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Larry's Mandolin Ramblings

There's other instruments in Choro besides bandolim?

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
So like many of you I love choro music. My fascination with this Brazilian style has led me to many wonderful discoveries, such as Mike and Ham and Will Patton.

I was lucky enough to track down my own bandolim from a cafe member:



And I've been studying the style and learning tunes on mandolin. It's been great.

But recently I started getting interested in how the percussion interacts with the other instruments in choro, so I dug out my Bira pandeiro and started preparing for my first lesson.

My friend Mario had run into a cool guy named Eric who had offered to give us a free pandeiro lesson. Eric is deep into choro music, samba, and other Brazilian rhythms. He is friends with Ami from Grupo Falso Baiano, Ted Falcon, and other US players playing in the style.

Here in New England there's not a big Brazilian community, so it was a chance for him to hang out with fellow choro lovers, and we jumped at the chance to get a lesson.



My pandeiro is a basic choro pandeiro, small, easy to handle, with a goat-skin head and gold-colored platinelas (the jingles) around the side. The basic difference between a regular ol' tamborine and a pandeiro is the jingles. When a pandeiro is struck and shaken the jingles sustain less, with a drier crispy tone. Listen to some classic Jacob Do Bandolim and you'll quickly hear what I mean.

When Eric arrived he gave my pandeiro a once-over, and quickly pointed out that the head was tuned way too high. Despite tuning it all the way down the pitch wouldn't drop, and after a few days of trying I eventually discovered that it was just too dry, and I was able to get more moisture into the head by leaving it in the bathroom during a hot shower once in a while.

Like a mandolin, a pandeiro needs to stay either in its case or in a properly humidified room when it's not being played.

Why did the pitch matter? Because one key to the choro style is the pandeiro bass note. Since there's often no other percussion, the bass note provides a crucial center in the music that enables to 7-string guitar, cavaquino, bandolim, flute, etc to play with the rhythm and to improvise.

So the next time you listen to a choro track listen for the "boom-tika-tika-tika-boom" from the pandeiro. The "boom" is the bass note, and is usually played by the thumb (sometimes by the fingers too).

Here's a quick video of Eric demonstrating a basic pattern.

Later Eric added the bassnote to the pattern.

He also displayed some cool samba and bossa nova patterns, and showed us some Marcos Suzano patterns. Marcos pioneered the left hand movement of the pandeiro, and now everyone pretty much copies him except for the old school players.

Anyway, after an hour of playing Mario and I were still struggling to keep a basic pattern going, so it'll be a while before I jump on stage with Will Patton to accompany him on "Panera", but it's been a fun diversion.

I also notice that I am paying much more attention to the rhythm of choro now, and I'm sure that this will strengthen my bandolim playing on choro pieces.

Until next time...tika-tika-tika-boom!
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