The conga is sanded by hand while it spins on the lathe. Once the drum is finely sanded it is ready for the next step, the formation of the bearing edge. The bearing edge is the most important part of a drum, because this is where the drumhead is positioned. If this detail is not properly shaped and prepared, the drum will not provide ideal sound.
Latin Percussion has developed the optimum bearing edge design, one that is strong enough to take the extreme force of the head tension and yet smooth enough for the head to ride easily. If you were to remove the head from any LP brand conga, and rub your fingers along the bearing edge, it would be very smooth to the touch. The extra attention given to this part of the drum's manufacturing process enhances the overall sound quality, and also helps prevent the head from becoming frayed or torn. The interior area of LP brand congas is treated with a two-part clear urethane coating to reduce moisture absorption. Other manufactures often paint the inside of their drums to conceal a lower quality of wood.
The LP Galaxy Giovanni Series Congas are treated with a special formula stain, which is rubbed in by hand to highlight the beautiful grain. All LP brand congas are finished with multiple coats of a two-part urethane process, and are hand sanded between coats to produce a top quality furniture finish.
THE HARDWARE...THE LATIN PERCUSSION CONGAS
The conga is now ready to be fitted with hardware. All LP brand congas are fitted with tuning lugs manufactured from specially heat-treated, high-carbon steel that feature precision cut threads for smooth tuning, strength and durability.
LP's and LP Aspire's heart shaped side-plates and LP Matador's horn shaped side-plates are trademarked and world recognizable. Due to the enormous amount of the stress that is required to tune a conga head, the design of the side-plate is crucial. During the tuning process there is enormous tension pulling on the upper part of the side-plate. Because of this, LP brand side-plates are wider at the top to distribute the tension from the head and rim over a larger surface area. This provides for additional durability.
Latin Percussion congas have full interior backing plates to reinforce the side-plates (some manufactures tend to use only screws and washers). The backing plates securely attach the side-plates to the drum, distributing the tension over a larger area. LP brand congas are the only congas on the market today that reinforce the interior section of the drum at the point where the hardware is attached, with a layer of fiberglass. This added step provides additional reinforcement and prevents the conga from cracking or splitting.
Due to requests from percussionists throughout the world, Latin Percussion developed a rim that is more comfortable to play. With the help of advanced CAD technology, LP created the finest rim available in the world. Tested and approved by top players, the patented LP Comfort Curve II Rim features a broad top edge with a gentle, large radius curve. The high-strength steel and inert gas-welded construction makes it the strongest rim manufactured. For those percussionists who still prefer the traditional rim they are also available. The LP Matador and LP Aspire brands have also incorporated this design into their rims. LP Matador brand congas use the LP Matador Soft Strike Rim. LP Aspire brand congas use the LP EZ Curve Rim. Both rims are great values.
SUMMARY...WHY BUY A LATIN PERCUSSION BRAND CONGA?
LP brand congas are constructed from the ground up with years of total commitment to authenticity. Innovative design, excellent research and development, the finest raw materials and skilled manufacturing processes are key elements in producing all LP brand congas. The knowledge gained from the 35 years of manufacturing experience is apparent in the unequalled quality of every LP conga, reinforcing the fact that LP is the "Percussion Leader for 40 Years."
In this first part we'll take a look at the type of wood used and creation of the conga. Part two will go into detail regarding the LP finish and the type of hardware. Lastly, we'll follow up with a brief summary. So lets start from the beginning and go through the production process.
The Beginning...The Wood
Several types of wood are used in making the different models of wood congas. Whatever type of wood that is used, the most important characteristics are sound quality, strength and durability.
Latin Percussion congas are made from plantation grown wood. By using renewable resources LP protects the world's forests. This helps insure adequate wood supply to produce congas for generations to come. The wood is sorted and graded; only top quality wood is used. LP brand congas must not only look good but also stand up to diverse climates and vigorous playing conditions.
The wood used in LP brand congas is kiln (oven) dried. Why is that important? Using kiln-dried wood allows LP to control the wood's moisture content level during the manufacturing process. Wood, even after it is harvested, expands and contracts. The wood used to manufacture all fine wood instruments, including congas, must have just the right moisture content level to help prevent the instrument from cracking and breaking. LP congas are played by the world's most demanding players in all seasons and climates, in every region of the world, using kiln dried wood helps the conga stand up to many different environmental and playing conditions.
The Creation...Conga In The Raw
The width of the stave is important. Latin Percussion congas use more staves compared to other manufacturers. Using more staves does add cost to the process but the benefits are great; because the stress on each stave is reduced, creating a stronger and durable drum. The staves are glued together using several layers of thin wood, called plies. (LP and LP Matador brand congas use three ply and LP Aspire brand use two-ply). The reason for this is it reduces the stress on each piece of wood making the drum stronger and more durable. If one was to use one thick piece of wood, and bend it to shape, it would likely break or crack. Congas are curved by design, so the wood must have the ability to be shaped without breaking or cracking.
By using plies and layering them with specially formulated glue, LP Music Group creates a strong and durable foundation. After years of research, LP has developed special glue for each type of wood. The glue is applied to the plies in a sandwich manner. It is then placed on a form in the shape of a conga, and a specially designed press applies tons of pressure, bending the staves. An ultrasonic tool is also used to help cure the glue.
Each stave is then finished with a precision compound miter edge. This guarantees that the staves will nest together snugly during the construction process. Holes are then punched on each side of the staves and steel pins are in-serted into the holes. Steels pins do two things: (1) they make the assembly of the drum easier, and (2) they add strength to the conga, eliminating the need for exterior bands and ensuring durability of the shell.
Other manufacturers use exterior metal bands rather than steel pins to strengthen their congas. A wood conga is constantly expanding and contracting, and when the wood expands it puts pressure on the metal band, and enlarges it. When the wood later contracts, the metal band becomes loose. Keep in mind you won't see a loose band, but you certainly will hear it rattle when the drum is played!
Once the staves have been cut, a skilled craftsman sorts them, carefully matching the curve of the drum. The staves are then numbered and positioned for production. Glue is applied to the sides of the staves, and the conga is assembled by hand, stave by stave.
With the glue moist, and the staves nested together, the drum is ready for another custom press. This press applies temporary gluing rings in three different positions on the conga. The rings secure the staves in place until the glue is cured.
Once the gluing rings are removed, the drum is placed on a custom lathe (a machine that holds and spins the drum). While the drum is spinning, an automatic tracing tool re-fines the shape, cutting off the excess glue and wood edges, preparing the conga for the finishing processes.
Up Next: Part II (The LP Finish & Hardware)
X8 Drums has an ongoing production of free djembe lessons and instructional videos as a complimentary resource for all hand percussionists.
Videos include a rope tuning demonstration, djembe rhythm samples, djembe playing techniques and our special X8 drum circle.
Bookmark this page now. Videos and audio are added on a regular basis.
Let us know if there are any specific djembe videos you'd like to see as part of the djembe video instruction guide. The segment topics above are based on customer requests, so we're definitely listening!
Lesson 1: How to Tune a Djembe
Lesson 2: How to Play Djembe
Lesson 3: Drum Circle Music, Play Along
Lesson 4: Foundation Drum Circle Rhythm
Lesson 5: Lead Line for Drum Circle
Lesson 6: Traditional African Rhythms on Djembe
Lesson 7: Djembe Head Replacement Instructions
Lesson 8: How to Start a Drum Circle
Now Available: Djembe DVD, Instruction & Rhythms for All Levels
Here are just a few features that set Toca Congas apart from other brands and create the "Toca Difference" and unmistakable Toca look and sound.
Toca conga heads are 1st quality bison skins that are graded and sorted by thickness for each particular size drum. This grading process ensures the best tonal response from each different sized drum. All Toca heads are tucked rather than sewn to prevent "pull out" and are mounted wet, to assure the best contact (or seat) between the bearing edge and the head.
Toca offers two very different types of hoops for our professional series congas. Toca hoops are composed of thick metal allowing more rigidity to the hoop and even tension at all points.
- Toca's Traditional-Style Hoop is found on the 3900 Traditional Series drums and features lightweight construction to "free up" sound. This Traditional hoop holds the head close to the shell and gives the drum a more authentic Cuban sound.
- Toca's Exclusive "Easy Play" Hoop was designed with a very low collar to keep the hoop away from possibly injuring the player's hand. Toca's Easy Play hoop also stretches the conga head over the bearing edge of the drum to increase the resonance and tone. These hoops are constructed from top grade, 3 mm thick steel then plated to a high gloss finish.
- Toca's Player's Easy Play Style Hoop performs much like our professional model by giving added protection to the player and is 2.6mm thick to give that added strength.
All Toca wooden shells are constructed from slats of Asian Oak hardwood. Two wood slats are glued together to form a very strong stave. The wood staves are then formed into a shell that can hold its shape indefinitely. The double-ply shell construction combined with the process of finishing the inside of the shell help to make the drums light in weight and very resistant to changing weather conditions.
Toca Shell Shape:
The shape of the drum bowl determines the tonal characteristics of a particular style or brand of drum. Toca uses two different bowl shapes, the "Traditional Afro-Cuban" shape and the "Contemporary Afro-Cuban" style bowl.
- Traditional Afro-Cuban bowl shape has a very sharp taper at the bottom of the shell. This creates a strong bass tone in the drum, which is the "Afro-Cuban" sound that many Latin players prefer.
- Contemporary Afro-Cuban bowl shape has a larger belly and less taper than its Afro-Cuban counterpart with a much bigger hole at the bottom of the drum. This shape produces more volume with less effort. The Contemporary bowl shape (more volume with less effort) coupled with the easy play hoop (more resonance) makes this drum ideal for most live playing situations where extra volume is needed.
The tuning hardware, coupled with the hoop, is what holds the head on the drum and keeps it in tune.
- The Tension Plate is at the heart of this process and takes the brunt of the abuse in keeping the drum in tune. Because of the enormous amount of pressure placed on the drum bowl during tuning and playing, Toca has designed all of their drums with an exclusive 4-bolt tension plate. This helps spread the tension over the entire shell making the tuning more stable and preventing tension plate "pull-out" or "cave in" that occurs on some drums as a result of the constant pressure.
- The Tension rods, which connect the hoop to the Tension plate, are made of hardened steel to prevent bending when the drums are tuned to a high pitch. The rods are held away from the shell with a special cup washer that not only aids in the ease of tuning, but also helps prevent the wrench from damaging the tension plate and the shell.
There's a new djembe in town and it rocks! Back in November of 2006 Tycoon Percussion partnered up with Dancing Drum, a company based in Santa Barbara that specializes in the drum circle and educational market. They expressed to Tycoon the need for a high-quality but affordable djembe and so together they embarked on creating one, hence the name: "Tycoon Percussion - Dancing Drum Signature Series".
These drums are just absolutely amazing both sound-wise and through their appearance; I can say without any reservations that these djembes sound great! You can view some video clips of the drums being played right here.
They created a huge buzz at the NAMM show back in January, and were used in the annual Remo drum circle! As a testament to their quality, Remo's drum circle coordinator himself put these drums in the very front row.
Made from sustain-ably harvested Siam Oak hardwood, the Dancing Drum Signature Series Djembes are designed from the inside out, with sharp, defined contours, to produce tones that have a deep bass, rich mid-tones, and crisp highs. They're the very first djembes that are made from staved Siam Oak as opposed to being carved from a solid piece of mahogany or hardwood. Not only does this make the drums much more environmentally friendly, they make them sound great as well. The skins are pre-selected hand-shaved natural goatskin so every kind of material used in the production of this drum is absolutely top-notch. That is what separates them from other drums on the market.
Available in three sizes, the Dancing Drum Signature Series Djembes offer an exceptional combination of professional quality, value, and sound.