Berimbau Care and Use

A berimbau is a musical instrument, and as with any musicaly instrument, it requires certain care and practice to be able to perform correctly and proficiently. Because we know that becoming proficient at playing the berimbau requires dedication, time and practice we offer some free videos teaching how to play the berimbau taught by Mestre Virgulino of Cordao de Ouro on our.
Additional Information about each rhythm can be found there as well.
 Each berimbau is unique, however there are some general care principles that apply to all berimbaus. As you probably know there are three general classes of berimbaus: gungas, medios and violas which have low, middle and high tones respectively. Most capoeiristas also know that the size of the cabaca, or gourd, helps produce a low, middle or high tone, contributing to whether the berimbau is a gunga, medio or viola. What many capoeiristas do not know is that although it is true that larger cabacas are used for gungas, middle sized for medios and small cabacas for violas, the selection of verga is actually very important to determining the sound and class of the berimbau.
Gunga vergas are looser than medios or violas. They are easier to bend, and so when they are strung, the produce less resistance on the arame, creating a lower pitch. Gungas need to be bent further than medios or violas, and when they are not bent far enough, they will make an uneven, vibrating sound. If this is the case, your berimbau needs to be strung further. Medios are medium strength for a medium tone. Violas are the stiffest of the vergas and consequently are the most difficult to string. The added resistance produces a high tone. It is only after you have selected a gunga, medio, or viola verga, that you select an appropriate sized cabaca to amplify and enhance that sound and pitch, but the original tone is created by the stiffness of the verga.
For the reasons explained above, all berimbaus are strung up and tested for both sound and strength after we receive your order and before they ship. We also match them with a cabaca to ensure quality sound. Your berimbau was strung and tested before it was shipped as well. You may wish to seek help from someone who is experienced in strining berimbasu to ensure that your instrument is strung correctly because if it is too loose, it will not sound correct. On the other hand if you attempt to string it too far it can break. It may take some practice as our in house berimbau specialist has been selecting and stringing berimbaus for over nine years.
When you string your instrument you will notice as you push harder, the resistance will become greater and the verga will feel a little less "elastic" the further you bend it. When you start to feel like the verga isn't very elastic you may be reaching a point where it could splinter. This "diminishing marginal elasticity" is a phenomenon that is most easily observed in gunga vergas because they have a greater range of motion. It is similar to a rubber band, when you pull on a rubber band, it feels really stretchy during the first 20% of its range of motion, but the further you pull, the less stretchy it feels, and if you pull it far enough, you can feel a point where you say, if I pull any further, it is going to snap. Berimbau vergas are a lot like this, but with a much smaller range of motion.
We hope that these comments and the following instructions help you to get better performance from your instrument. If you have any additional questions, please contact us at
How to String a Berimbau 
Anyone can learn to string a berimbau, and like anything else it becomes easier with experience. If you require hands on assistance in addition to the directions below, your capoeira instructor should be able to help you learn how to string the instrument properly.
The following set of instructions assumes the person stringing the berimbau is right handed:
  1. Hold the top of the berimbauverga(staff) in your left hand and place the bottom into the corner of a room where it cannot slide away.
    2. Holdthe string on the end of the wire in your right hand. 
    3. Using your right knee, apply downward pressure to the middle of the verga while pulling up on the top of the vergawith your left hand bending the berimbau. (Be careful not to bend the verga too far or it may break). Continue to hold this pressure through step 6. 
    4. Pull the wire taught across the leather at the top of the verga and begin to wrap it around the verga, spiraling down until you reach the end of the wire and are left with just the string.
    5. Wrap the string around tightly leaving no space between wraps. 
    6. On the final wrap tuck the end of the string under and through the previous wrap and pull tight.
    7. Release the pressurebeing applied by your left hand and right knee to the verga.
If you have done this correctly the berimbau should stay bent and tightly strung.
  1. Slide the gourd onto the berimbaufrom the bottom by squeezing the wire and verga together to allow the loop of string on the gourd to slide up the instrument from the bottom. The gourd should be touching the verga.
    9. The gourd should slide up approximately 6 inches from the bottom. You can adjust the gourd higher or lower to change the tone of the berimbauand "tune" the instrument to get the right pitch. 
    10. Click here to watch Mestre Virgulino teach how to play the berimbau.
Your verga and gourd have already been matched prior to shipping to ensure great sound. If the instrument makes an undesired vibrating sound while playing, it is likely that it was not strung tightly enough. With experience you will become more proficient at stringing the instrument and this will not be a problem.
Tuning Your Berimbau
The tone of your berimbau is adjusted by how high you slide the cabaca up the verga and wire once the instrument is strung. You want the loop of string on your cabaca to be just loose enough for you to fit the end of your pinky finger underneath the string between the verga and arame. Then squeeze the arame against the verga above the cabaca and slide it up and down. The higher you slide the cabaca, the higher the pitch. The lower the cabaca, the lower the pitch.  If your berimbau has a loose, vibrating tone instead of a strong even tone, it is likely that your berimbau needs to be strung tighter.
Other Care Instructions
Each time you finish playing your berimbau, you should unstring the instrument to help it last longer. To unstring the berimbau, squeeze the verga and wire together just above the cabaca to release some tension and slide the cabaca off the verga. Place the cabaca in a safe place where it will not be damaged. Then place slight pressure against the verga just like you would if you were stringing it. Holding this pressure grab the end of the string near the top of the instrument and pull it the opposite direction that it was wrapped to string. This will cause the arame to loosen. Then slowly release pressure on the verga to allow it to straighten out. It is important that you keep pressure on the verga while you are loosening the arame to avoid damaging the instrument. However it is not necessary to bend the verga past where it is strung, you are just trying to prevent it from, 'jumping' once the arame is loosened.
Store the verga in a warm place, unstrung when not in use. This will lengthen the life of your instrument.