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The pandeiro is an incredibly versatile instrument. It is capable of replicating the sound of a drum kit or even an entire Brazilian bloco, so it's no surprise that it's the unofficial national instrument of Brazil. Studying pandeiro is a great way to better understand the different styles of Afro-Brazilian music, breaking down a groove normally played by a group of percussionists and recreating that on a tambourine with one hand is not only hugely satisfying but it also allows us to boil the music down to its essential features and therefore understand what makes it unique.

Pandeiro isn't just used when you don't have the space or money to bring a whole percussion section, it's also an important instrument in several styles of Brazilian music - samba de roda, frevo, choro, coco, and capoeira to name a few.

Pandeiros are most obviously distinguished from other framedrums (like the riqq) by their platinelas (jingles). While most tambourines have 2 rows of flat jingles, the pandeiro has a single row of cupped platinelas; dampening them and allowing better balance between the sound of the platinelas and the skin

Choosing a Pandeiro

They are available with hide or synthetic heads. There is a significant difference in timbre depending on the type of head used, with synthetic heads used in pagode and 'partido alto', and hide more suited to choro and funk.

Microphones // Amplification

Pandeiros are easily drowned out in louder situations so amplification is often required in performance settings. While it's possible to use a regular mic on a stand I'd recommend investing in a clip-on mic if you're performing regularly.

For years I would just use whatever mic was available when I got to gigs, most often a Shure SM57 or SM58 placed under the instrument and pointed at the underside of the head. While this does work it requires you to remain quite still while playing, although it does allow you to use your distance from the mic to control your dynamics.

Many percussionists now opt for a clip-on mic, which enables a much more consistent sound. Marcos Suzano famously uses the Shure Beta98, with a homemade mounting system consisting of a small rubber eraser and electrical tape. The Beta98 is a fairly popular choice, although it does require you to fashion a diy mounting system.

I personally use a DPA 4099 for my pandeiros. The sound quality is comparable to the Beta98, maybe a little better, but the biggest bonus for me is that it comes with a mounting system that will attach to a pandeiro frame - by chance rather than design. My synthetic head pandeiros have slightly thicker frames so the drum mount that ships with the 4099 works well, while my hide head pandeiros have thinner frames which fit the brass instrument mounting system.

Brian James Potts published a great thesis on Marcos Suzano and his approach to playing and amplifying Pandeiro which you can find here

Photograoph of a pandeiro
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