Surdos are the heartbeat of percussion samba. These bass drums provide a steady beat that acts as a foundation for the accompanying rhythms.
The name surdo specifies the large, cylindrical bass drum in Brazilian music. It literally means "deaf" or "deaf man" in Brazilian Portuguese, because of the huge sound wave it can produce and propel down your ear canal.
Surdos can be played with a single mallet (sometimes known as a beater) and an open hand, or with a mallet in each hand. When played with a single mallet, the open hand is often used to dampen the reverberation of the drum head, or change the pitch of some of the beats.



The Tamborim (often mistaken for a tambourine) is a small, round, hand held instrument. It looks much like a tambourine, only much smaller and it has no bells on the side. It is hit with a two or three pronged beater and makes a very high pitched and sharp sound.



The Agogo bell is a handheld, two toned instrument that makes a high pitched ringing sound. Light double and triple cowbells are hit with a light stick, to add notes over the top of the rhythm.



The Ganza, or shaker, is rhythmically shaken back and forth to mark the music's tempo, and provide the main white noise of any samba pieces. When many of these are played together they sound very effective. 



The band leader will always have a Whistle at hand to blow out rhythmic commands and to add further effect to other rhythms. The traditional whistle, shown above, is much different to the 'normal' pea whistle. It has two 'arms' at the side which protrude outwards and have holes at the end. These holes are covered to obtain different pitches. The standard whistle can blow out three pitches.



The Batter Head (or top head) is the one that you play (or beat) on. Up until the 1950's, batter heads were almost always made of calf skin. With the invention of plastic, drum companies changed all of that. Most drum heads these days are made of mylar, most with some type of coating.

The Snare Head (or bottom head) is made from a very thin mylar. The head is thin to get a response from the snares. If you were to put a thick batter head on the bottom, chances are that you wouldn't be able to tell when the snares were "on" or "off."

The Snares are made from a variety of materials: the most common is wire (woven in a spiral to get more response from the snare head). Wire snares usually deliver a crisp, sharp response. Gut snares are also common, giving a warmer, deeper response. Less used materials include tennis racket string & cable. Each type of snare has its advantages and disadvantages but wire is cheap & easy to maintain.

The Drum Shell is made up of every type of material imaginable: wood (birch is the most common), metal (bronze, silver, aluminum, alloys), fiberglass, etc. Each has its advantages, but wood or metal are the most common.

The Sticks are generally made of wood & come in every size, shape & color that you can image!


Triangle, Rocar

We also use Triangles, and Rocar hand held bell shakers (which are a very simple instrument to make using a stick with tambourine bells attached with nails).




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