Pandeiro – Choosing The Right Technique

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If you’re just starting to play the pandeiro, this is a good place to start.  As you may have already discovered, there’s thousands of online video lessons (some good and some not so good) and there’s just as many different techniques and approaches to the pandeiro.  Everyone has their own way of playing and their own technique and they’re all valid – if it sounds good, well, then it works!  But how do you choose the right technique for you?  That’s a personal question that only you can answer, however I believe that the “grid technique” is a universal approach to the pandeiro that will help you develop the tools necessary to get a good sound and feel on the instrument.  And, once you have that together, you’ll have the freedom to start exploring different techniques and approaches.  The “grid technique” will give you the flexibility and solid foundation that you’ll need to move on to the next level of your playing.

The “grid technique” is a method of playing that I learned from the great Marcos Suzano while I was living in Brazil (1999).  I’m not sure if he calls it the “grid technique” but he refers to it as the grid.  It’s important to note that he didn’t invent this method but he certainly popularized it when he made a duo album with Lenine called Olho de Peixe.

The idea of the grid is that you can access any sound (bass tone, slap tone etc) with either the top part of your hand (finger tips) or the bottom half (palm/heel) of your hand.  This means that theoretically you never need to double up on any part of your hand to get the sound you want, instead you play constant 16th notes (heel-toe-heel-toe) and let the sound come from your hand without interrupting the motion of the pandeiro.  Here’s a short video of Suzano giving a class.

If this all seems very overwhelming for you, don’t get discouraged.  The pandeiro will require a lot of practice time and patience.  It will hurt and you will build calluses on your hands (if you’re practicing enough!)  But you need to stick with it, play slow tempos in the beginning and work on building your stamina.

I recently recorded a video lesson series for beginner pandeiro with my friends at Meinl Percussion.  These video lessons start from ground zero.  I make the assumption that you have never picked up a pandeiro before in your life.  If you’ve already had a few lessons but feel like your technique is not so good, forget everything you learned and start over again.  Remember, breaking bad habits is much harder than developing good ones!


Here’s video lesson #1

Stay tuned for the next blog post and video lesson for pandeiro!

Your partner in rhythm,

Scott Kettner

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