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Conga Drum

The Caixa and the Power of Brazilian Sticking

By Kurt Rasmussen with Special Thanks to His Brazilian Instructors, Carlines De Our Pandiero, Padre Miguel, Marcello Marigini, Tobias de Vai-Vai, Adieu de Vai- Vai, Mark Lamson, Marcos Suzano, Carlinhos Brown, Dr. Michael Carney, Nené Repinique and Alessandro D' Agostini Miranda 

Traditionally the caixa was held on the shoulder.

Photo 1: Traditionally the caixa was held on the shoulder.
Today the caixa is typically slung over the shoulder with a strap
Photo 2: Today the caixa is typically slung over the shoulder with a strap.




The word Caixa (pronounced ka-sha) simply means box in Portuguese. In musical terms the Caixa is a Brazilian snare drum which may have originally been a Portuguese military snare drum and is made of lightweight Aluminum. The Caixa is used in the Bateria of an Escola de Samba (The percussion section of a samba school) for playing Samba Enredo (Carnaval Samba). 

In the past the Caixa was held on the shoulder (photo 1). Today it is typically slung over the shoulder with a strap (photo 2) and played with a pair of drumsticks. 

The Malacacheta is a type of Caixa usually 8” X 12”. The Caixa I’m playing is a Malacacheta and is the Caixa usually used in the Bateria. The Tarol and Repique are other types of Caixas and are usually 4” X 12” or 14” and usually has a natural head and is often played in more folkloric styles of Brazilian music. 

The Sticking

In Section 1 of the video will show you the sticking. The sticks can be held either with traditional or matched grip. I prefer matched grip (photo 3). The Caixa is traditionally played with the snare on the top. The ride used for this article is one of the most basic patterns. This ride is mounted in 3/2. Check out the Repinique article for more information on what this means. I’m also exaggerating the movement of my hands and the sticks but you’ll want to refine the technique as you learn. There are other rides used by the different escolas (schools) but the feel will be similar. Most of the work is done with the right hand, while the left hand gives rhythmic support. If you are just learning to play Brazilian percussion, I suggest practicing slowly at the beginning till you get used to the sticking pattern. Practice this until you are really comfortable with it. 

The Rim shot 

In Section 2 of the video I’m going to add the rim shot. The rim shot is done with the right hand. A rim shot is done by striking the drum rim and drum head at the same time. Start slowly and gradually increase the tempo till you’re really comfortable with both the sticking and the rim shot. This ride and other Caixa rides also can contain little ruffs and rolls incorporated into the pattern but in this article I prefer to concentrate on the sticking and the feel.
Click for Kurt's Online Video Lesson by Stephane Cariepy go to: http://www.lpmusic.com/Play_Like_A_Pro/Tips/kurt2.html

Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing

Brazilian’s refer to the feel or the swing as swingui (pronounced swinggee). The swingui is felt by all the percussion instruments in the Bateria. I suggest that you listen to any recordings of Carnaval you can find. You may find the listening suggestions in the Repinique article helpful.


Photo 4: For one of the funkiest sounds around, just turn the drum snare side down.

In Section 3 of the video I’ve added the swingui. I’m playing it exaggerated so hopefully you’ll find it a little easier to feel it. You’ll have an easier time if you already know the sticking and rim shots. In Section 4 of the video I’ve added Alessandro D’Agostini Miranda on Surdo so you can get an idea of what the ride will sound like when it’s played in context. We’re playing this at a fairly slow tempo You’ll want to work up to playing this at approximately 150 bpm which is about the tempo that is played at during Carnaval. Lastly, I suggest that you enlist the help of a teacher knowledgeable in Brazilian percussion techniques to help you further your studies. This article only scratches the surface and my goal is that it inspires you to further your knowledge. Click to hear the RMV Caixa. This Caixa example has a slightly different ride. You also might want to listen to all the other RMV instruments that I recorded.

Attention All Drummers! 

Drum set players… yes, I’m talking to you! Even if you are not interested in playing traditional Brazilian music, please do yourself a favor and checkout a RMV Caixa. They sound great in many forms of music. For one of the funkiest sounds around, just turn the drum snare side down (please see photo 4) like a traditional snare drum. You can also use an RMV Caixa as a second snare drum. Add one to your collection, you won’t be sorry! 

Sou Branco y Preto 
Kurt Rasmussen 
(Kurtinho do Pandiero) 

Kurt Rasmussen has been a baptized member of the Brazilian Escola de Samba Vai-Vai since 1997. He has participated in four Carnavals, and is a four time Carnaval Champion. He has toured and performed with many notable Brazilian artists, such as Moacir Santos, Sergio Mendes, Tania Maria, Kleber Jorge and L.A. Samba led by good friend and fellow LP artist, Ron Powell . Kurt is also teaching at UNLV and is Director of the University’s Escola de Samba Mocidade Rebelde. Kurt is also currently playing percussion with Cirque du Soleil in their production of "O" in Las Vegas .

The sticks are held match grip. 

To download this lesson in PDF format, please CLICK HERE.

If you do not have a PDF reader it is available free of charge at:



Exercise 1

Exercise 2

Exercise  3


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