Brazilian Musical Instruments

The first Brazilian musical instruments were flutes, horns, whistles, and rattles with an accompaniment of hands clapping and feet stomping.

Over the last several hundred years, instruments from various countries have influenced Brazil's music styles and sounds.

There are several different instruments used to make beautiful music, but these are some of the most popular or well-known Brazilian musical instruments used in dances, religious ceremonies, and just for simple enjoyment.

Types of Brazilian Musical Instruments


Atabaque Brazilian Drum

The atabaque is a hand drum with Afro-Brazilian origin. There are three types of atabaque drums. The tallest one is the Rum, which is the tallest of the three and produces a low sound. The medium high atabaque is called the Rum-Pi and as you might expect, it produces a medium percussion sound. The smallest atabaque drum is called the Le, producing a high percussion sound.

These drums are created from wood called Jacaranda, which is found in Brazil. Calfskin is used to stretch over the top of the drum. Metal rings surround the drum at the top or head and toward the bottom of the drum. Roping is stretched between these two metal rings and can be tightened or loosened to adjust the pitch of the drum. Wedges of wood are fitted tightly in between the bottom metal ring and the drum, which also affects the sound of the drum.

Atabaque drums are played for the Maculele and the Capoeira dances. They're also played during Candomble religious services.


The Maracatu refers to both a type of music and style of dance or performance in Brazil. The alfaia drum is used prominently in this style of music as well as the mangue. This drum originated in Pernambuco, Brazil. The appearance of an alfaia might remind you of the drums used by the U.S. military, as they are round and squatty in stature.

brazil musical instrument Alfaia

The shell of an alfaia drum is created from macaiba wood. Goatskin or calfskin is stretched over the head of the drum and held securely in place with round wooden hoops. The sound of the drum is determined by the tension of the ropes circling the drum, attached to both the top and bottom of the drum.

Photo by Lionel Baur, via Wikimedia Commons


The Ganza is a tubular shaped cylinder made from metal, plastic, or basket materials woven by hand. It's filled with cereal, sand, metal balls, or beads to create a unique shaker instrument. The Ganza was brought to Brazil by African slaves years ago and now is often played in samba music.


brazilian musical instruments Cavaquinhos

The cavaquinho reminds many people of a small guitar-style instrument called a ukulele. Some of the other names that the cavaquinho is known by include cavaco, manchete, marchete, machete, machimbo, machim, braguinho or braguinha.

The cavaquinho was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese explorers. Cavaquinhos are made from wood and outfitted with four wire strings. This small guitar type instrument is used ogten in Chorinho and Samba music.


brazilian musical instruments agogo

The agogo was originally cast from wrought iron and is the oldest known instrument used to create Samba music. The modern day agogo is manufactured from various types of metal and consists of either a single bell or two bells of different sizes.

The pitch and sound of an agogo bell will vary depending on size and shape, but the most recognized agogo bell is two bells attached to metal shaped like the letter U. Striking the bell with a wooden stick creates musical sounds. The agogo was fashioned after bell-style instruments from the Yoruba people from West Africa.


A pandeiro resembles a tambourine and is played much in the same manner by holding it in one hand and striking it with the other hand to make music. It's essentially a hand drum.

The head of a pandeiro can be adjusted to create high or low pitches. The pandeiro is surrounded with metal jingles that can be shaken to produce sound. Brazilian music styles in which a pandeiro is used: choro, samba, capoeira, and coco.



The berimbau, an African instrument, is best known for its role in capoeira, a Brazilian martial art form. It also resembles the Indian instrument known as the malunga.

This Brazilian musical instrument is a percussion instrument made from a wooden bow, gourd, and a steel string. The steel string is secured to the wooden bow and the gourd is then attached to the bow.

The berimbau is about 4-5 feet in length so that the gourd can rest on the abdomen and the hands are free to hold the wooden stick to strike the steel string.

The tones of the berimbau vary from low, medium to high, depending upon the quality of the gourds used and the hardness and diameter of the wood.

Sounds that are made with the berimbau are in three main categories, an open string sound, a high sound, and a buzzing sound.

More Brazilian Musical Instruments

There are many other musical instruments used to create the unique music styles of Brazil. They include:

  • Bateria - is a set of drums, literally translated as "drum kit", and can also mean the percussion section of a samba school.

  • Repinique - is a two sided drum which sounds very much like the tenor drums that are used in marching bands.

  • Skekere - a large dried gourd that is covered with a net of beads, which is shaken or hit against the hands. This instrument orginated in West Africa and is also known as a xequerê. A smaller version is known as afoxé.

  • Tamborim - is a frame drum without snares or jingles, which is used in many styles of Brazilian music. It is beaten with a wooden drum stick, fingers, or nylon strings which bound together to form a small flexible beater.

Share Your Brazilian Musical Instruments!

These are just a few of the Brazilian musical instruments we've discovered. Do you know of other musical instruments from Brazil that we have not mentioned here? Please share with us!

Brazilian Musical Instruments Other Visitors Have Shared

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Looking for this Brazilian musical instrument....toca de vinicius de moraes???? Not rated yet
A friend returned from Rio with what appeared to be a small drum, but with a door with a screen door spring attached to the inside of the drum, and hanging …

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