What is a Pandeiro? | A Complete Guide (History, Cost, Lessons)


If you are like me you may already have been playing tambourine and noticed either the sound of the pandeiro or someone playing what you thought was a tambourine before realizing it was quite a different percussion instrument.

What is a Pandeiro? – A Pandeiro is a percussion instrument in the Frame Drum class. Cylindrical in shape the Pandeiro looks similar to a tambourine but is different in that the head of the instrument has adjustable tension. Usually 8-12 inches in diameter it also has fewer jingles than it’s hand percussion counterpart.

This is a complete guide to Pandeiro. Where they come from, how they made, played and what to look for if you are considering buying your first Pandeiro.

Pandeiro – A Brief History

The Pandeiro is often claimed to be the national instrument of Brazil, but it did not originate there.

It is believed to have originated perhaps in Portugal where travelers discovered and settled in South America, bringing with them the earliest examples of the Pandeiro to Brazil and the continent.

It certainly makes a lot of sense to imagine the instrument to have been taken on the long journey across the Atlantic to provide entertainment and relief for the Portuguese explorers.

What is a Pandeiro Made of? What are the Parts

The cylindrical frame of the Panderiro will be made from preferably wood but often Formica. It will be between 8-12 inches in diameter.

Synthetic or natural skin is stretched over the frame and set on a metal hoop with a slightly larger diameter. This the hoop which facilitates the variable tensioning on the head.

Five or six pairs of small cymbals, correctly called platinelas are inserted in the gaps in the shallow frame. Usually cupped for a shorter sustain.

How is the Pandeiro different from a Tambourine

They are different in a large number of ways from history, to construction, to playing styles and music that they are used for.

The biggest difference is that the tension of the head of the instrument can be adjusted on a pandeiro, whereas it is set at a fixed tension on a tambourine.

I have a complete comparison guide about the difference between a tambourine and pandeiro on site

What does a Pandeiro Cost?

Always a question not far from the beginning of research into the wonderful pandeiro.

As with many things in life, you will, in most cases, get what you pay for.

How Much does a Pandeiro Cost in the US

It is possible to find plenty of entry-level pandeiros at a cost of under $25, I would, even for a beginner suggest leveling up a little to between $40-50 to prevent too much frustration with what you can achieve as you come to grips with your instrument and develop your skills and technique.

Upgrading to a more professional pandeiro will see you able to spend anything up to and beyond $200 on a Latin Percussion, REMO or Contemporanea model.

How Much does a Pandeiro Cost in the UK

Typically, you can buy a pandeiro from anything around £20 for a beginner’s model up to around £170 for an excellent quality Contemporanea professional model.

There are a number of retailers in the UK as well as the possibility of browsing Amazon.

Best Pandeiro for Beginners?

Try to avoid going right at the bottom of the price range for your first pandeiro. I always recommend getting a little above the budget instruments as your improvement in style, technique and skill can be suppressed with a poor version.

You will want to have an instrument that provides a great reflection of your increasing skill levels so as not to cause frustration or plateauing of progress.

So often a promising pandeiro player can be discouraged from continuing practice when the cause of slow progress is the instrument rather than the player themselves.

How to Learn Panderio – Lessons

Tutors of pandeiro lessons can be geographically few and far between. Thankfully, in this day and age, a good step is finding courses and basic technique lessons from the internet.

Lessons can come in the form of free tutorial videos on YouTube, or perhaps a subscription to an online pandeiro course with an experienced player/teacher.

My advice would be starting off finding some YouTube videos before committing any hard-earned cash for an online course. For the absolute basics see below.

Pandeiro basic technique instruction

You will find some techniques described and demonstrated differently. None is specifically incorrect. A good example of this is using the above instructional video and comparing the very basic technique with the more in-depth video below.

In time, as long as you practice and depending on the style you adapt to will find yourself playing one or the other basic strikes, or perhaps something somewhere in between!

A slightly more in-depth basic pandeiro technique lesson

The benefit of free tuition online is, whilst on occasion, it may not be the most comprehensive, or arguably ‘best’ lessons, it is a risk-free entry level which you can try. You may discover early on you are not as interested as you thought, or the techniques may be very tricky to master. Some new players will progress faster than others and the freedom to learn and practice at your own speed provides a great base to decide how quickly you want to learn.

Get the basics down, and then consider a paid for pandeiro playing course for later.

What type of Music is a Pandeiro used for?

A pandeiro can be used in any type of music you choose but due to its distinctive sound, the inclusion of pandeiro will always provide a South American flavor to your overall sound. Specific styles of music most closely associated with the pandeiro would be.

  • Samba Music Style
  • Choro Style
  • Coco Music
  • Capoeira Music Style

What Microphone for Pandeiro

When recording a Pandeiro it is recommended to use two separate mics. One below and one from above. It is necessary to capture both sides to reproduce the deep bass tones and capture the full sound.

To the trained ear, and for that matter to the untrained, there is a noticeable difference when The Pandeiro is captured and recorded with a microphone on one side only.

This is not to say the pandeiro needs to be amplified through a microphone for the best results. Indeed the raw sound of a pandeiro thumping out a beat and rhythm is a sound to behold but when recording, it is preferential to produce the best sound possible.

You can record with a single microphone if that is all that is available, but if doing so then the recommendation is to do so from below.

AKG 430 condenser microphone from above and a Shure SM 57 from below

Famous Pandeiro Players

Paulinho da Costa

A superior percussionist playing a range of genres including Latin American and Jazz, and even modern pop, rock and R&B. One of the most recorded percussionists he has worked with a host of huge names including, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis and Michael Jackson

Nanny Assis

Nanny Assis is a Brazilian born musician famous for not just percussion but also his singer/songwriting skills. The Pandeiro is just one in a long line of instruments he has mastered in an incredible career and recording history

Airto Moreira

Born in Brazil and learning his trade after moving to the US and New York, Airto was introduced to Jazz Fusion by Miles Davis. He plays a HUGE range of instruments and held the coveted title of Number One Percussionist in the down beat magazine critics poll for 8 consecutive years!

Marcos Suzano

Naturally Brazilian percussionists dominate this list and Marcos is no exception. However, whilst many on the list play a huge range of instruments, Marcos is particularly famous for Pandeiro as it was his primary choice.

An innovative technique has pushed him to the forefront of Pandeiro players and is something to aspire to.

Cyro Baptista

You know if a musician has toured with names such as Paul Simon and Sting then you have a very talented and endorsed percussionist on your hands. Cyro has done both of course which accompanies recording credits on no fewer than 5 grammy award-winning world music albums.

Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro.

Carlinhos de Olivera gained the name above after becoming Brazil’s best Pandeiro player in 1966 beating 500 other players to gain the title. Absolutely ensconced in the Samba style of playing, the video below showcases his skills and use of bass samba rhythms.

SteveM

I enjoyed the unpitched appeal of percussion prior to discovering handpans in a 'moment' I was experiencing. I've been writing ever since.

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