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Learn 3 Easy Brazilian Drum Beats from a Pro

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Marcos Odara teaches drumming in Berkeley. (Photo: Adizah Eghan/KQED)

pARTicipate-button-400x400Marcos Odara has been playing the conga drums for 39 years and teaching for the last 20. Odara hails from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil and now calls Oakland home. The drum master teaches  Brazilian drumming in Oakland and Berkeley.

Brazilian percussion involves hands, sticks and all kinds of drums. “We have atabaque,  agogo, pandeiro, repinique, surdo, cuíca,” Odara says, naming a few tools of his trade.

Watch  Odara break down three basic drum techniques and then show how they weave together to make beautiful rhythmic patterns:

Here’s a recap of the three basic techniques of Brazilian drumming, according to Odara:


Super common and important to master. With a flat hand, hold your fingers together and strike the center of the drum with your palm. As soon as your hand hits the skin of the drum, let it bounce so the sound can escape.

File_000 (5)Tone
Tone is all about the fingers. Cup your hands like you are holding a golfball and press the fingers together. Then, strike the rim of the drum with your finger pads.

This technique looks easy but is challenging to master. Hit the edge of the drum with a flat medium-open hand.

Want to learn? Here’s where you can find Brazilian-style music and dance classes.

Batalá  San Francisco, Oakland/San Francisco
Axé/Samba-Reggae drumming group that’s open to all levels of drummers. Performances all over the Bay Area with practices in Oakland. Newbies can become members after four weeks.

BrasArte, Berkeley
With a goal to preserve Brazil’s vibrant music and dance in the Bay Area, BrasArte offers dance classes including samba, folklore, and West African dance and drum.

SambaAxe , San Francisco
Primarily teaches various levels of samba at ODC Rhythm and Motion dance program in the Mission District. SambaAxe also offers a samba percussion workshop.

Samba Mundial,  Mountain View
Offers a variety of drum and dance classes as a way to promote cross-cultural exchange and through music and dance. Dedicated to community participation.

Mick Gardner got turned on to playing samba-reggae music when he was passing by a roomful of drummers one day and one of them thrust an instrument in his hands.
Mick Gardner, 62, plays the surdo as a release from his job. (Photo: Adizah Eghan/KQED)

Listen here to the story of Mick Gardner, a San Francisco County corrections worker who became entranced with Brazilian drumming and now considers the art form a major passion. 

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