something of a chirping sound by striking the note with the thumb of the free hand as per usual, and immediately tightening/gripping down hard on the pele with the thumb of the other hand. If we say it while we play this expressive note we can say “Doing” (rhymes with “Boing”).

As mentioned above, there are other notes played in non-capoeira rhythms, and sometimes used in variations or ornaments while playing pandeiro for the capoeira roda.