How to Buy a Conga Drum

The conga, called the "tumbadora" in Spanish, is a type of hand drum that originated in Cuba. It is an incredibly popular drum in Latin music, particularly salsa. Buying a conga drum can be intimidating for a novice player; they are available in a wide variety of prices, with only subtle differences in the appearance of the drums. Without being able to play the conga properly, it can be difficult to judge the quality of a new conga or the condition of a used one. Learning how to buy a conga drum is a matter of assessing your needs and knowing what to look for.


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    Assess your budget. Congas can range in price dramatically between low-end and high-end models. Generally, higher-end congas will sound and feel better, which can lead to a more enjoyable time learning basic technique. For this reason, it may be preferable to purchase a single high-end conga as opposed to buying a set of 2 or 3 cheaper models. You can always expand your collection later.
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    Determine which size of conga you want. Congas are available in 3 distinct sizes (as determined by the diameter of the drumhead). From smallest to largest, they are referred to as the quinto, the conga, and the tumba. These drums are typically played in sets of 2 or 3. However, if you can only afford a single drum, buy the conga size, as it is the most versatile.
    • Occasionally you will see "requinto" drums that are even smaller than the quinto, or "super tumba" drums that are bigger than the tumba. These are rarer, specialty drums that shouldn't be considered by a novice player.
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    Decide whether you would prefer a wood or fiberglass shell. The body of the conga, the drum shell, will either be made from wood or fiberglass.
    • Wood is the traditional material, and lends a warm, full tone to the drums. It is preferred by most professionals, and is widely used on high-end models. The drawback to wood congas is that they don't project very loudly without the use of proper technique.
    • Fiberglass congas are cheaper and more durable than their wood counterparts. They tend to have a thinner, brighter tone quality, but are more forgiving for novice players due to their clear projection.
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    Decide whether you want synthetic or natural heads. The drum head (sometimes called a "skin") is the stretched membrane that you actually touch with your hands during play.
    • Traditionally, conga heads are made from animal skin. Rawhide is the standard, but very high-end models will feature buffalo skin. These heads lend a full, warm tone to the drum that complements a wood shell nicely.
    • An alternative to a natural head is a synthetic head. These heads are made to mimic the tone of animal skin heads, but are cheaper and more durable. While the tone of these heads can be a bit thin, they do have a crisper, brighter projection, which suits them well to novice players.
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    Browse for congas at music retailers or secondhand stores. After deciding on your desired specs, you can browse for congas. Online music retailers like Sam Ash and Musician's Friend will carry a wide selection of congas and allow you to read customer reviews. Classifieds sites or secondhand stores are an option if your budget is low - sometimes a used high-end conga can be purchased for less than a new budget model. Popular conga manufacturers are LP, Toca, and Remo.


  • If you want to play your congas while standing, you may want to purchase stands or mounts for the drums.

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Categories: Musical Instruments