There are two important distinctions between a pandeiro and the common tambourine. The tension of the head on the pandeiro can be tuned, allowing the player a choice of high and low notes. Also, the metal jingles (called platinelas in Portuguese) are cupped, creating a crisper, drier and less sustained tone on the pandeiro than on the tambourine. This provides clarity when swift, complex rhythms are played.
It is held in one hand, and struck on the head by the other hand to produce the sound. Typical pandeiro patterns are played by alternating the thumb, fingertips, heel, and palm of the hand.
A pandeiro can also be shaken to make sound, or one can run a finger along the head to create a "rasp" noise. The pandeiro is used in a number of Brazilian music forms, such as Samba, Choro,Coco, and Capoeira music. The Brazilian pandeiro derives from the pandeireta or pandereta of Spain and Portugal.