One of the first hand drums people play are the bongos. From an early age, this set of drums is a staple in schools and music programs for children, yet, the sound potential in these drums is in all genres of music. Originally considered a Latin instrument, the bongos may bring to mind the image of a Bongocero, a 60s Beatnik or even a celebrity or two who have been spotted drumming away. No matter your own style of bongo playing, there are some basic strokes to help get you started and keep the rhythm going in any drum circle, performance or just when playing around with the drums.
Slap tone: with fingers slightly cupped, strike the fingertips on the center of the drum and then quickly release them. This snapping motion helps create the crisp “pop” of the slap tone that is so unique to bongos.
Open tone: keeping the fingers flat, strike the upper palm on the center of the drum, creating a clear, crisp sound with the same snapping motion as the slap tone. Wrist snapping can also produce a similar sound to both the open tone and slap tone.
Heel-tip: rest the hand on the head of the drum and rock it back and forth from the heel to the fingertips.
Muted: much like the heel-tip motion, the bongo player keeps his or her hand on the drum while only playing with the fingertips. The bongos can also be muted while playing slap and open tones by using the other hand on the drum to mute the sound.
No matter your level of bongos experience or desire to master the bongos, playing these drums is fun. From the stage to the drum circle and anywhere in between, grab a pair of bongos and let them guide your own unique rhythm.