Updated August 23, 2022
Bongo drums are deceptively simple percussion instruments that are indispensable when trying to create an Afro-Cuban rhythm.
Although many people refer to them as "kids' drums" — and they actually make a great introduction to drumming for kids — a set of bongos can be a serious piece of equipment for someone who knows what they're doing.
Read on to learn more about bongo drums and why you should get a set. We'll also give you our recommendations for five of the best, relatively affordable bongo drum sets you can buy today, and go over the key points to consider when choosing the right bongo drum set.
Product Quick Links
- Eastar bongo drums 6" and 7"
- RockJam 7" and 8" Bongo Drum Set
- Musicube Bongo Drum Set 6" and 7"
- Meinl bongos with durable plastic bowls
- Handmade bongo drums by Pyle
What are bongo drums?
Bongo drums originated in Cuba, based on ideas and practices brought to the region by West Africans who were transported as slaves.
Although they produce a sound similar to many other hand drums, bongos are always two snare drums joined together. One is slightly larger than the other, allowing the drummer to use the two drums to create variations in rhythm and hit or clap the surface. The smaller drum, the macho, is traditionally between 15 and 20 cm in size, while the larger drum, the hembra, is between 15 and 25 cm in diameter.
Bongos are ideal for Afro-Cuban music, which does not rely on rhythm like most European music, but on offbeat and syncopation.
Bongos are traditionally made from wood and animal skins, but today there are bongos made from plastic, fiberglass, and other modern materials that sound just as good, if less traditional.
Bongos should be played with the fingers and palms, usually in an eighth note repeating pattern.
Bongos are related to cajons, i.eHere you can read our article about cajons.
The 5 Best Bongo Drum Sets
While professional bongo players may want to pay more for high-end instruments, we're looking for bongos for beginners or other percussionists interested in bongos. So all of our options are under $100 but promise to produce authentic sounds that will make you fall in love with bongos.
These Easter bongo drums are a traditional 15cm and 17cm pair made of wood with authentic natural leather heads that produce a clear, bright sound. The wood has a smooth, polished finish that feels great in your hands and protects you from scratches and dirt.
The drums come in four colors including natural, black, red, and vintage. The kit comes with an adjustment key and a protective bag.
RockJam makes a very portable bongo set that is slightly larger than usual with a 7" drum and an 8" drum. The drums are made of natural wood with a glossy finish and genuine leather heads. Everything is held in place with durable chrome hardware.
Choose from natural or red stripes and come with a padded carry case and tuning key to help you care for your instrument.
This bongo set from Musicube will appeal to the environmentally conscious. The wood used for the instruments is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which guarantees that the wood has been grown and cut in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
The kit consists of a 15 x 17 cm natural leather drum and comes with a tuning key for maintenance. With the purchase of this bongo set you get a one year warranty.
This Meinl bongo set is a pair of 6 and 7 inch bongos made from a buffalo skin head. They're mounted on plastic shells that come in seven high-gloss finishes, including black, sunburst, clear, and vintage wine barrel.
Everything is held in place with 8mm chrome plated steel lugs, so strong the instrument comes with a two year warranty.
These handcrafted bongo drums from Pyle are made from birch wood and real animal skin. They are 6.5 inches and 7.5 inches respectively. It features pivoting, chrome-plated tuning heads that are easy to adjust.
These bongos have a solid frame, which is ideal if you prefer playing on a stable surface rather than your lap.
Bongo Buying Guide
Unless you're a professional bongo player, they might look more or less the same to you. So how do you know which set to buy? Consider the following features.
Bongo drums come in a variety of sizes, with the smaller drum, the macho, traditionally being between 6 and 8 inches in diameter, while the larger drum, the hembra, is between 7 and 10 inches in diameter.
Smaller drums have a brighter, brighter sound, while larger drums have a slightly deeper sound. The right size for you depends on personal preference, but the most popular are 6" and 7" drum sets, also because their small size makes them easy to carry.
Traditional bongo drums consist of a wooden frame and animal skins, usually oak with rawhide. The type of wood and leather affects the sound of the drums, and it's a good idea to favor hardwoods like oak and mahogany.
There are also bongos made from synthetic materials like fiberglass and plastic, which often produce a beautiful sound. In general, natural heads produce a warmer sound but are more difficult to keep in tune. Synthetic heads are easier to care for, but tend to have a quieter sound. Whether you prefer a traditional or a modern look is up to you.
Modern bongo drum sets feature a ring that holds the striking face in place. This ring features nuts that you can tighten to adjust the sound of the drum. Leather made from natural animal skins often requires regular care as they can be exposed to the effects of the weather.
A tuning key is included with most bongo sets for this purpose. It is important to gradually tighten each nut in a circular motion rather than tightening one side and then the other or the tone will be uneven.
If you find rimless bongos, they are likely designed for children and cannot be adjusted unless they are traditional handcrafted instruments.
Bongos will have additional functions in addition to the functions essential for music production. For example, many options are equipped with a padded carry bag for safe transport. Some also feature non-slip feet that allow you to play the bongos on a flat surface if you prefer playing on your lap. These properties are of course secondary.
Do you want to learn drums at home?You can find our online courses here.
What should the bongos be tuned to?
Macho and Hembra should be tuned an octave apart. Macho should be tuned to a note between B and D, or about two octaves above middle C. Hembra should be tuned to an A octave or two octaves above middle C.
Do you have to detune the bongos?
You should regularly unplug the bongos and let them rest. Because wooden frames or fiberglass frames can crack if they are subjected to too much pressure.
Who is a famous bongo player?
Many famous musicians loved bongos. Performers include Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Tony Curtis, Betty Grable, Xavier Cugat, and Eddie Fisher, who is also credited with introducing bongos to American jazz music. Bongo players are called bongoceros.
How do you build bongo drums?
Although there are no strict rules, traditionally the hembra, the larger of the two drums, is placed on the player's dominant side.
The bongo drum set is a great instrument if you like Afro-Cuban drumming, want to learn hand drumming, or are looking for an affordable percussion set for kids.
Finding the right bongo set isn't difficult as long as you choose something made from the right materials. It can be either traditional wood and animal skin or something synthetic like fiberglass. Both can produce an authentic and appealing sound when made properly and knowing how to play them.
Do you like playing bongos? Do you have any tips for playing or buying? Share them with the community in the comments section below.
Typical bongo drum head sizes are 6"x 7" and 7"x 8" in order to obtain the classic sound made by the bongos. Bongos are used in the following types of music: salsa, merengue, Latin Jazz, mambo, reggae, rumba, electronic music, rap, funk, soul, guaracha, timba, and rock.What size bongos should I get? ›
Typical bongo drum head sizes are 6"x 7" and 7"x 8" in order to obtain the classic sound made by the bongos. Bongos are used in the following types of music: salsa, merengue, Latin Jazz, mambo, reggae, rumba, electronic music, rap, funk, soul, guaracha, timba, and rock.What is the best wood for bongos? ›
The most common shell material you'll find with beginner and mid-range bongos is Siam Oak. It's a hardwood that keeps the bongos quite secure in their construction. It's also a very durable material. Higher-priced bongos may be made from something a bit rarer such as Ash Wood.What size are professional bongos? ›
Construction. Bongo drums are about 20 centimetres (8 in) high and have diameters of approximately 20 centimetres (8 in) and 25 centimetres (10 in). The shells of the drums and the bridge (the small block that joins them) are usually made of wood, although fiberglass is also common.What drums sound the best? ›
- DW Collector's Series Purpleheart Lacquer 7-piece. ...
- Roland V-Drums TD-50KV2 Electronic Drum Set. ...
- Yamaha Recording Custom 4-piece Shell Pack. ...
- Ludwig Vistalite John Bonham Zep Set. ...
- Tama SLP Dynamic Kapur 5-piece Shell Pack. ...
- Gretsch Drums Catalina Maple CM1-E826P.
Pearl is the best-selling drum manufacturer of all time – and for good reason! They sell more drums than anyone else all around the world because they produce fantastic quality drums at great prices. Pearl is headquartered in Japan, and the company was established in 1946.
A professional-level set of bongos can be found anywhere from $200 to $500. The price range completely depends on the degree of customization. Toca, for example, makes several bongo drum series that are custom to famous percussionists. The more custom your bongos, the higher the price.Is it hard to play bongo drums? ›
The bongo drums are an instrument that originated in West Africa, but it became popular across the world, especially in Latin music. They are not only fun instruments, but they are also relatively easy to play.What pitches for bongos? ›
PITCH AND REGISTER OF THE BONGO
Generally speaking, the Hembra can be tuned somewhere between the C below Middle C and the F below middle C. While the macho is often tuned between the D above middle C and the C above middle C.
The djembe (pronounced 'jem-beh') is one of West Africa's best-known instruments, one of the most versatile and widespread percussion instruments on the planet. This goblet-shaped drum is traditionally carved from a single piece of African hardwood and topped with an animal skin as a drumhead.
Amazon.in: ₹2,000 - ₹50,000 - Bongos / Hand Drums: Musical Instruments.What are bigger bongos called? ›
THE ORIGIN OF THE BONGOS
The larger of the two drums, referred to as the “hembra,” is typically between 8-10'' in diameter, while the smaller drum, the “macho” is generally 6-8” in diameter.
The larger drum is called a hembra (Spanish for female) and the smaller drum is called the macho (Spanish for male).Do you have to detune bongos? ›
Even bongos with synthetic heads need to be detuned, as the wood could crack over time from too much pressure. Take good care of your bongos and they are sure to take good care of you. With proper care and tuning, your bongos will provide you with years of playing pleasure.Do expensive drums sound better? ›
Some drums are costlier because they project better sound than the cheaper options. Expensive drum sets are fitted with better quality hardware, so they can produce better, cleaner, and louder sounds even when you don't strike them too hard.What is the hardest drum style to play? ›
The hardest style of drumming to learn is jazz, followed closely by metal and latin. This is because jazz has one of the biggest ranges of material to learn to be a proficient drummer in an ensemble.Who is the king of the drums? ›
Sandy Nelson - King of the Drums: His Greatest Hits.What is the most recorded drum kit? ›
The Yamaha Recording Custom is simply one of the most sought-after and widely used recording studio kits in the world. The latest version of it was designed with the help of legendary studio drummer, Steve Gadd.What is the biggest drum store in the US? ›
The largest drums only store in the World.
Drum Center of Portsmouth is THE drummer's destination for the ultimate drum buying experience. Located on the beautiful New Hampshire Seacoast, we feature the finest selection of drums, cymbals, hardware, hand percussion and accessories in a single location.
A snare drum and cymbals produce the loudest sound in terms of the Decibel level.
James Laurance and Stephen Brueggerhoff Present. James Laurance and Stephen Brueggerhoff have played together for years in many different groups and combos.What drum machines have realistic sounds? ›
- Teenage Engineering PO-32. The best drum machine if you have a small budget. ...
- Korg Volca Drum. The best drum machine if you want plenty of creative depth. ...
- Korg Volca Beats. Cracking budget analogue drum sounds. ...
- IK Multimedia UNO Drum. All-analogue beats for less. ...
- Arturia DrumBrute Impact. ...
- Elektron Model:Cycles. ...
- Roland TR-08.
Repairing a damaged skin on a set of bongo drums can be easily accomplished in a few hours. The results are a long-lasting appreciation of the instrument itself and the work that goes into the construction, as well as a new surface to play and better sound.Where are tycoon bongos made? ›
Tycoon Music Company was founded later that year in Bangkok, Thailand. Not long after, Stephen realized that Thailand had a distinct advantage in the manufacturing of hand percussion instruments, which, coupled with the growing worldwide demand for this product, significantly altered the course of the company's future.How long does it take to learn bongo? ›
How long does it take to learn to play bongos? Learning to play the bongos with traditional Afro-Cuban music will take at least two weeks of daily practice if you have prior percussion experience. Without prior percussion experience, it may take around 2 months depending on your music ability.How do you read bongo sheet music? ›
In this simplified bongo notation, there are two lines. The higher line represents the macho (the smaller drum on your left), and the lower line represents the hembra (the larger drum on your right). The L stands for left hand, and the R for right hand Click to hear how this notation would sound.What category is the bongos in? ›
Bongo drums are part of a family of Latin percussion instruments that are central to Afro-Cuban salsa music.What is the loudest African drum? ›
On the djembe there are three basic notes - the bass, tone and slap. The bass is the lowest pitch, the tone is in the middle register and the slap is the highest pitch. The djembe is easily recognisable and is one of the loudest African drums.What is the most famous drum pattern? ›
1. Four on the floor. The four on the floor drum pattern is everywhere. It's no accident that the first beat on this list is the most recognizable drum pattern in popular music.What drums do Jamaicans use? ›
Buleador. One of the most recognizable drums in the Caribbean is the buleador. This type of drum is essential in the Bomba musical genre. Bomba dates from at least the 17th century, and the buleador is one of the main percussion instruments in that genre.
Rool, they take them to Cranky Kong. Cranky explains that they are bongos, so Donkey tries playing them, as does Diddy.What is the price of single bongo drum? ›
Amazon.in: ₹1,000 - ₹5,000 - Bongos / Hand Drums: Musical Instruments.Are bongos used in reggae? ›
Playing Reggae is as rich and diverse as the genre itself. The rhythms are a combination of several different instruments, including the bass guitar, keyboards, horns and drums, including anything from a standard drum set to more traditional drums like congas or bongos.What is a male bongo called? ›
Males, called bulls, tend to be solitary, while females with young live in groups of six to eight. Bongos have seldom been seen in herds of more than 20.Why are bongos becoming extinct? ›
A combination of disease, poaching and loss of forest habitat from illegal logging and agriculture have left fewer than 100 mountain bongos in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).What do you call a single bongo? ›
The conga, also known as tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed drum from Cuba.What is the difference between a Congo and a bongo drum? ›
The biggest differences between congas and bongos are their size and sound. Bongos are small and easy to carry around while congas are much larger. Congas have a deep depth that gives them a low and warm tone. The diameter of the congas is also larger with the most common sizes being 11” to 12.5”.How many bongos are left in the world? ›
Today, the Bongo is listed by the IUCN as an animal that is Near Threatened to extinction from the wild in the near future. Although the Mountain Bongo has always been rare it is feared that there could be as few as only 75 individuals left in the highland forests of Kenya, where they are now protected.What size wrench do I need to tune my bongos? ›
The Latin Percussion LP227A Bongo/Conga Tuning Wrench is a double sided wrench that can be used to tune bongos, congas, and timbales. The double sided wrench features a 1/2" and 9/16" that will fit most hand drums.Are expensive drum kits worth it? ›
Projection. Some drums are costlier because they project better sound than the cheaper options. Expensive drum sets are fitted with better quality hardware, so they can produce better, cleaner, and louder sounds even when you don't strike them too hard.
DW is one of the top drum brands in the world, making the Collectors Series one of the top drum kits. It's extremely good!How much is a professional drum kit? ›
Drums for professionals
The price of a professional drum set is usually between $3000 and $10000. Professional kits are built with better wood and hardware than beginner and intermediate drums.
Professional-level drum sets are built with premium quality tonewoods and hardware compared to cheaper drums, and therefore produce exceedingly purer tones. This makes them suitable for professional music applications including studio recordings and being used live on stage.What are the best drum kit sizes? ›
The most common size is 10″x 8″, but basically anything from 10″x 6.5″ to 10″x 10″ works very well. The shallower size responds a bit quicker, but all in all there's so little air moving inside a drum of this size that a deeper drum is easy to play, too.Which is the most important drum in the kit? ›
Out of all the pieces in the kit it is the most important. The name is attributed to the snare wires that run along the bottom head to produce the distinct snap sound. Drummers spend considerable time developing their technique on just the snare drum through rudiments and other exercises for stick control.
Maple is the most popular choice of wood for drum shells. The drum shells produce a warm, vintage-sounding tone with full low frequencies and balanced mids and highs. Maple is perceived as a premium wood for drum set manufacturing, and it possesses excellent all-round sonic characteristics.What is the hardest genre of drums to play? ›
By and large, jazz is considered the hardest style of drumming, followed closely by Latin and metal.What company owns DW drums? ›
Roland is the leading global manufacturer of electronic musical instruments widely recognized for its game-changer products in the electronic drum world under its V-Drums brand and more recently with its innovative V-Drums Acoustic Design (“VAD”) series of products.How long should a drum kit last? ›
With proper care and maintenance, electronic drum sets can go for a long time too. Usually, they last for ten to fifteen years, but some can go up to twenty years, especially those expensive ones.What is the best drum kit material? ›
Hickory is the most popular material out of the three, used by drummers all over the world for a variety of styles. It has good energy absorption and flex compared to that of oak, which are strong but come with strong vibrations in the hand which isn't ideal.
A good drum set will typically cost between $400-$2000 depending if you are just starting out or you are looking for a more professional set.