The bateria consists of the ensemble of instruments making up the music part in Capoeira. Its correctness depends on the harmony between these instruments, on the knowledge of the Capoeiristas that play it and on other details.
Capoeira includes more than thirty different rhythms. Sometimes the difference between the rhythms is obvious and sometimes less obvious.

Each rhythm is accompanied by its own game. One wouldn’t dance a waltz on rock music, isn’t it? Based on this same principle, playing a quick and aerial game on a slow and very calm rhythm wouldn’t work. However, certain Capoeiristas often mix things up. Capoeira is its own style which contains other elements making it a complex art and its music is not exception to this rule. To make things easier, we could once again classify its music into three commons:

  • Angola
  • Regional
  • Contemporeana


The bateria, managed by the Mestre or the organizer of the roda, is the base of Capoeira music. Its composition not only depends on the style but also of the group. These days, all the baterias at least have a berimbau and a pandeiro. This was not always the case. It appears that when it originated, Capoeira was played at the sound of the drums and clapping of hands. Nobody knows the rhythms that may have been played or the songs that may have been sung at the time.
Even though it’s one of the oldest instruments in the world, the berimbau made a late appearance in Capoeira and now occupies a dominating position. The rhythms played in the berimbau decide the games being played in the roda; however, one must not completely shut oneself to its rhythm or mentally focus only on the game that must be played on it. We must remember that each roda is different. The toque of the berimbau is important, but also the group by which it is played is important, because each group has a different understanding of the game. If we want to try and be universal, then we must first observe how each group plays during the roda.

Definition of Terms


This is the frequency of a sound. It is easiest to think of this as the actual musical note. For example, A#, Bb, G, are different pitches/notes. Pitch is often confused with tone. In terms of capoeira, we adjust the pitch of the berimbau when we press the dobrao against the arame.

This refers to the thickness or quality of the note (pitch). In terms of capoeira, we say the gunga is the berimbau with the deepest/lowest tone. It is possible to have different tones but in the same pitch or key. And this is one of the secrets to tuning the instruments in the bateria.

The simplest way to think of a key is as a group of musical notes that sound good together. What do we mean by “good”? Harmonious with minimal clash in frequencies. Fortunately, the laws of nature has already defined what notes are in harmony with each other based on their frequencies and we mortals have given them names. The key itself is the base note that determines what other notes compliment it. For example the C major key includes C, D, E, F, G, A, B with no flats or sharps. This means all these notes sound harmonious when played together. Another example is E minor which includes E, F♯, G, A, B, C, and D. In the world of capoeira, the key can be the open note of the primary berimbau (usually gunga). The idea of tuning the berimbaus is to have all of them in the same key even though they may have different pitches or tones. The exact combination you choose is a matter of preference

So in summary :
First and most importantly we want all the instruments to be in the same key. This is the primary thing.
Secondly we want the Gunga to have the highest tone, followed by Medio, and the Viola.


The Gunga & The Coro

It all begins with the lowest tone Berimbau called the Gunga. It is the instrument that commands the game and is the first one to be tuned. The gunga should be tuned with the coro, meaning the group of players that make up the roda or basically the group of people singing the chorus. Every coro will have its own sound and it’s important that the tone of the berimbau sounds good with that specific combination of voices. There are several ways to go about doing this but the easiest way is to:

Choose the key you want for the bateria. You don’t have to know the exact musical equivalent of that key e.g Ab, Cm, etc. Just make the vocal sound by singing the tone “laaaaaaa”. As the person leading the roda, you can choose the key that you are comfortable singing in. You can even try singing a sample chorus to that key.
Have the coro sing the tone you have chosen in the same way i.e “laaaaaaa”. Let the group keep repeating that tone.
Now take the Gunga and strike the open note (without the dobrao). Make sure the open note is as clear as possible with no lingering buzz sound. If needed, restring the berimbau or adjust the cabaça until you have a nice clear open note.
Listen carefully to the sound of the Gunga relative to the coro. What you want is for the open tone of the Gunga to be in the same key as the coro. Adjust the tone of the Gunga by either moving the cabeça up or down. Keep doing this until you hear the Gunga sounding in sync with the coro. This part takes practice and can be challenging even for some musicians.


Medio & Viola

The berimbaus may be tuned to the same pitch, differing only in timbre. More commonly, low note of the Medio is tuned in unison to the high note of the Gunga, and likewise for the viola. Others like to tune the instruments in 4ths (C, F, B flat) or a triad (C, E, G). Any tuning is acceptable provided it sounds good to the master’s ear.

To tune, continuously strike the high or low (note according to your taste and what you are going to play) on the Gunga.
Now strike the low note on the Medio. Like you did for the Gunga, keep listening for the sound. What you want is for the Medio to be in the same key as the Gunga but at a higher tone. Keep adjusting the position of the cabaça until you can hear them in the same key.
Repeat this process for the Viola berimbau which should be the one with the highest tone.

Once done check all three berimbaus together.



For the traditional atabaque, tuning is done usually with a soft mallet by either tightening or loosening the wooded wedges on the side. Tightening the wedges makes for a higher tone and loosening them makes for a lower tone. For the more contemporary atabaque (or conga for some groups), tunning is done with a tuning key by adjusting the screws attached to the rim. Tightening the screws makes for a higher tone and loosening them makes for a lower tone. Whichever style of drum you choose or have available for your bateria, the concept is the same.

Have the Gunga again strike the low note continuously to set the key.
Strike the drum about halfway between the center and the edge to get the medium pitch. Just like the berimbaus, you want to pitch to be in the same key as the Gunga. Keep striking and adjusting the drum until it sounds like it’s in the same key as the Gunga.



When selecting a pandeiro, it is important to choose one that is tunable. There are lots of pandeiros out there that cannot be tuned. This leaves you at the mercy of the weather to get a good sound. However, most pandeiros you find are tunable. The pandeiro can be adjust using a tuning key to either tighten or loosen the screws on the rim. Tightening makes for a higher tone and loosening makes for a lower tone. The pandeiro is more easily tuned to the sound of the atabaque:

Continuously strike the medium pitch on the atabaque (halfway between the center and the edge).
Now strike the pandeiro on the edge with your thumb to create the tone. Listen for the way to sounds with the atabaque. Adjust the tone of the pandeiro to match as much as possible. What we want is for the pandeiro to be at a higher pitch than the atabaque but in the same key. This way it complements the deeper tone.


Agogo & Reco-Reco

These two instruments can not be tuned so it’s important that they already sound good to the ear to begin with. If you have several of these available, you can try each one to see which sounds best with the bateria. Even two agogos that look identical may still sound different from each other! Also, try changing the tool used in striking the surface i.e, a lighter or heavier stick.


All Together Now

Now that you have all the instruments tuned up, it’s important to have them all play together to get a sense of the sound. Most likely it will sound good to the ear and minimal adjustments if any would be needed. Once you have a good sound, avoid making any further adjustments; particularly the berimbau players who are notorious for shifting the position of the cabeça during the roda!