Also:       timba      timbau      

Contextual Associations

The timbal is a single-head membranophone of Brazil that is closely associated with an Afro-Brazilian band called Timbalada that became very popular in Bahia in the 1990s. Other genres of popular music that it can be included in are Axé and Samba-reggae. The drum had previously been used in some samba baterias but was not a core instrument in that tradition.


The nylon head of this timbal is mounted on a rigid metal flesh hoop whose diameter is slightly greater than that of the rim of the shell it covers. The drum's long conical shell of aluminum has eight equally-distanced metal piers attached to its sidewall. The tensioning of the drumhead is accomplished by placing a tension collar with an inward-turning flange on top of the flesh hoop. Metal hooks the straight ends of which are threaded link the tension collar to the piers. At their hook end they pass through holes drilled in the tension collar, and at their threaded end they pass through the piers. Nuts are threaded onto the ends of the hooks and by turning them with a key the amount and evenness of pressure on the membrane can be controlled. Two eyelet bolts on the side of the shell accept clips at the ends of a shoulder strap for carrying the drum.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

Using a shoulder strap that connects with clips to eyelets on the side of the drum's shell, the timbal hangs nearly vertically in front of the player with the head about waist high. The player uses the palms of his hands to strike the head. The sound produced has been likened to that of the djembe (see separate entry)--clear high tones and a strong bass.


Possibly derived from the caxambu, an Afro-Brazilian drum similar to the atabaque used to accompany a song and dance tradition by the same name dating back at least to the 19th century. We found no date for when what was previously a wooden drum started to be made from metal, but this most likely occurred sometime in the latter half of the 20th century.

Bibliographic Citations

Fryer, Peter. 2000. Rhythms of Resistance: African Musical Heritage in Brazil. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.

McGowan, Chris, and Ricardo Pessanha. 2009. The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: South America

Nation: Brazil

Formation: Afro-Brazilian

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.251.1 membranophone--individual single-skin conical drum

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - conical

Number and function of membranes: one, for sounding

Membrane design: framed with rigid flesh hoop

Membrane attachment: counterhoop, lapped over framed membrane hoop, connected by lacing or tension rods to brackets attached to shell

Membrane tension control: rotating screw rods or bolts

Sounding for membranophone: striking directly with both hands

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


27.5 in. height 10.3 in. diameter of smaller opening of shell 13.8 in. diameter of larger opening of shell

Primary Materials

metal - sheet
membrane - synthetic





Entry Author

Roger Vetter