Monday, 15 February 2016

"Do It Yourself" chocalho.

Last February 12th I played in a concert that, to commemorate its 30th anniversary, "Celtas Cortos" (a very popular band in Spain) gave together with the Asturias Symphony Orchestra.

"El Emigrante" ("The Immigrant") is a song including a batucada and, on it, the chocalho (together with surdos and agogo bells) provides the popular samba flavour. This instrument consists of a frame which holds several jingles ("platinelas"), and it´s played shaking it back and forth.

© izzomusical

© totperlaire

CC Wikipedia

The chocalho sounds like this:

As I was assigned this instrument and neither the orchestra nor me had a chocalho, I decide to build one myself. For this I used a squared section wooden strip measuring 18x18mm (I chose those measures because they felt just right in my hand) which I cut to a length which, again, allowed me to hold it confortably and could house enough jingles. 

© David Valdés

Two more small fragments were also cut.

© David Valdés

I rounded the edges with sand paper in order to get a nice feel. In the following photo you can see one fragment sanded and the other one still raw.

© David Valdés

In this photo all strips are sanded.

© David Valdés

Then, I used these plates and screws...

© David Valdés fix the small sections to the large one as handles.

© David Valdés

Once the frame was done, next step was adding the jingles. For this I used bottle caps (being from beer bottles is pure coincidence, I promess... You can get them at your local pub or you can stockpile them as you drink... ;-). Bare in mind my chocalho features 66 of them, so you are gonna have serious fun should you take the DIY philosophy to the bitter end... :-).

 In order to make them sound more lively, I peeled off the plastic at the back.

© David Valdés

Using a hammer they got what they deserved...

© David Valdés

After working on a few of them, I realised it was much easier to hammer them first and then peel the plastic off, so I inverted the order in my "assembly line". Be very careful: my fingers got some hammer blows and cuts.

© David Valdés

I made a hole in the centre (more or less...) using a nail and a hammer (love these subtle procedures!), and then enlarged it using a hand drill.

© David Valdés

Then I made bunches of jingles inserting groups of six (why not five or seven? who knows...) into nails.

© David Valdés

Each bunch was hammered onto the frame with a 7.5cm separation from their colleagues.

© David Valdés

And... Voilà! The chocalho was ready.

© David Valdés

If you are observant (and I bet you are), you can see bunches follow an alternating pattern: they never face with the one on the opposite side. I took this idea from the jingle arrangement on Grover tambourines.

So, this is how my home-made brazilian stravaganza sounds like:

To be honest, despite being made using very cheap and recicled materials, it sounds quite good and produces a more than decent volume. Now you only have to get the DVD to hear it in context.

Have you ever built an instrument using simple, common materials? Tell me, give me ideas, as I´m in the mood for this kind of projects.

…et in Arcadia ego.
© David Valdés


  1. Genial David!
    Muy instructivo e interesante.
    Sigue así!

    1. Muchas gracias por los ánimos y por leer el blog. Un saludo.