A little about the Bongos…

~Bongos are, in a way, like small congas. Like congas, bongos hail from Cuba and are played with your hands and fingers. Unlike congas, which are singular drums with very deep shells, bongos are shallow drums that come in pairs; a small one and a large one joined together by a bridge.


There are six basic strokes, similar to the conga strokes:

  • Open Tone: Produces a loud, ringing sound. Hit near the edge of the head with the inside knuckles of your fingers, then let your fingers bounce off the head.
  • Slap: Produces a loud popping sound. The slap is used primarily for accents. Cup your fingers slightly and use the tips of your fingers to strike the drum with a hard, flicking motion.
  • Closed Slap: Creates a less resonant accent. You produce a closed slap just like the regular (open) slap, but with the thumb of the opposite hand pressing against the drumhead to muffle it slightly.
  • Rim Shot: Creates a very loud accent. Snap your fingers off the edge of the head.
  • Heel-tip: Produces a subtle sound ideally suited for background time-keeping. Rest your hand on the head and rock from the heel of your hand to your fingers, as you do with the conga tumbao pattern. Your hand should remain in consistent contact with the head.
  • Muted Tone: Creates a soft, muffled sound. Strike the drum with the inside knuckles of your fingers, as with the open tone stroke, but let your fingers rest on the head after the hit; don’t let them rebound off the head.

The basic bongo pattern in Latin music is called the martillo or “hammer.” It’s played with a combination of Open Tone (O), closed slap (S) and muted tones (M)..


Some cool info on the Bongos…

Bongos are single headed drums that create a higher pitched tone than do conga drums. Most bongos are made from wood shells with calfskin heads, although some models have fiberglass shells and platic heads. Bongos are typically available in 6 & 7-inch or 7 & 8-inch pairs.

Traditionally, bongos are played sitting down, held between your knees, although in an orchestral or popular music environment, it’s not uncommon to see bongos mounted on a stand for easier access. In the traditional position, sit at the edge of the seat with your back straight and your forearms resting on your thighs. The bongos should be positioned between your legs, with the smaller drum on your left. Angle the drums downward slightly, away from you; this makes it easier to hit the rim of the instrument.

You play bongos pretty much the same way you play congas, using your hands and fingers to get different sounds from the drums. The big difference is that you primarily use your fingers rather than your entire hand, due in part to the smaller size of the bongo heads.


Great Bongo Players to Check Out

Jack Costanzo
Preston Epps
Johnny “Dandy” Rodriguez
Roberto Roena