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The drums are divided into two main groups: the surdos (low medium and high); and the ‘kitchen instruments’, which includes the Tamborim, Caixa, Repinique, Agogo and Chocalho.
The bass drums of a Samba group - ranges from 16" to 24" in diameter. Usually made of wooden or aluminium frames with plastic or animal head skins. Generally, a samba group will have 3 Surdo sections - each section with a different tuning of the drums; which can be categorised as low, mid and high tunes. Depending on the rhythms being played, the low and mid Surdo sections usually hold the beat, while the high Surdo provides the rhythm.
A 6” drum made of metal, wood or plastic; very similar to a tambourine but with no jingles with a plastic head and played with a special flexible stick. It is used to highlight the strongest parts of a tune, providing punctuation for the melody. This group is normally the glamour section, usually at the front, and playing with choreographed moves. Is held with the left hand with the thumb across the ring and the other fingers curled inside the body of the instrument to support and balance it. The forefinger is used to muffle the sound from inside (open/closed tone) during rhythmic syncopation. Strike slightly off centre using a thin stick with short and powerful strokes for best high pitch sound.
Caixa (pronounced ca-sha)
The Brazilian snare drum - ranges from 12” to 14" in diameter; usually aluminium shells, with plastic heads and wire snares stretched across one head. The Caixa supports the rhythm of the Surdo with its fast, repetitive rhythms. It fills a lot of the spaces within the rhythm, with lots of ghost notes, propping up the accents.
Repinique (pronounced Hep-pi-nique)
8" to 12" inches in diameter, with an aluminium shell, and plastic heads. Its function is to complement the Tamborim and to support the Surdo. It is also used as a solo instrument, providing the correct speed for the entrance of the other instruments, and doing call and response breaks.
This is a metal bell, with either 2 or 4 cones of different sizes, thus giving the instrument 2 or 4 tones. It provides the melodic section of the Samba, and adds richness to the rhythm. It can also be used to mark the beats in some rhythms.
Chocalho (pronounced cho-ca-lio)
This is a very large powerful shaker made of wood or metal with a number of steel jingles. It helps to bed down the basic pattern of the rhythms, and along with the Caixa help sustain and 'fill' the rhythm.