Conga drums may be best known for the sound and image presented in 50’s television, or their appearance in various Latin festivals, concerts and performances around the world. However, the congas are some of the most versatile drums on the market today, and can be seen and heard in a wide range of music around the world. The snap and pop of the congas can accentuate even the hardest-hitting rock or metal song, or increase the soothing and peaceful vibe of jazz.
Conga drums come in several varieties today, many based upon the original design that is thought to be a product of Afro-Cuban music. In fact, the word, “conga,” is actually an inaccurate term to describe these drums, as they were originally named “tumbadora” drums across Cuba, perhaps as a result of rumba, a series of rhythms and songs that originated in Cuba. Today, however, conga drums are simply known as congas, even when describing the various sizes available on the market.
Types of Congas:
Supertumba drums are the largest in the conga family, providing a deep bass tone and measuring up to 14 inches across the drum head.
- Tumba drums are smaller, with a slightly less resonant sound that may be preferred by more conga players. These measure 12 to 12.5 inches across and are usually included in a typical set of congas.
- Conga drums measure 11.5 to 12 inches across, and may be the hallmark sound of a set of congas. When only one conga drum is seen or heard in a performance or recording, the conga is usually the drum standing.
- Quinto drums typically wrap up the usual set of three conga drums. Measuring around 11 inches across, these drums add higher, accent tones to the rhythm.
- Requinto drums measure less than 10 inches across, providing a higher pop to the rhythm than the Quinto.
- Ricardo drums are the smallest of the congas, measuring 9 inches across, and can be seen strapped to the shoulder of the conga player. With a sound much like bongos, these drums have the highest pitch of all the congas.
Whether searching for a new sound to add to a current drum set, or trying out hand drumming for the first time, a set of congas can give a drummer a variety of sounds to play with, as well as a deep connection with the history and culture of Latin drumming and percussion.