Samba (updated 25th July 2016)

This page is a collection of all the samba-related ideas in the Music Jungle, plus other odds and ends collected along the way…

Here we go…


I’ve used the Beatlife Book for years and years. You could probably get away with just the one book! If I’m doing a whole year of wider opportunities samba with just one class, then the three terms follow this plan

  1. Samba Samba we love to samba, Samba Reggae and start Samba Funk
  2. Finish Samba Funk, and do Samba Ragga
  3. Samba Batacuda and invent our own class samba with intro, breaks and ending

Every term also includes singing, pulse games, chants, reading and playing from notation and revision.

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Go through the rhythms using voice first (but don’t shout!), then clapping, before letting loose on the instruments. It keeps the noise down in the early, chaotic stages of learning new things.

Teach the children to play gently from the start. Otherwise they will just whack away in an excess of enthusiasm and energy, and then complain that their ears hurt.

Everyone should mime every rhythm pattern as it is being taught. No section should “go off-line” or start chatting when another section is learning their rhythm. That way, when you rotate the players around the instruments, you shouldn’t have to spend ages re-teaching all the rhythms.

Play the instruments using fingers, not beaters, when learning new rhythms, or doing composing or group activities.

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I use a samba whistle (which is Very Loud, so don’t blow it too hard!).

I give the signal for the next “event” with one hand (while the other hand is beating a pulse or rhythm on my repinique) and make sure everyone has seen it. Once I’m sure that everyone knows what is coming next, I blow “toot, toot, toot-toot-toot” on my whistle. The “event” should start on the next beat.


This is the first signal to teach! Make sure that the whole band is BRILLIANT at this before you go any further! I hold up my hand with a closed fist, blow the whistle (“toot, toot, toot-toot-toot”) and everyone plays the ending. To begin with, the ending is JUST ONE SOUND on the beat following the whistle. So, to teach this from the very,very beginning, I show the hand signal, do the whistle signal, and everyone shouts “Stop”. Stage 2, as before, but everyone CLAPS ONCE without saying “stop”. Stage 3, everyone plays just one sound on their instrument instead of the clap. This follows my general principle of teaching using vocal, then body, then finally instruments.


Hold your hand up with fist closed, or hold your repinique stick up. Once everyone is watching (this should only take a microsecond, in theory), give the whistle signal and everyone starts on the following beat.


The first break I teach is the “4-Count Break”. It needs two signals before you blow the whistle.

“keep going” –  go up to a section, or an individual and draw a small circle with my arm (like whisking an egg with the bowl tilted almost horizontal)

“stop for a count of 4” -go up to a section and hold up four fingers in front of them.

Once you have organised who is to carry on and who is to stop, hold your hand up with 4 fingers extended, and give the whistle signal. Everyone who was given the “carry on” signal should keep going, everyone else should stop. Count four repetitions of the groove (hold your hand up and show the count in fingers) and then bring everyone back after the fourth repetition. Sometimes I find it is helpful to steady the pulse by playing the first (or all) beats on my repinique.

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Chant “Samba, samba, we love to samba” (that’s the groove). Chant it four times. Just four times. Repeat until everyone can count to four and STOP…. Then you can transfer it to instruments.


The break described above works brilliantly with this samba. You can select a whole section, or several sections to carry on, or choose an individual or a group of individuals. The individuals can repeat the groove, or, later on, improvise for the break. You can add interest by having the surdo drums just keep the pulse through the break.


Invent something! A change of rhythm – for example everyone plays “STOP, STOP, STOP” after the whistle signal. Practice it first; say, mime, play.


Invent something! Popular sequences have been the leader (me on my repinque) or surdos play “Samba, samba” and everyone plays “we love to samba”, either all together, or in turn, before launching into the groove.

Or get the band to think of something.

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I signal this break by waving my hand about like a traffic cop instructing traffic to turn left (or right – I’m not consistent!).

After the whistle, we go into “Listen and Copy”, based on the “Don’t clap this-one back” game; I nearly always start with four straight crotchets, and then get more complex. After a number of rhythms (“you did five that time, and you usually only do four”, cried one infuriated child – told you I’m not consistant) I play “don’t play this-one back”, the band shouts “don’t play this-one back”, hopefully NOT playing at the same time, and lurch back into their grooves. When they get good, you can choose a child to lead the break (choosig a ganza player as leader is very challenging for everyone).


Not strictly always call and response; I signal it by making an “L” against my forehead – usually with the wrong hand so it is reversed, but they get the idea. Then I play “Doing the Lambeth walk” and they all go “OY!”, either as a shout, or as a single sound. Sometimes we all play “Doing the Lambeth walk” and shout “OY!”


I hadn’t thought if using this as a break, but it works very well. The leader of the band where I saw this in action uses the signal of making a monkey face and pulling at his ear. You could play a pre-arranged number of repetitions before going back into the groove.

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Kumala Vista

Who stole my chickens and my hens  (sing song, play instruments in rests, or take turns to play instruments in rests going around the circle)

My Hat it Has Three Corners  (replace hat, then three, then corners with instruments. Tricky rhythm when all three words have disappeared. Then do song without any words at all)

Ding Dong (allocate instruments; I tried Ding Dong -agogo, I’ve got a -ganza, rhythm in my head – tamborim and repinique, Hot Dog – surdo – swap them around to keep everyone on their toes!)

Rabbit Run on the Frozen Ground    this can be divided up in many ways.

Grandma, Grandma, sick in bed  – a complete samba lesson!

more to be added….

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Set up a steady vocal counting to 4: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

allocate a number to each section, and see if they can maintain the pulse. It’s probably best to work up to using instruments step-by-step: I ALWAYS go “say, clap, play” except when I forget, and when I do forget I always regret it. I generally arrange the samba groups in a square or horseshoe when I am teaching, so the obvious thing is to number off the groups in order round the room. To increase the challenge, change the order. To increase it further, add rhythms; eg 1,   2 – 2,   3-3-3,  4, while keeping the pulse.Flying birds divider


Set up a steady count  of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Allocate the numbers as follows;

1, 5, 6 Surdos;   7,8 Repiniques;   3 Tamborim   1 2 3, 5 6 7 Ganza;   2 4 6 8 Agogo (this is the hardest one to keep on track – use “ghost strokes” to help them stay on their numbers

The  “4-Count Break” works well with this samba; here are the instructions again;

It needs two signals before you blow the whistle.

“keep going” –  go up to a section, or an individual and draw a small circle with my arm (like whisking an egg with the bowl tilted almost horizontal)

“stop for a count of 4” -go up to a section and hold up four fingers in front of them.

Everyone continues to count in their head, so when you give the signal for everyone to join in again, they should know where beat 1 is, even if you have been rash enough to have just the agogo bells soloing on the even numbers!

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