The berimbau has long been recognized as a symbol of Capoeira. The instrument
plays an integral role in the Capoeira roda, directing the speed and style of
the jogo (game) through distinctive rhythms. As the lead instrument, the
berimbau is always the first to begin the music of the roda and is usually
played by the mestre or senior Capoeirista.
of the berimbau
The berimbau is made up of a long wooden bow (verga) bent by a steel wire (arame)
that runs from one end to the other. A hollow gourd (cabaça) is attached near
the bottom with strong twine. A thin stick (baqueta) is used to strike the wire
to make sound, and a coin (dobrão) is pressed against the wire at different
levels to change pitch.
Types of berimbaus
In the typical Capoeira roda, three types of berimbaus are played that differ
in tone, size, and musical role:
1. Gunga: A lower-toned berimbau marked by a large cabaça, a thinner verga,
and a more lax arame; it usually plays a base rhythm.
Médio: A medium-toned berimbau marked by a medium-sized cabaça, a thicker verga,
and a tighter arame; it usually plays a harmonious rhythm with occasional
3. Viola: A high-toned berimbau marked by a small cabaça, thick verga, and a
tight arame; it usually plays the main rhythm with frequent flourishes.
Tones of the berimbau
There are three major tones of the berimbau that are played by changing the
levels of pressure of the dobrão against the arame:
1. Open tone: The dobrão isn't pressed against the arame.
2. Closed tone: The dobrão is pressed firmly against the arame.
3. Buzz tone: The dobrão is lightly pressed against the arame.
Rhythms of the berimbau
The rhythms of the berimbau determine the style of game being played within
the Capoeira roda. Each rhythm calls for a specific game that varies in speed,
aggression, movement, and style; these games can be fast and forceful, slow and
mischievous, or harmonious and expressive. Capoeira schools use different
rhythms to train techniques that characterize the style of the corresponding
games. One game might be used to train fast spinning kicks and dodges, while
another might be used to train acrobatic movements.
Learn how to play
the berimbau with Mestre Virgulino of Grupo Cordão de Ouro
Browse berimbaus and
berimbau accessories in the Virtual Capoeira Store