On our tour of percussion instruments of Brazil, our next stop is at the Berimbau. We will discuss the Berimbau’s origins, descriptions, and some basic playing techniques and patterns.

The Berimbau is originally from Angola, Africa and came to Brazil through Capoeira music of the Bantú slaves. Capoeira is a combination of a martial art, dance, acrobatics and music. The Berimbau has worked its way into other forms of music such as jazz, pop, and world.

The Berimbau (beh-rin-ba-oo) is a wooden shaft that looks like a bow. It has a metal wire attached from one end to the other. There is a gourd that is slid up the wire and bow. The gourd actually touches the wooden part on the bow and the string is touching the wire. There is also a small basket shaker, caxixi, that is held in the right had along with a wooden stick. The thin wooden stick is held much like a pencil and the caxixi (ca-she-she) is
held by sliding the ring finger and middle finger through the loop on the basket. The left hand holds the Berimbau under the string from the gourd (the bridge) with the pinky finger while the ring and middle fingers push the wooden bow against the palm. There is also a stone or coin that the left hand holds between the thumb and index finger to change the pitch of the note. The gourd acts as a resonator. You touch the gourd to your body to
achieve a more closed sound and away from your body to get a more open sound. The stick strikes the metal wire in different rhythmic patterns as well as the caxixi being shook at the same time. Finding an instructor may be helpful at first.

Following is the notation for the different sounds on the Berimbau.

Following are a few patterns to start off with. The “o” in number two refers to pulling the gourd away from the body to achieve an open, resonant sound.

The Berimbau is a difficult instrument to understand without having an instructor to show you how to assemble it and at least some basic technique. Once you get the basics down it is a beautiful instrument whether you are playing it for yourself, in a traditional setting, or in the style of music you choose.

Book Resources:

The ABCs of Brazilian Percussion by Ney Rosauro

The Essence of Brazilian Percussion and Drum Set by Ed Uribe

Rhythm & Beauty by Rocky Maffit

– Meg Thomas

Meg Thomas Bio
Meg Thomas Headshot B-W 3.5MBDrummer and percussionist Meg Thomas has performed in musical realms that range from rock to calypso, avant-garde to spoken word, Latin-jazz to punk, and dance ensembles to percussion ensembles. Her drum and percussion set-ups range from the traditional ideas to unique set-ups that incorporate a vast range of percussion instruments. She received her degree in Music from Millikin University and she founded and runs the Chicago Women’s Drumming Group. Meg is a Vic Firth Private Drum and Percussion Teacher and teaches lessons out of her studio in Chicago. She plays recording sessions, performs with an array of bands and ensembles, and has toured the U.S. and Europe. Meg won a Drummie in Drum! Magazine’s 2010 Drummie Awards as runner-up “Rising Star Percussionist,” was named “Musician of the Month” for January 2013 by the Chicago Music Guide, and is endorsed by Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Evans Drumheads, LP Percussion, PureSound Percussion, and Humes & Berg Cases.

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