What is “pandeiro face” and why is it important to know? Sometimes a student really struggles with specific exercises or grooves. The pandeiro is not an easy instrument to play and has a lot of obstacles to jump over before you feel like you’ve reached a level of intermediate player. One of the biggest obstacles is tempo. Playing at a basic forro tempo while trying to memorize where your hand and fingers should be placed are very challenging in the beginning. The pandeiro is a physical instrument which requires the use of a lot of muscles in our hands and arms that aren’t accustomed to being used. So, practicing can cause a lot of tension in your body, especially in your face. In a recent workshop I asked my students to do a new exercise which required them to utilize the bass tone with their finger tips. I wish I had a camera to capture the tension in everyone’s face as they tried to perform the exercise. But they basically looked like this:
That’s some serious pandeiro face! And that’s no good. Your face has 43 muscles in it and not one of them are used to play the pandeiro. So why would you flex your face muscles to play a groove? Think of the amount of energy you’re wasting on your face when it could be directed to your hands and arm muscles. All of my students do it and musicians of all levels do it too. Hell, I make some funny ass faces when I play. But there’s a difference between a stressed face and an expressive face. If you’re just starting out on the pandeiro, chances are your facial expression is mostly stress not expression.
So how do you remedy this pandeiro face? The first step is being aware of it. Pick up your pandeiro right now… play a challenging groove at a challenging tempo and be conscious of your facial muscles. Every time you feel them flexing, relax them. Now you’ve accomplished your first step at channeling your energy directly to playing the pandeiro instead of flexing your face. Just being conscious of this tick is the first step at 86’ing it.
The next step is to practice in front of a mirror. This is really important and all instrumentalists do it. Your posture is just as important as all of the other millions of technical things you’re thinking about. Posture will allow you to develop dexterity, longevity and flexibility on the pandeiro and any instrument. Watch your face in the mirror as you play those challenging grooves/tempos. Most likely you’ll see your mouth begin to change shape first. Don’t stop playing, rather simply relax your face and burn through it. Look at your posture. Are you hunching or leaning to one side? Fix it! If you do this enough and build a consciousness around it, you’ll start to notice that every time you play without a mirror your body will begin to correct itself and you’ll feel much more relaxed before, during and after playing. If your goal is to master the pandeiro or just build a basic facility to play with friends or along to albums, being relaxed is key.
So, no more pandeiro face…right?