Fernando Suarez Paz    demonstrates tango percussion techniques on the violin


The violin is the principal melody instrument in tango. Its expressive voice is limited only by the technique, imagination and emotional availability of its player.

The violin also contributes much of the conversational percussion in tango. This is because traditionally a typical tango orchestra did not have drums.

Some of these effects include ‘chicharra’  (buzzer, cicada, sandpaper),’ tambor’ (a pizzicato which sounds like a drum), ‘guitarre tambor’ (as before, but using all the fingers in a rippling movement) ‘and the ‘whip’ (a fast or slow glissando ending in a whip sound)

The use of these percussive techniques are sometimes notated by the composer in the score, as in this performance by TangoOz of Piazzolla’s  Melancolico Buenos Aires

At other times, percussion is added at the player’s artisitic discretion to add colour and expression. It must contribute to the musical texture, never obscure the beat and should not be over used

In the later part of the 20th century, percussion  of all kinds would be used by tango groups wanting to experiment and looking for new ways to play tango.

Here is a tango danced to a percussion ensemble in Carlos Saura’s film, Tango