Basic Samba for Pandeiro in 5 Steps

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Are you stuck trying to play a samba on the pandeiro? Whether you’re just now learning how to play the pandeiro or you’re an accomplished player looking to fill in some gaps or gather new approaches, this blog lesson is for you.  I will share a practice routine that will guide you to playing a samba in 5 steps.  It is important that you follow this guide step by step as each example plays a very important role in the construction of this version of samba.  Each example builds upon the previous.  Take your time.  It’s not a race!  Master each example on the pandeiro at various tempos before moving to the next.

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Samba is unarguably the most popular rhythm and style of music from Brazil.  There are many different styles of samba that come from Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and many other states throughout Brazil.  Every group in every region of the country has their own unique approach to playing samba and the instruments associated with this music.  If you want to call yourself a complete pandeiro player (whatever that means to YOU), you must have a holistic understanding of how to play samba on the pandeiro.  And the more approaches you have under your belt, the better off you’ll be!  The example below is a style of playing samba that I learned from the great pandeiro player Marcos Suzano.  I’ve modified it over the years, however most of the original concept that I learned from Suzano have remained in place.

 

Keep in mind that this approach is all based on the “GRID Technique” which I discuss in this Choosing The Right Technique blog.  If you’re confused by the term Grid Technique I suggest you go back to this previous blog post and begin with the technique exercises before getting into this lesson.  Also, please keep in mind that these are exercises to help you develop the facility and technique needed to play a samba on the pandeiro.  These patterns don’t define a samba groove as much as the swing feel does.  You have to work on the swing feel as much as you work on the technique.  It don’t mean a thang if it ain’t got that…….  You dig!

 

Now, let’s start our 5 step samba practice routine.  Step #1 is all Heel-Toe-Heel-Toe with an accent on the “e” of beat 1 & 2.  This accent is IMPORTANT!  Don’t ignore it.  This accent will help you develop your samba swing feel.

 

Step #2 adds a muted slap tone in the center of the pandeiro in Zone 3.  (Visit blog post about the 3 pandeiro zones)  THS=Thumb Slap.

 

 

Step #3 is important as you will add the surdo part with a bass tone played with the thumb.  B=Bass with thumb.  You will begin to recognize the samba groove on thihs step.

 

Step #4 adds a new pick up accent on the “ah” of beat 1.  TS=Toe Slap.  You will play with your finger tips in the center of the drum (zone 3) getting a light slap sound as opposed to the louder open hand slap tone.

 

Now lets finish our samba pattern with Step #5 where we’ll add an open bass tone pick up on the “ah” of beat 2.  BT=Bass Toe (finger tips).  Once you master this step you should be able to begin to imitate an escola de samba groove of the 2nd and 3rd surdo parts.

 

 

 

Remember to take your time and use a metronome with all of these examples.  Feel free to write a comment with your feedback.

 

Your partner in groove,

Scott Kettner

 

Pandeiro Practice Routine-Bossa Nova

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Finding a practice routine for pandeiro is one of the most challenging parts of improving your skills.  If you’re just beginning to play the pandeiro, tempo is another major challenge.  So of course, If your assignment is to learn to play a samba, you’re probably freaking out about the tempo (and technique and swing feel).  But, there is a solution to help you get acclimated to playing samba and faster tempos without feeling overwhelmed.

 

Playing with a metronome is important, however playing with music is much more fun and educational.  I suggest that you divide your practice time between playing with a click and playing with music.  For instance, if you only have 30 minutes per day, split this practice time based on your necessity.  If you need to focus on technique spend 20mins with a metronome and 10mins with a track.  If you’re focusing on vocabulary and already have the technique thing happening, play with a click for 10mins and a track for 20mins.  You need to design your practice routine based on your needs…but just make sure you do it!

 

Now, back to your solution for slipping into being able to play samba.  Bossa Nova is a perfect style of music to start off with.  The swing feel, accents and many of the clave patterns are very similar to samba.  In fact, many people have described bossa nova as a slowed down samba.  Of course, that’s not 100% accurate BUT, it’s close enough for our purpose; working on our tempo, feel and samba groove.

 

So, here’s a couple of bossa nova tracks that I thought were at a good “tempo di learno” for you to start off playing along to.  You can use this pattern on both songs as a left wrist and accent exercise.  You can also apply different tones to each accent if you wish to bring it to the next level.

 

Pandeiro-Bossa Nova

 

Wave: Antonio Carlos Jobim – 1967

 

Desafinado:

 

 

 

 

Samba de Partido Alto – For Pandeiro

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Partido-Alto (High-Party) is a sub genre of Samba that was born in Rio de Janeiro and was influenced by the melting pot of cultures migrating to the port city during the turn of the twentieth century.  Partido-Alto can be classified as a style of singing improvised verses or a specific rhythm.  The singing style is usually divided into two parts;

  1. Verses: The lead singer/s improvise their verses based on a theme and usually compete with each other.
  2. Refrain: This is the response to the verse and is sung by the coro, or the entire group.

 

The origins of Partido-Alto reside deep within the diverse Afro-Brazilian cultures of Congo-Angolian heritage and was influenced by many styles such as Jongo, Embolada and more.   If you’re interested in digging in deeper into the history, check out my friend Beto González’s article where he reviews a book by Nei Lopes called “Partido-Alto: Samba de Bamba”.  Click here to read the article.

 

Also, do yourself a favor right now and watch this video to really get a birds eye view into the roots of Partido-Alto.  Skip to 14:55 to see various singers stepping to the mic and improvising over a theme.

 

 

Here’s a list of a few quintessential Partido-Alto icons for you to check out:

  • Aniceto do Império
  • Nilton Campolino
  • Candeia
  • Geraldo Babão
  • Clementina de Jesus
  • Jovelina
  • ….and there’s many more.  But this will get your started with the roots of the music.

 

Now that you have a very basic background on what Partido-Alto is, let’s take a look at a few variations for pandeiro.  This is one of my favorite Partido-Alto songs that I always give to my students first, before they learn any other samba groove.   This is a song by Aniceto do Império called “Samba de Partido Alto”.  The tempo is perfect for beginners and intermediate players and the rhythmic parts in the pandeiro are very clear in the recording.  Here’s a transcription of the outline of what the pandeiro is playing:

Samba de Partido-Alto for Pandeiro. By Scott Kettner

 

 

Now practice along to this song.

 

 

Here’s another one of my favorite classic Partido-Alto songs by Clementina de Jesus and Clara Nunes.  This is also great for beginner and intermediate pandeiro players because of the tempo and clarity of the pandeiro part.    Check out the pandeiro part and then play along with the song.

 

Samba Partido Alto for Pandeiro. By Scott Kettner

 

 

 

 

The third Partido-Alto that I give to my students after they’ve internalized the previous two is this song by Martino da Vila.   Notice how it’s almost identical to the pandeiro part on the Clementina song above but it leaves out beat one and adds an extra note on beat 2 in the 2nd measure.  Those small differences have a huge impact on the overall feel of the groove.  Check it out:

 

Sanba Partido-Alto for Pandeiro. by Scott Kettner

 

 

 

If you spend the next 6 weeks playing along to these songs or any other songs by these artists, your pandeiro playing will definitely break boundaries and you will begin to internalize the Samba de Partido-Alto rhythm.  Remember to take your time practicing.  If these tempos are too fast, slow it down with a program or start with a metronome at a slower tempo and build up to being able to play with these songs.

Your partner in Groove,

Scott Kettner

Maracatu Caixa for Baque de Imalê

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What’s the difference between the caixa part for Baque de Marcação and Baque de Imalê?  The real answer is complicated and depends on which maracatu nation and who you speak to within that specific group.  However, in that past 17 years that I’ve been studying maracatu, learning and playing with Nação Estrela Brilhante, I’ve noticed a few obvious differences.

 

Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion

If you already know how to play Baque de Marcação on the caixa then you’re half way there to knowing how to play Imalê.  Remember, the Marcação pattern (one of them) is RRLR-RLRL.  Imalê adds two eigth notes in the middle of the measure, which generates more energy and gives the groove a stronger sense of forward motion.  Baque de Imalê can also lend itself to a strong funk feel.  If you listen to Nação Estrela Brilhante de Igarassu you’ll notice that the caixa plays a backbeat on top of the groove.  (excerpt from Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion by Scott Kettner, MicheleNascimento-Kettner and Aaron Shafer-Haiss – Hal Leonard)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now let’s take a closer look at some of the ciaxa transcriptions from a few different traditional maracatu nations.  Here’s an Imalê part for Estrela Brilhante from my book Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion.  You’ll notice that the only difference between this part and the Marcação part (RRLR-RLRL) is the first half of the measure and the accents.  The first half plays a hand to hand sticking pattern and then goes into the RRLR-RLRL.  The accents also change to help emphasize the two 8th notes in the middle of the measure being played on the alfaias.

 

 

Here’s another Imalê variation from Nação Cambinda Estrela.

 

 

Another popular Imalê caixa part is often played by Nação Leão Coroado.  This is another one of my favorites.  This patterns is all hand to hand.  The accents and swing feel are really what makes this caixa part so funky.  Notice that the accents help anticipate the alfaia part in the first half of the measure and then the caixa plays unison with the alfaia for the second half of the measure.  It’s fun…try it now!

 

 

I suggest that you practice these individually and with a metronome or play along with a recording of the group. Playing along with the recording will help you understand the swing feel and the roll variations.  Remember, none of these caixa parts are stagnant.  The players are constantly adding rolls and variations to help excite the music.  These examples are just the foundation for you to begin learning the maracatu caixa vocabulary.

 

Here’s a few videos for you to practice along with.

 

Estrela Brilhante

 

 

Cambinda Estrela

 

Leão Coroado

Pandeiro Lesson #6 – Avoid Pandeiro Face!

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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:

 

Pandeiro-Face-Arnold

 

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?

 

Pandeiro-Face-Snow

 

Maracatu Groove – Baque de Arrasto

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Baque de Arrasto (the dragging beat) is a groove most commonly played by Nação Estrela Brilhante and Nação Encanto da Alegria. For me, this groove really embodies the essence of all the maracatu rhythms. Baque de Arrasto has a constant sense of flipping over and over again without giving a strong emphasis on the downbeat. It’s easy to get lost inside of this groove, so be careful not to rush and always listen to the gonguê to know exactly where you are in the beat.   In my opinion, this is one of the most challenging grooves to play within the maracatu style.  It’s very similar to Baque de Marcação except instead of leaving a rest on beat 2, you actually add two 16th notes in that space in the alfaia.  Here’s an example of the alfaia parts for Baque de Marcação and Arrasto from my book Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion:

 

Baque de Marcação alfaia part:

 

Baque de Marcação
Excerpt from Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion. Baque de Marcação

 

 

Baque de Arrasto alfaia part:

 

Baque de Arrasto
Excerpt from Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion. Baque de Arrasto

 

 

Check out this video of Estrela Brilhante playing Baque de Arrasto on a song from their first CD called Dança Rainha.  They also play Baque de Parada (stopping beat) on parts of the song.  Pay attention to the main groove; Baque de Arrasto:

 

 

Here’s an example of Maracatu Nação Encanto da Alegria playing a Baque de Arrasto groove:

 

 

This is just a short overview of the Baque de Arrasto alfaia parts and general differences.  Search the Lesson Packs menu for a video lesson on this subject or refer to Chapter 5 in my book Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion where I also discuss some different caixa parts.

 

Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion
Maracatu for Drumset and Percussion

The Brazilian Swing Feel Broken Down

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“How do I play with the Brazilian swing feel”?  I get that question ALL THE TIME!  And my answer is always the same; LISTEN and SING then LISTEN some more.  Many wise teachers always told me, “if you can’t sing it, you can’t play it”.  Amen!  You won’t learn it through osmosis or even coming to class once per week.  You have to put in some time, every day, focusing on your swing feel.  It’s not like learning a new language, it’s like learning how to speak the language you already know with a specific accent.  You already do it.  How many times have you imitated an Italian Mob Boss from Brooklyn with your fake mobster accent (Hey, you tawkin to me?), or sang a Bob Marley song with your fake Jamaican accent?   Now you have to learn how to speak music with a new accent or what we call swing feel.

 

If you grew up in North America or listening to N. American music such as the blues, jazz, rock n roll, soul, funk, hip-hop (should I continue?) then you have a natural tendency to play off the triplet feel.  Most of our music is based on the triplet, therefore playing a shuffle comes naturally or at least it should.  But many of us didn’t grow up listening to and playing Brazilian music. (I’m assuming my audience is not Brazilian here)  That doesn’t mean that we can’t play with the Brazilian swing feel accurately, it just means we need to absorb it.  And that presents the first assignment; LISTEN.  Listen to as much Brazilian music that you can get your hands on.  Samba, choro, MPB, bossa nova, maracatu, coco and forro. (there’s plenty more).  You need to absorb the swing feel.  Imagine yourself spending 2 years living in the UK.  Most likely you’ll come back being able to speak with a pretty good accent.   Do the same with the Brazilian swing feel.  Expect it to take 2 years at least just to get a basic understanding.

 

The next step is to sing the rhythm.  When I was living in Brazil I had an amazing teacher named Levy Miranda at a school in São Paulo called Groove.   He taught me some syllables to learn the swing feel that forever changed my understanding of it.  Here’s how it goes;

 

Ta-Ka-Da-Ta-Ta-Ka-Da-Ta-Ta-Ka-Da-Ta-Ta-Ka-Da-Ta………and it keeps going and going.

 

I bolded the Ta’s because those are syllables you should sing with an accent (louder).  This will help shape your swing feel and is a very accurate way for feeling rhythms such as maracatu and samba.   Put on a metronome at 60bpm and sing this pattern over and over.  Do this for about 2-3mins.  Now put on a Brazilian song that heavily leans on this feel and sing along trying to match what you’re hearing on the recording.  If you do this every day for 6months-1 year, you’ll start to develop a deeper understanding of the Brazilian swing feel.  Some people might take less or more time.  It’s not about how much time it takes you, it’s about the journey and the discovery.

 

There’s a lot of theories and methods to help you understand this swing feel as well.  My good friend Michael Spiro has a method that he calls “Fix-Time” in his book The Conga Drummers Guidebook.  He describes the swing feel as not being in Four/4 time or Six/8 time but rather something that’s in between a combination of these two feels called FIX time.

 

Another good friend of mine, Stanton Moore showed me a method that he uses to help demonstrate this swing feel.  He plays 3 against 2 in both hands.  After that, take out the flam so that you’re basically playing hand to hand (R-L-R-L).  You’re still is a 3 against 2 feel.  Now accent the first and 4th notes (R-L-R-L).  The next step is to slightly straighten this 6 feel…SLIGHTLY!  If you do it right…bam…you got it!   Here’s a video I did a while ago for Vic Firth where I discuss the swing feel and demonstrate Stanton’s method (at 4:20)