Contextual Associations

The tamborim is a single-head membranophone of Brazil. Its strongest association is with the baterias (percussion sections) for Samba schools, especially with the Rio de Janeiro tradition. It is also occasionally used in Brazilian popular/commercial music genres where it is employed as an auxiliary percussion instrument.


The nylon head of this tamborim is mounted on a rigid metal flesh hoop whose diameter is greater than that of the rim of the shell it covers. The drum's shallow cylindrical, ring-like shell made of ABS plastic has ten metal piers attached to its sidewall. The tensioning of the drumhead is accomplished by placing a metal tension collar on top of the flesh hoop and connecting it to the shell with metal hooks the straight ends of which are threaded and run through the piers on the shell. Nuts are threaded onto the ends of the hooks, and when tightened against the piers serve to pull down the tension collar. This in turn increases the tension of the area of the drumhead that is covering the opening of the shell. The plastic stick beater is comprised of three rods bound together at the handle end with tape.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The frame of the tamborim is held in one hand and struck with the beater, which is held in the player's other hand. The membrane is tuned with considerable tension to produce a relatively high and penetrating tone that can occasionally be damped from behind the head with fingers of the hand holding the drum.


Information on the origins of this drum was not found. It is interesting that the definition for tamborim given in the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments is of a drum that is twice as long as it is wide, and therefore not a frame drum. One possible explanation is that the tamborim pictured here is a modernized or 'industrialized' design of the drum that it has now superseded. 

Bibliographic Citations

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

n.a. 1984. "Tamborim." NGDMI v.3: 509.


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: South America

Nation: Brazil

Formation: Afro-Brazilian

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.311 membranophone--single-skin frame drum (the depth of the body does not exceed the radius of the membrane)

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - frame

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 with one handheld beater

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


1.9 in. depth of shell 6 in. diameter of shell 6.6 in. diameter of flesh hoop and tension collar

Primary Materials

membrane - synthetic





Entry Author

Roger Vetter