Jun 20

Capoeira Instrument Tips

How can I get a better sound out of the berimbau?

When am I allowed to take an instrument in the bateria?

Should I improvise on the atabaque?

Find the answers to these questions and many more in this list of tips I've picked up over the years.

General Bateria Tips

At the beginning of the roda, there is a typical order for the instruments to start playing. The berimbau(s) always start first; if there is more than one berimbau, the person leading the roda (often playing the gunga) starts first and sets the toque, and then the other berimbaus begin (médio next, and then the viola). Next to start playing are the pandeiros, and then finally the agogô, reco-reco, and finally the atabaque. In certain angola rodas, only the berimbaus (in some groups, the pandeiros as well) play during the ladainha; the other instruments enter during the louvação.

If you want to play one of the instruments, it's good manners to offer (not demand) to do so. Try to catch the current player's eye and make a gesture (for example, point to yourself and pantomime playing the instrument). If they nod, go over and take the instrument from them. If they refuse, don’t take offense.

In angola rodas, as well as some contemporânea rodas, instruments are only switched at the beginning/end of games, never in the middle. Be attentive to when members of the group exchange instruments.

If you're playing an instrument and you want to hand it off, do the same thing: catch the eye of one of the players in the roda, and hold the instrument up to offer it.

Switch only one instrument at a time; it gets chaotic and the music dies down if two or more people are exchanging instruments simultaneously.

Just as you would watch out for your fellow players tiring in the roda, keep track of the bateria and take note of who's been playing for a long time. That way, you can offer to take instruments from someone who needs a break as opposed to someone who just started. This is also simple consideration; it can be extremely tiring to get "stuck" on an instrument forever when no one else is offering to play it.

Most capoeira toques are in 4:4 time, with the exception of Cavalaria, which is in 6:8 (however, this toque is rarely used in rodas anymore).