Introduction: Make Your Own Brazilian Alfaia

Before I get started, I should say that I really got ahead of myself on this project and forgot to take pictures along the way. However, I must say that this one is very simple (like my other Brazilian music projects), so it's actually pretty self explanatory.

I wanted to do some Brazilian maracatu drumming with my students, but could definitely not afford to buy real alfaia drums (nor could I wait for them to get here!). Alfaias are made of steam-bent plywood with skin heads tuned with rope tension. So, I decided to make my own alfaias repurposed from old bass drums (and floor toms) from disused drum sets. Instead of animal skin, I used standard plastic drum heads, and strip the drums of their hardware to convert them to rope tension.


Old drums with hoops and heads: Search for them on eBay, craigslist, etc.

Rope: I used this, but any kind of rope that is stretch-resistant will do just fine.

Wood filler (optional): I used this, but anything similar will do just fine.

Paint (optional)


Fire: Matches, lighter, or something similar


Drill or drill press

Step 1: Strip the Drum of Hardware, Fill Holes in Shell, Drill the Hoops

Again, sorry for not taking enough pictures on this project...

Take off all the lugs so you have a bare wood shell. I also stripped off the drum wrap (as seen on the Tama bass drum in the photo), but you don't necessarily have too.

Use wood filler to fill the holes in the shell. This is an optional step, one mostly done for aesthetic purposes.

Drill holes in the hoops. Before you remove the hoops from the drum (assuming you have a drum that's all put together), take note of where the bass drum claws are. I took a sharpie and marked an X where each claw was on the hoop so I would know about where to drill the holes. I used a drill press, but this could easily be done with any decent drill. Even with metal hoops (all of the ones I've done so far have been cheap steel hoops), this is an easy task (just wear eye protection when doing it!).

Step 2: Paint, Lace Up the Rope

Paint, stain, or otherwise spruce up the drum as you'd like.

Before lacing up the rope, be sure to melt the frayed end so that all the strands of your nylon rope stay together. Also, be sure to melt it into a small enough end that it will pass through the holes in your hoops.

For lacing, you'll want to simply go back and forth from the top hoop to the bottom hoop to create a criss-cross lacing. From there it gets a little tricky. It's best to see how it's done here, a great video showing you how to make alfaias from scratch (which I found out I didn't want to do):

Step 3: You're Done!

That's pretty much it. I painted mine with cheap spray paint. And I've also been using a little gaff tape in the center of the batter head to more closely approximate the real alfaia sound. In the photo here, you can see a variety of drums I have converted to rope tension. The top two were both kid-sized 16" bass drums. Notice that the one on the right uses regular metal hoops (not the claw-style bass drum hoops). I took the hoops that originally came on this one and put them on the 16" floor tom that you see on the bottom left. And the bottom right drum is the 22" Tama bass drum.

Overall, this is a fun and easy project that can be highly customizable. I already have a bunch more of the kid-sized bass drums piled in my office ready to turn into something more beautiful!

Thanks for taking a look!