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A Beginner's Guide to Bongos

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Learning to play the bongos is an exciting and fulfilling adventure. These drums might be small in size, but the music you can create with them is anything but tiny. Consisting of two drums joined in the middle, bongos are usually played by hand while being held between the knees. The hembra, or larger drum, is usually held to the right, with the smaller drum, the macho, to the left. Depending on usage though, there are stands available for mounting bongos for use when standing or as part of a larger drum set.

Wood bongos

Choosing Bongos

The most obvious first step in learning to play the bongos is purchasing an appropriate set that is durable, yet affordable. There are several brands of bongos to choose from, each with their own sound and personality, and they can cost between $50 to $450, on average. When purchasing bongos, drummers often get what they pay for; if the drums are going to be played for any quantity of time it is worth the extra will to invest in something better than the base offering. It is hard to say which bongos will be right for the beginning drummer. Considerations such as drum shell and head materials, size and overall quality of the instrument all factor into the original bongo purchase.

Bongo Drum materials

Bongo drums are made all over the world, so the materials used vary greatly. Different materials will change not just the pitch of the bongo; it will also change how the note is sustained as well as timbre. Primarily bongo shells are wood, but are also available in fiberglass or metal, while the heads, normally made from rawhide, are also available in synthetic materials.

Bongo Drum Sizing

The size of a set of bongo drums depends on the drummer's preference. Smaller the heads emit a higher pitch. Larger bongos have a beautiful lower range that small sets can't achieve. However, a small set is recommended for a beginner helping the drummer focus on learning technique before working with a larger array of notes.

Bongo Drum Quality

The quality of the bongos will most likely determine the drummer’s long term happiness. A low-quality bongo set will have a head that is stretched and tacked into place, eliminating the ability to tune the instrument. A high-quality bongo set will have a snugly fitted tuning ring and adjustable steel lugs. Mid-range drums often sport aluminum hardware, which may or may not hold up to repetitive use. Regardless, when selecting bongos in any price range, it is important to make sure the tuning ring does not gap out from the drum shell as this will affect the sound of the drum.

Bongos are the most popular hand drum and come in a variety of materials, sizes and quality ranges. While bongos have been around for hundreds of years, they are still an important sound in music all over the world today. Beginner bongo players are poised at the very beginning of a journey that can bring creative fulfillment and rhythmic joy, leading them into drumming adventures beyond expectation on stage, at a drum circle, or even while sitting on a couch.

View the X8 Drums collection of Bongos for Beginners.

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