Surdo Guide

This video guide explains the attributes of different styles of surdos and includes tips on selecting different models and sizes of surdos available from Virada Drums.

Topics include:

  • Sizes
  • Dimensions
  • Hardware
  • Drum Heads
  • Materials
  • Legs

Roles of the surdo

Surdos are often used in groups of three, sometimes referred to as:

  • low/medium/high
  • first/second/third
  • primero/segundo/terceiro
  • marcaçao/resposta/cortador

A set of 18″-20″-22″ is a common set of three surdos for Rio-style and Bahia-style playing. 18″-22″-24″ would be great for louder and deeper sounds. 16″-18″-20″ or 16″-20″-22″ would be good for general use and higher tunings.

Sizes and Dimensions

You should consider both the diameter and depth of a surdo.

Surdos with a depth of 60cm are great when used with legs, but not easy to carry. 50cm deep is great for a deep projecting sound for loud/outdoor use, and is common for surdos in Rio-style samba schools, carried with a shoulder strap. 40-45cm deep surdos are commonly used in Bahia-style rhythms, and are easier to carry, especially with a waist strap.

The diameter of a surdo determines the tuning range. Smaller surdos sound better tuned higher, and larger surdos sound better tuned lower.

16″ is good for third surdo and smaller players
18″ is good for third or second surdo
20″ and 22″ can be used for second and first surdo
24″ is best for first surdo

Deeper surdos have a lower sound than shallower surdos of the same diameter, so a 18″x60cm surdo will have a lower sound than a 18″ x 40-50cm.

Recommendations for Brazilian music styles

Here are my personal recommendations of surdos for different styles of music.

Rio Style samba – Ivsom Aluminum

  • Strong and loud
  • Skin head for traditional sound

Bahia-style samba reggae – Timbra 

  • Shallower depths
  • Napa heads for low booming sounds

Pagode and playing on stage – Gope surdos with legs

  • Sturdy legs for secure playing when standing or sitting
  • Skin head for traditional sound

Versatile all around – Gope aluminum and Artcelsior 

  • Lightweight
  • Wide tuning range

Do you have a question? Need a personal recommendation? Contact Carl and Virada Drums

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