Introduction: Make and Play a Berimbau (Brazilian Music Bow Instrument) on a Campsite

About: I am an arts and crafts teacher in a secondary school in the Netherlands. ( I love making things. Especially out of nothing, worthless materials, garbage and cheap stuff. Besides that I'm…
Ok, this will be kind of quick one. Deadline time for musical instrument  contest and I didn't had much time, however it is my holiday. But I did document the making of this instrument when I was camping on camping Maka in the Belgian Ardennes two weeks ago, so it would be a pitty not using it now (and I have made a lot of other instruments in the past but I'm afraid i can't make them in instructables this time).

All right, 'nuff said, a berimbau you say? What the hack is that? Well in fact it is one of the oldest snare instruments in the world. It is a simple bow, with a metal snare and usually a gourd as a resonator. It is played by hitting percussive with a stick on the open string and by pushing a small flat stone or bronze coin against the snare you get a few varieties of sounds. So this is rather restrictive in sound but don't let it fool you; an experienced player can play impressive kind of trance music. Usually such a player accompanies his play with singing and percussion with a shaker called a caxisi. Such an experienced player I'm not but I do play capoeira, the Brazilian fight-dance where this instrument is used (along with others like the drum the attabaque, (or this one attabaque, both very nice instructables of much harder and bigger projects) the pandeiro, a kind of tamborin and the agogo, a cowbell). And because I like to make things and music I decided to make one at the camping because I didn't bring my original.

Links:  some nice info about the instrument

Here is a picture with the names of the parts of a berimbau:
A video of me playing (If you would hear a better player I suggest to do a search on youtube): 

Step 1: The Parts and Starting With the Verga

What I used was what I had around. That means I could not use the materials one traditionally would use (Not being around the Amazone but a bit smaller river, the Semois) but I improvised with what I could find.
  • The Verga (the bow). This is most of times made from Beriba would, which you can find in the rain woods of Brasil. Not in the Ardennes. So I used a stick I found with not so much side branches, with strong and long fibers. I think it was birch, but I'm not sure. I was told Elm wood is a good European substitute, but that wasn't around either.
  • The cabaca (the sound body). It is normally made out of a gourd but I used an empty gas-tank, which had a nice round top, which is good for reflecting the sound outward
  • The arame (the string). they tend to use the metal strings from inside the rim of car tires, but I used a clothesline
  • The baquetta (the little stick). That is normally made out of a part of the verga. I used another short hard branch
  • the dobrao (the coin or flat stone). Stone there where plenty around so no problem with that.
  • For attaching the cabaca to the verga I used a small piece of sisal string which I brought along
  • A rubber tennis-ball, slaughterer by my dog. This is for on the top of the verga, to prevent the string cutting to deep in the wood. Ussually made out of a thick piece of leather.
Further more I used some metal wire, tried some things with copper wire and an empty soda-can, some glue, a knife, a sharpened  tent peg, olive oil and tissue, a hatchet, a can opener, small pliers and for decoration I used a acrylic contact juggling sphere (but an ordinary magnifier glass will work too).

All right, start looking for a thumb-thick branch with a length of around your chest with a little of bow shape already in it. A bit longer isn't a problem, shorter will be harder to bend in to a bow. Remember it has to be strong, but bendable. I used one which was quite fresh, so it will probably be harder to bend when it is dried out. To old and dry it will snap.

Than scrape of the bark with a knife or a hatchet.
After that refine the shape. Try remove thicker parts and make it tapered evenly to the top. Try to bend it from time to time to keep an eye on the bending it should bend more in the top then the bottom and evenly. When I was happy with the shape, I made a notch at the bottom end. this is where the 

Step 2: The Cabaca (in This Version Called the Gasaca or Campaca)

Step 3: The Arame (string)

Step 4: The Decoration, Preservation, Presentation and Elevation!

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