The tamborim / tamborin is a small, highly tuned frame drum played in tighly co-ordinated sections. As traditionally played with a single wooden stick (baqueta,) the sound produced is too quiet and low-pitched for the full-scale contemporary bateria. Currently the instrument is most often played instead with a multi-pronged flexible nylon beater or single nylon stick, with techniques that allow a huge range of musical phrasing and expression. The ‘old school’ wooden-stick style is still used to great effect in other, quieter musical settings.

In the escolas de samba, a Desenho do tamborim is composed to embellish and support that year’s samba de enredo – the song of the carnival theme for that year. The tamborims rise and fall along with the cadence of the melody, providing punctuation, emphasis and plenty of rhythmic interest for the listener. This rhythmic vocabulary and the techniques to achieve it are taught to our players, appearing in Unidos do Ritmo’s samba show. Our tam section arrangements aim to both entertain audiences and prepare players for anything a future desenho might throw at them.

Learning to ‘turn’ the tamborim with good taste and timing is a fascinating technical challenge that can be daunting at first. There are at least three common methods of achieving the constant 16th-note samba rhythm, which basically allow the tamborims to play just as fast as a caixa player does with two sticks. It doesn’t take too long to pick up the basics – with plenty of practice!

With sound frequencies higher and sharper than most other bateria sounds except the chocalho, the tamborim section comes across loud and clear; a big presence at the front of the bateria calling for confidence, co-ordination and recall. Played in a large section of players with nice arrangements and even some choreography, the tamborims have a serious ‘wow’ factor – and often seem to be having the most fun.

tamborim players
Tamborim section

Find out more about learning or playing with the Unidos em Ritmo bateria here