Features all-natural tunable animal hide for the heads with a tuning key. Have rounded edges which help children stay safe while playing and allow you to hold them in any comfortable position.
Heads may need to be replaced frequently.
Features a lightweight wooden shell with a fingerprint and scratch-resistant gloss finish for continuous use that keeps its aesthetic appeal. Has built-in natural skin heads for the perfect sound and feel.
Chrome has a tendency to tarnish.
Made with a solid wood exterior with multiple color options. Compact sizes measure at 6 and 7 inches for the perfect tone and portability no matter where you use it. Great for beginners and novices.
Use caution while tuning. Heads can’t handle excessive tension.
High-quality, heavy-duty heads are built for excessive and repeated use from a child playing on them. Good set for learning how to play and practicing. Built to be accessible for beginners.
Low volume output.
FSC-certified wood built with natural skin with a glossy finish to protect your hands. Tuning wrench keeps them sounding good. Black powder hardware keeps the instrument sturdy. Great for hobbyists on camping trips.
Sounds dull when played incorrectly.
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Drums are the building blocks of the musical world. They lay the rhythmic foundation for the other instruments, and that makes drums a crucial element of any band. But for all their energy and percussive power, there are certainly drawbacks. Drum kits are big, heavy, and difficult to transport, but they’re not your only option. Bongo drums are smaller and more portable, and they have a unique tone and charm of their own.
Bongos are usually packaged in two-drum units, with different sizes to vary the pitch. The smaller drum is called the macho (male), while the larger drum is called the hembra (female). Each open-ended drum consists of a wood or resin shell, natural animal-hide head, and steel hardware to connect the pieces. Popularized in Cuba, bongos add distinctive rhythmic patterns to Latin American music and offer a stellar platform for solo mixed percussion and percussion ensemble works.
Bongo drums are great for expert percussionists looking to add a new element to their sound, but they’re also a fantastic way to introduce rhythm to young children.
The size and weight of your instrument affect how well you can handle it. While bongo drums are relatively petite compared to other types of drums, bongos should feel comfortable resting on your legs.
Diameter: Common bongo drumhead sizes are between five and eight inches. There is usually one inch difference in the diameter of the two drums that make up a set.
Weight: As far as weight goes, beginner, toy, and kid’s models can weigh as little as 1.5 pounds, but bongos made of strong metal and dense wood can weigh up to 8.0 pounds.
Shells: The bongo drum shells are typically crafted from some type of wood. Some manufacturers prefer hickory or birch, but you’ll find Siam oak (not really oak but Hevea brasiliensis, or Pará rubber tree) on higher-end models, used for its increased density, durability, and fullness of sound. You can find acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) resin and metal bongo drums, but they’re less common.
Heads: Tradition dictates that bongo drums should be made of natural materials, and that’s why the classic bongo drumhead is made of animal hide, such as buffalo. This is still the preferred material for its historical accuracy and richness of tone, but there are synthetic alternatives that offer impressive results.
Tuning hardware: Many bongo drums arrive as-is, and don’t offer any way to tune them. Some do, though, and this comes in handy if the drumhead stretches over time or you want to switch up the sound profile. To do this you need a tuning wrench, which connects to various lugs or screws to tighten or loosen the head.
Carrying case: Bongo drum shells are relatively durable, but they can scratch if mishandled. Worse, the drumsheads can be punctured relatively easily, which makes a carrying case a great investment. These not only make your instrument easier to carry but also protect it from the damage that inevitably occurs when musicians go on the road. Hard, soft, and padded cases are available, but cheaper bongo drums usually don’t include one.
Straps: Shoulder or waist straps almost never come with bongo drums, but they can be a useful accessory you can find separately. If you want to play bongos on the move at a festival, parade, or other event, a device that helps you hold the drums is worth its weight in gold. These straps generally cost between $20 and $40.
Most bongo drums cost between $25 and $65, but like any instrument, there are outliers, such as rare, custom-made, or heritage drums. While you can find bongos that costs hundreds of dollars, most fit within the following categories.
Inexpensive: For about $25, you can find a bongo drum set with thin animal skin or synthetic heads, wood or resin shells, and metal hardware. These options are generally going to sound thinner and quieter than more expensive variants, and they are geared toward new players and kids. However, in the right hands, they can be capable of producing loud sounds for ensemble performances.
Mid-range: Double the price to $50 and you’ll be rewarded with a significant increase in quality. The animal-hide heads and wooden shells are more durable and project richer sounds. You can tune bongos at this price, and tools are included. Carrying cases are common at this price as well.
Expensive: Spend $65 and up and you can expect premium materials like Siam oak, high-end animal hide, and powder-coated metal hardware. These durable bongos include a padded case and other features.
Q. What is the best way to tune bongo drums? What equipment do I need?A. Tuning bongo drums is a relatively simple process. You need a tuning wrench or ratchet, but one often comes with the set. The goal is to make sure the head stretches smoothly and uniformly, and you do this by gradually tightening lugs or screws around the head. Turn them in equal amounts until the desired tone is achieved, remembering that the smaller drum (macho) should have a higher pitch than the larger drum (hembra). A good rule of thumb is the two drums should be an octave apart, which you can test with a tuner.
Q. How do I properly clean and store bongo drums?
A. The most fragile parts of the bongo drums are the heads, because they’re commonly made from natural animal skin. Keep them out of direct sunlight to prevent degradation, and apply drum oil occasionally to keep them from drying out. Otherwise, your hands (and the air) will absorb all of the drumheads’ moisture, which could lead to flaking or cracking. Also, consider using a humidifier to preserve the wood parts of your drum.
Q. Can I replace bongo drumheads if they break?
A. You can obtain replacements from the manufacturer or possibly from a music shop, but the head would need to be professionally stretched, treated, and tuned several times. Given the relatively low cost of these products, it might be cheaper and less complicated to get a new bongo drum set.
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