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Useful tips and information
Alfaia - shopping guide

Can you play Maracatu on a surdo?

Of course you can, but: just as well you could play badminton using a tennis racket or play on a recorder while marching in a brass band… we think - not so fun! All music styles develop their own authentic range of instruments in the course of time,so it should be more or less understood that playing Samba or Maracatu calls for the original instruments!

What is the right size for me?

The most common sizes range from 18” to 22” with a height of 35-50cm. Smaller (16”) and larger drums (up to 28”) are the exemption! Light weighted 14” alfaias are perfect for kids. The 3 alfaia voices usually have the three following sizes: 
Marcante : 22“, 
Meião : 20“, 
Repique : 18“.
Minor deviances are quite normal and don´t usually cause any problems. as they can be compensated with good tuning. A solid and deep Maracatu groove can only be played with drums in the right size. For the more complex pattern of the Repique for example you will need an alfaia with a short and explicitly higher pitched sound. All in all, the big picture is what counts: all voices must be heard individually within the group, but also try to create the typical Maracatu sound of voices melt into one whole powerful thunderstorm of rhythm and energy!

How thick should the head be?

The batter head should be a bit thicker than the resonance head. A moderate-sized goat skin with an average thickness and fairly smooth structured surface is what you are looking for. Skins from older goats or calves a too thick and therefore produce a hard, clacking sound similar to the sound of a surdo beater used on a Conga. Natural heads get smoother with the time and develop a beautiful and warm sound.

Is it difficult to tune an alfaia?

A bit of skill, technique and practise is all you need to be able to tune your instrument in not more than a few minutes.
Check out our tuning instructions for tips and help!


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Would you like to learn more about our instruments?

Learn about Brazilian instruments and music styles on Sambapedia