PDA

View Full Version : Samba drums + amplified ukulele = ?



Lalz
02-03-2012, 12:46 AM
Hi everyone!

Lately, besides playing the ukulele, I've playing drums in a samba bateria. And I've been thinking of something: many baterias in Brazil use amplified cavaquinhos, as the high pitch of the instrument cuts through the drums quite well. Since the cavaquinho is closely related to the ukulele, it would be nice to add one for some of our tunes, don't you think?

.... sound of crowd cheering in unison: "YES! MORE UKULELE FTW!" ...

Thank you, I thought so too. Glad we agree :o

The uke would definitely need to be amplified though, because the drums are LOUUUUD! :D And there is the problem: I don't have an electric uke or one with a pick-up. I don't know anyone in my area who has one I could borrow, so I can't really test this idea without actually buying one, and I don't want to order one and realise this doesn't work or that everyone in the band hates it, or I buy the wrong one and have to send it back and get another one ad eternum.

So I was wondering: Do you guys have experience in playing the uke (or the cavaquinho) with samba drums or other massive walls of drum sounds? If so, any advices in terms of types of ukes and amplification that works best for this? Brands, wood types, uke size, strings, pick-ups, (powerful) amps...? Also, do you know if there are cavaquinho playing techniques specific to playing with a bateria?

To give you an idea of the sonorities: we mainly play surdos (low, medium and high), snares (caixa de guerra and tarol), repiniques, agogo bells and tamborims; no pandeiro or cuica. We're about 15-20 people (it varies). The type of music we play is bossa nova, jungle, and of course various kinds of samba.

All advices warmly welcome! :)

Thanks!

Lalz
02-03-2012, 08:26 AM
Found this video with a cavaquinho (and a banjo uke!) in a samba band. We have a much heavier drum section that would leak into microphones if we amplified the instruments like them, but you get the idea:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TepZlBz2MA8&feature=endscreen

FiL
02-05-2012, 07:17 AM
That's probably a banjo cavaquinho, a common variation on the standard cavaquinho.

- FiL

fernandogardinali
02-05-2012, 08:28 AM
Yes, it is a banjo-cavaquinho. Banjo ukes are quite rare here.
There is finer samba genres than the one on this video. Like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEHA2F5cmok

Last night me and a friend we were playing Chico Buarque songs on the baritone and soprano uke, but it doesn't replaces the cavaquinho sound. They are not similar soundwise.
Maybe you should buy a cavaquinho and play it.

Lalz
02-05-2012, 11:58 AM
Ah, banjo-cavaquinho! Nice :)

Yeah sorry, I just linked to that video to show the cavaquinho played together with drums in a loud setting, I didn't mean it as an example of the finest samba :o Thanks for the link btw, great video!

The uke and the cavaquinho do sound different indeed, but as I already play the uke I figure why not have a try with it instead? I'm not particularly interested in sounding authentic, it just has to sound good :) Also cavaquinhos aren't easy to get a hold of here in the UK unfortunately, and they're tuned differently so I'd have to learn new chords.

Lalz
02-08-2012, 12:03 PM
Ok this is a bit more what I had in mind :music:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fa6snBTw57o&feature=related

southcoastukes
02-08-2012, 12:27 PM
Heys fellows -

It's Carnival season here in Dixie, too - parades are kickin' up all over. I've got some expereince with your situation Lalou. For a while I was in the (now defunct) Palmares marching club. Locals and expatriates from Brazil & Angola. We had a great bateria, and it survives today under the name Casa Samba.

I don't think, though, you'll have as good a result with an ukulele as you would with a cavaquinho. The sharper and higher pitched you can get the sound, the better it will carry over the drums. At least here in the states they aren't that hard to come by. I would think there would be some sort of UK outlet. I know there used to be one in Holland.

Once you have one, you can tune it like an ukulele - metal strung - either key of C, or maybe even better, up a step in D. The higher the pitch, the better it will "cut".

Laissez les Bons Temps Roulez!

Lalz
02-08-2012, 12:54 PM
Hm, good points. Thank you for the advices! So playing higher up on the neck and amplifying the uke wouldn't be enough to make it cut through the drums? Good to know.

OK you guys are probably right then, I should probably get myself a cavaquinho to get a sharper sound and just tune it like a uke. How loud do they get? How much amplification do you need with them do you reckon?

I've never seen a cavaquinho in the flesh, can't find them anywhere. The closest I've come was when browsing through a UK samba percussion online shop that used to carry them, but they are now out of stock.

To be continued...

Joyeux Mardi Gras!

fabioponta
02-08-2012, 12:59 PM
There are many types of samba here in Brazil (and worldwide). For slower tempos, the ukulele can be really quite interesting. An example is the singer Marisa Monte, known in many countries, and adapted a tenor ukulele in some songs. This video shows it well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txv7zt8JUhQ

I play the cavaquinho and ukulele, and I can say that the resonance and speed needed to keep up a fast samba (such as your video above) is only possible in a real cavaquinho, and it isn't a tone or tune question. The tension of steel strings of a cavaquinho allow speed and resonance difficult to achieve with an fluocarbon ou nylgut string of an ukulele. The cavaquinho, even having a size similar to a ukulele concert, has built quite differently, with a thickness thicker on the sides and back of the body, and strings more closer than a soprano ukulele. Here is an example of a fast cavaquinho:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ATt63dpHws&feature=fvsr

southcoastukes
02-08-2012, 01:25 PM
... For slower tempos, the ukulele can be really quite interesting. An example is the singer Marisa Monte, known in many countries, and adapted a tenor ukulele in some songs. This video shows it ...

Great videos, Fabio -

And you're right about the ukulele on the slower tempos. Beautiful.

Are you sure, though, on the "tenor" ukulele part. Looks like a Baritone to me. And if I'm right, it's also an old Giannini. To me those might have been the best Baritones ever made (used to have a couple of 'em).

Lalz
02-08-2012, 02:14 PM
Beautiful videos indeed!

I totally agree about the ukulele at low tempo for samba or bossa. It sounds really lovely, especially when you play it with a low-G tuning. Someone introduced me to videos of Herb Otha's playing bossa on this forum, and I love it to pieces. Been playing some Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil on my concert uke.

I think Dirk is right, it looks like she's playing a baritone.
Fabio, what do you mean by "adapted"? Did she modify the ukulele or did she adapt the song's score in order to make it sound nice on the ukulele?

I hear what you say about playing speed with steel strings vs. nylon/nylogut. I've been practicing clawhammer (banjo technique) on the uke and it's quite difficult to do it fast with nylon strings because of the low tension (or maybe it's just my crooked fingers lol). In any case, that second video was very illustrative and completely convinced me. Speed is important, we often play at quite a high tempo in our band. So steel strings it will be.

Do you have advices about how to purchase a cavaquinho? What brands are there and within what price ranges? Does the cavaquinho exist in a parallel universe to the ukulele, where people have similar debates about high vs. low tuning, types of strings, solid vs. laminate wood, tenor vs. soprano size, sounding too much / not enough like a guitar, where they help each other on a cavaquinhounderground.com forum, are reluctant to play certain songs people keep requesting, etc? :) Do you reckon it would it be easy to tune it like a uke, or would string tension cause a problem?

Thanks!

fabioponta
02-09-2012, 05:55 AM
About Marisa Monte uke: It really is a baritone. She uses a traditional Low G strings, with some wound strings. I do not know if it's a vintage Giannini, a Martin or a Harmony, because I read that Marisa bought it in New York. The tuning is DGBE, you can see ad listen when she makes the Dm chord.

Here in Brazil, the largest place of discussion is the cavaquinho community orkut social network, called cavaquinho & banjo (http://www.orkut.com.br/Main#Community?cmm=463775), with over 11,000 members. It is a community with only brazilians until now, but you are welcome. To translate from Portuguese to English, just use the google translator. The banjo is a cavaquinho model here, invented in 1970, and it is good for making rhythm, while the cavaquinho is also good for making harmony. You could see the diferences in these videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIgO2aXQ-qE&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tkii2pNY6yE&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
The Banjo has more volume, and always accompanies the bateria.
The cavaquinho steel strings brands are very similar: we have 3 or 4 brands used, but none have much diferences. All have the same tunning. Some tension is a little stronger, but nothing as different as we found for ukulele strings. I've had four cavaquinhos: The first 3 were from massive factories. Most cavaquinho factories in Brazil does the same thing that ukuleles factories in the U.S.: it only ordered instruments from China, makes and sells a small setup. Even Giannini does it today. They are all laminated and playing hard. Enough to hurt your fingers, and the sound is not very good, but you can learn to play.
Last year I bought a cavaquinho from a top luthier. The best are made in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Most are solid maple top (faya) and laminated rosewood body and cost about $ 350. I bought one more professional, very easy to play, and with cedar top (deep tones, wow) solid Bahia rosewood body, and ebony fretboard. I paid U$700 with a hard case, but it could cost more than U$1500 from another luthiers.
The great cavaquinho luthiers are (in order): Do Souto (the kamaka cavaquinho), JB (the kanilea cavaquinho), Jaime Ferreira, Arajo Luthier (this is mine, the Koaloha cavaquinho, with thin body and great volume), Carlinhos Luthier, Emerson Luthier and Arias Luthier. You could see all these models in the "MGM" of the cavaquinhos here in Brazil, direct from So Paulo: http://www.casadoluthier.com/loja/ .
I can help you to find a great one.

Lalz
02-09-2012, 06:22 AM
Oh, thank you so much about all this useful info! This is great!

The banjo cavaquinho sounds quite similar to a banjo uke in my ears, but I suppose it would be the tuning, playing technique and speed with the steel strings that would differ?

I'm going to dive straight into that forum, get as much info as possible and... most probably take a moment to think about how much money I'm willing to invest on yet another instrument LOL

But I'm definitely happy to get your help!

Thanks! :D

fernandogardinali
02-09-2012, 08:36 AM
I agree with Fabio. The quality of budget cavaquinhos is very low. Once I got myselft one and the intonation was horrible, the build was very, very cheap - it was loud, though - I believe because of the tension of the strings. I think you can relate it to mandolins: cheap ukes are good, cheap mandolins are crap (and cheap cavaquinhos too).

Since cavaquinhos are exclusively played by samba musicians, there isn't a big forum like this one, with people with many musical backgrounds. Cavaquinho isn't as versatile as the uke, it's important to notice that.

EDIT: I honestly think that a cavaquinho with a rich tone, like a JB or Do Souto wouldn't be necessary for playing along with a bateria, they are fine instruments and that richness won't be head with a bateria. A intermediate level Giannini or Rozini will be perfect for you, IMHO.

fabioponta
02-09-2012, 08:46 AM
An example of the only uke player that also play the cavaquinho in some songs:
The beautiful Sophie Madeleine, with a cavaquinho unknown to us Brazilians (I saw something on ebay, but do not know ...)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94Stpju46j8

fernandogardinali
02-09-2012, 08:49 AM
Fabio,

I believe it is one of those portuguese cavaquinhos. They look real nice.

Lalz
02-09-2012, 09:11 AM
Indeed. I was just looking for a picture of the portuguese ones, they look really nice!
http://stringedinstrumentdatabase.110mb.com/c.htm

Hm, I'm really tempted to get a cavaquinho, but if it has to be an expensive one to be a good one then I'm afraid I probably won't be able to afford one for quite a while :iwant:

I'm getting curious about the brazilian banjo too, I quite like how they're played in a more percussive way. Would I get away with playing a british-style banjo ukulele (with resonator back) instead, if I use fingerpicks or a plectrum? They're quite loud and not too different sounding from the brazilian ones from what I can tell. Plus I already own a good one :) And it has a low-G 4th string so I can easily tune it to GCEG, which would be about the same tuning as a cava only a few steps down (or up?) Or would it be the same problem of speed and/or sound not sharp enough to cut through the drums?

Lalz
02-09-2012, 09:14 AM
Oh, I just saw your update Fernando, about intermediate cavaquinhos being good enough when played with a bateria. That's good!
What price range would that be approximately?

ukecantdothat
02-09-2012, 11:42 AM
I played a club gig not long ago with a Caribbean/Soca group, and we had a bateria come marching in from the street, while we played "Mas Que Nada" and it was a blast. I've never had a problem cutting thru anything since I've been running thru a Baggs Paracoustic DI box (my ukes have MiSi PUs). I split the signal by running the XLR to the PA and the 1/4" output to my amp for a bit of extra stage monitoring (for our percussionist mainly). It was a pretty small space we were in, but I had plenty of room to crank up if I needed to. The uke I used on the tune is a cigar box uke with no sound hole, and never feeds back in playing situations. For my traditional uke, I stuff the body with black cloth (nobody knows it's there!) to completely eliminate feedback for loud gigs. The tonal compromise there is minimal at high volumes. For more intimate (low volume) gigs, I "unstuff" it, because the Baggs has the notch filter, or cover the sound hole to eliminate feedback for some of the outdoor gigs we've played. It just depends on the situation. This is all for full band situations of course.

fabioponta
02-09-2012, 12:58 PM
Oh, I just saw your update Fernando, about intermediate cavaquinhos being good enough when played with a bateria. That's good!
What price range would that be approximately?

You really could use a Giannini or a Rozini cavaquinho. It's like a kala or Ohana ukulele with solid top in sound quality. You can find one for more or less than U$250, with pickup and preamp (LOUD!!), on amazon.com

ukecantdothat
02-09-2012, 01:36 PM
Per the above post regarding banjos, I saw a performance of Cirque du Soleil's "oVo", and their finale featured a wireless banjolele, cutting thru all kinds of percussion and synths, etc, so again, it is possible to heard thru the din with the right pickup/DI/PA set up!

fernandogardinali
02-10-2012, 03:54 AM
You really could use a Giannini or a Rozini cavaquinho. It's like a kala or Ohana ukulele with solid top in sound quality. You can find one for more or less than U$250, with pickup and preamp (LOUD!!), on amazon.com

I second that

Lalz
02-10-2012, 02:06 PM
I played a club gig not long ago with a Caribbean/Soca group, and we had a bateria come marching in from the street, while we played "Mas Que Nada" and it was a blast. I've never had a problem cutting thru anything since I've been running thru a Baggs Paracoustic DI box (my ukes have MiSi PUs). I split the signal by running the XLR to the PA and the 1/4" output to my amp for a bit of extra stage monitoring (for our percussionist mainly). It was a pretty small space we were in, but I had plenty of room to crank up if I needed to. The uke I used on the tune is a cigar box uke with no sound hole, and never feeds back in playing situations. For my traditional uke, I stuff the body with black cloth (nobody knows it's there!) to completely eliminate feedback for loud gigs. The tonal compromise there is minimal at high volumes. For more intimate (low volume) gigs, I "unstuff" it, because the Baggs has the notch filter, or cover the sound hole to eliminate feedback for some of the outdoor gigs we've played. It just depends on the situation. This is all for full band situations of course.

Great to hear about your experience, ukecantdothat! And very good advice about how to avoid resonance with amplification. I'll most probably need this, especially if I end up using some variety of a banjo (uke or brazilian) as the heads are usually quite prone to resonance. Do you think a solid one would work in similar conditions? Like an eleuke? With steel strings? Anyone knows if their neck can take that kind of tension of that would damage them? I've heard RISAs have steel strings but I'm not too fond of their shape.


Per the above post regarding banjos, I saw a performance of Cirque du Soleil's "oVo", and their finale featured a wireless banjolele, cutting thru all kinds of percussion and synths, etc, so again, it is possible to heard thru the din with the right pickup/DI/PA set up!

Oh, I love Cirque du Soleil! Good to know the banjo uke works for them. I'll look for a video of this. Quite intrigued about the idea of a wireless banjolele! I actually happen to know someone in the show (friend of a friend), I should ask her about it.


Originally Posted by fabioponta
You really could use a Giannini or a Rozini cavaquinho. It's like a kala or Ohana ukulele with solid top in sound quality. You can find one for more or less than U$250, with pickup and preamp (LOUD!!), on amazon.com
I second that

Cool, thanks for the advice! I very much like Kalas and Ohanas so if they're of similar quality then I'd probably be very happy with one of them. I had a look at amazon.co.uk and unfortunately they don't sell them here, only in the .com one :( I should look for their European distributors because shipping from outside the EU can become really expensive.

Ok, my mission for this coming week: find out where to buy Giannini and/or Rozini brazilian cavaquinhos in the EU, google-translate the orkut forum, look for a video of the 'oVo' performance, and bring my banjo uke with fingerpicks to band practice for a test. Wish me luck! :)

Have a great week-end everyone!

ukecantdothat
02-10-2012, 07:43 PM
Hey Lalou,
I hope I'm right about the banjolele in "oVo". It sure looked (and sounded) like one from where I sat. And what an amazing guitarist he was. How wonderful to know somebody from the show! - tell her it was my favorite Cirque of the four I've seen (Alegria was the first). So colorful, and of course the acrobatics always a mind blower.

Thanks for the friend request!
Thom

Lalz
02-11-2012, 04:26 PM
I just asked her, she says she's not part of this particular production and doesn't know anything about the banjo uke unfortunately :(
Saw some videos on youtube, the show did look very impressive!

ukecantdothat
02-12-2012, 07:34 PM
I just asked her, she says she's not part of this particular production and doesn't know anything about the banjo uke unfortunately :(
Saw some videos on youtube, the show did look very impressive!

Too bad! I know each production can differ. Maybe someone else in the Los Angeles area can confirm if it was a banjolele in the finale? If I'm down at the Santa Monica Pier before the show leaves, maybe I can poke around and get an "interview" with the guitarist! I was down there last year and a lot of the performers were outside their dressing tent before the show and seemed pretty accessible to the fans, so who knows?

Thanks for watching the vids!

Cheers!

fernandogardinali
02-13-2012, 04:50 AM
Lalou,

did you consider buying a cavaquinho from portugal? There are some Brazilian cavaquinhos there and also some portuguese.

(OLX is like a Craiglist)

http://www.olx.pt/q/cavaquinho/c-243

Lalz
02-13-2012, 01:25 PM
Oh yes, Portugal. Good idea, thanks!

Actually, I might have found a UK distributor down in London that sells Giannini cavas. I'm going to give them a call and try visit them next time I'm heading south. If I can I prefer to buy instruments in the flesh rather than online, because I prefer to try them first. But if it doesn't work out I'll definitely look into this. Or plan a little low-cost flight week-end to Portugal :-) (a girl needs to take vacations sometimes, and that way I'd be hitting two birds with the same stone!)

It's interesting to see the variation in prices on OLX btw, some cost just €50 and others €1000!