How to make a Berimbau: Part 3 – Making the Arame

OK, so presuming that you’ve already finished part 1 and part 2 of the process, you should have your shiny new biriba and cabaça.

The hard work is nearly over – but not quite… You still need to make the arame (the metal cord).

Sourcing the Arame

Traditional stringed instruments such as the berimbau used to be strung with chords made from the intestines of animals. No need to worry though, you’re not going to have to eviscerate the family pet!

For many generations now, the traditional cord of choice for the berimbau has been wire taken from the inside of a car tyre. No disembowling required.

Aside from keeping berimbau suitable for vegetarians, old car tyres also have the benefit of being free and easily available. Just go to your local tyre fitters and ask them for one.

The downside is that it’s one hell of a job to get it out, so get ready!

Equipment

To make the arame, you will need:

  • One old car tyre
  • A big, sharp, durable knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Some leather
  • 2 small nails
  • A hammer

Removing the Arame from the Tyre

Using the big sharp knife, cut into the rim of the tyre at an angle, until you find a coil of wire below. Once you get down to the wire, follow it around with the knife, cutting off all the rubber from the rim that covers it. As you do this, keep an eye out for the end of the wire (When you spot it, it’s a good idea to mark it so you can find it again easily).

Once you’ve exposed the coil all the way around, find the end, dig your knife under it, and start to cut along the underside to separate it from the tyre. Once you’ve freed around 5-6 inches, you should be able to grab hold of it, and continue to pull the coil away from the tyre using your hands fairly easily.

The coil will loop, which is fine, but try to avoid any tight angled kinks, as these will weaken the arame and make it prone to breaking.

Usually the coil is made up of several wires stuck together. To separate them, just cut between the ends with a knife. Once you’ve separated the first few inches, you should just be able to pull them apart.

Hard work? Well it’s not over yet! There are usually several of these coils in 1 tyre. Cut deeper into the sidewall of the tyre and usually you’ll find another. Repeat the process, then cut in again and so on until the knife cuts deep into the sidewall and you’re sure there’s no more wire left. Now you can flip the tyre over and repeat the whole process on the other side, by which point you are probably wishing you were disembowling rover.

Removing Arame from Tyre for Berimbau

Cleaning the Arames

You now have your arames, but they are coated in rubber.

Stand on one end of the arame, and pull it taut with one hand, while scraping/cutting along the edge with your sharp knife to remove as much of this rubber as you can.

You should be able to get off nearly all of the rubber, but the arame will still have black residues left on it. Use the sandpaper to remove what’s left, and leave you with a nice shiny new arame.

Cheater’s Version

If you can’t find an old car tyre (or don’t have the time and patience), you can also use 1mm piano wire for your arame. You can buy coils of piano wire from most hardware stores very cheaply. There’s no preparation necessary, easy peasy!

Making the Loops

If you’re a Capoeira Mestre, you’ll have fingers made of steel and will be able to tie these loops in the end of the arame like they were ribbon. If you are a mere mortal, expect some pain and swearing!

Make a loop in the end of the wire, and hold it in one hand. Take hold of the other side of the “X” in the other hand, and twist your hands in opposite directions so that the end of the wire begins to wrap around the length of the wire (see photos).

Continue this twisting motion until you have several coils around the wire. To remove spare at the end, bend it backwards and forwards repeatedly until you feel it weaken. Then snap it off, bending it in the direction of the coils so that there is no sharp end sticking out.

Measure the arame against your berimbau so you know how long it needs to be, then repeat the process at the other end (remember to account for the wire in the loop when you measure).

Make sure you make the loop the right way, so when you snap the “loose end” (the rest of the coil), you’re left with an arame with a loop at each end, not a short 1 ended arame!

Keep repeating this process until you’ve used up all the wire from the tyre. If you’re lucky you can get over 20 arames from a typical tyre.

Making Arame for Berimbau

Fazendo Arame Pelo Berimbau

 

Arm Your Beribau!

Excellent work, your berimbau is now finished and ready to play.

Take care not to force the berimabu too much in the first few months, it will generally become more supple as time goes on.

If the beriba is particularly stiff in the beginning and very difficult to arm, leaving it armed for 24 hours at a time after playing can help break it in a little.

Not sure how to play? Check out our various guides to different toques here!

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