Bongó – Buying Guide, Opinions and Analysis
Bongos are essential percussion instruments for playing merengue, salsa, Cuban son, bolero, montuno son, bachata, cumbia, etc. Therefore, many people are looking for a bongo with which they can learn all these rhythms. A model that could be useful for you to start on the bongo is the RockJam Rayas Rojas, since it has a simple African-style design, but with tunable cowhide. Another recommended model to get started on this instrument is the Latin Percussion Aspire LPA601-SW, which comes with a jamjuree body, a resistant wood that offers good sound. In addition, it has Aspire EZ Curve rings, which are rounded, for greater comfort of your hands when playing.
The 8 Best Bongos – Opinions 2022
If you are looking for a percussion instrument to start or for professional use, perhaps this list with the best bongo drums of 2022 has the answer you need. We have chosen several of the most outstanding bongos, so you do not have to search through all the options on the market today.
african bongo drum
1. RockJam bongo set with padded bag and adjustment wrench
This could be the best 7 and 8 inch bongo drum, as it has a nice design with excellent finishes and cowhide on both drums (female and male). In addition, its manufacturing material is wood, so it offers a more natural and striking sound, useful to start learning your first Latin rhythms, bachata and Cuban son, for example.
Another aspect that we can highlight about this African bongo drum is the finish of its body on the outside, since it is painted with transparent and red varnish, offering very nice vertical stripes.
Also, did we mention that the package includes a black carrying case with RockJam branding stamped on it. Also, this case has a double zipper, so you can store or remove the bongo faster.
Although it is one of the cheapest bongos, it provides you with an elegant and robust design, so it could be the instrument you are looking for. These are its main advantages and disadvantages.
Materials: The rings and tensioners are made of metal, in addition, the body is made of resistant wood.
Leather: Its patches are made of cowhide, so they withstand the peals of any musical rhythm very well.
Tuning: The bongo has 8 tensors to tune them to your liking or according to the rhythm you are going to play.
Use: It is only recommended for children or beginner adults, however, its sound is pleasant to the ear.
2. Small Foot Company 1762 Wooden Bongo
Perhaps it is the best value for money bongo drum, as it is one of the cheapest, but it offers several benefits for the little ones in the home. With them your children will develop their motor skills, since they will be playing with their two hands. Likewise, they will learn to keep the tempo of the music and, consequently, they will develop their musical ear.
This African bongo is used for various musical styles, including cumbia, merengue, Cuban son and bachata.
In another order of ideas, it should be noted that it has protective rubber bands at the bottom, so that the child can place it on their legs while playing. In addition, this way you can place it on a table and it will not slide, even if the child makes strong and fast peals.
In the same way, this bongo drum has a nice finish, being also useful as a decorative element in a living room, for example.
If you are looking for the best bongo drum of the moment for children 3 years and older, this could be the one, so check the following qualities.
Wood: It is made with wood and metal tensioners, so it supports the continuous use of children.
Leather: It has natural leather and comes tensioned, so parents will only have to adjust the tuning a little for the child to start playing.
Rubber bands: The rubber bands at the bottom of the turnbuckles allow the child to place the bongo drum on their legs.
Sound: Keep in mind that it is a small instrument for children and the sound is weaker than that of a traditional bongo.
3. Latin Percussion Aspire LPA601-SW Bongo
You may be wondering which is the best bongo drum, especially if you are already an adult and want to learn a few African and Latin rhythms. Therefore, we have decided to recommend this instrument from the Latin Percussion brand, also known as LP, for its acronym in English.
The Aspire LPA601-SW is made from Siam Walnut, a beautiful wood that many also call jamjuree. This wood offers a strong and clear resonance to give a lot of life to the peals you make on the heads.
In addition to this, it is one of the most beautiful Cuban bongos, since it has excellent finishes and in the lower part a special style of that country.
For its part, the patches are made with natural skin, for a more authentic sound and you can tighten them to your liking, giving the desired tuning to each drum (male and female).
Latin Percussion is the best brand of bongo drums for many musicians, because they make congas, guiros, cowbells, and other great percussion instruments. For example, this is one of his most outstanding bongos.
Materials: This is a Cuban-style bongo with metal hoops and lugs, walnut body and natural leather.
Tuning: The instrument comes with 8 tuning lugs in total, to get the tone you’re looking for on each drum.
Rings: Its Aspire EZ Curve rings offer greater comfort for your hands when playing, since they are rounded.
Weight: This bongo may not be very comfortable to play on your legs for a long time, as it is quite heavy. It is recommended to purchase an LP or universal bongo stand.
4. Valje Bongos LP
If you like Cuban LP bongos, this 7 1/4″ and 8 5/8″ model might be the one for you, as it features hand-selected natural heads and a beech body, a European wood that offers good sound.
In addition, its tensors are chromed, which gives the bongo more elegance; and you can adjust them to get the tuning you like best in African and Latin rhythms.
On the other hand, it should be noted that it has a beautiful Cuban-style design, also having non-slip rubbers, which will help you to prevent the bongo from slipping if you mount it on a table when playing. Likewise, we inform you that this instrument has traditional chromed rings, which combine very well with the natural finish of the body.
If you are still wondering what bongo to buy, check out the pros and cons of this model, it may be the one you are looking for to play with your Latin music group.
Body: The body is made of wood, specifically European beech, which is nicely finished with clear paint.
Hardware: Its tensioners are made of chromed metal, which makes this bongo an elegant and striking item.
Heads: The heads are made of hand-picked natural leather, so they are quite resistant to various tunings and musical rhythms.
Hoops: The hoops of this bongo are of the traditional type, so they do not offer the same comfort for the hands as those with a rounded design.
5. Meinl HB50BK Bongos
If you are looking for Meinl bongos to play Latin or African music, this could be the right instrument, since it has high quality materials; for example, buffalo patches, which take a lot of hand hits with no problem.
Also, these patches are replaceable, so you can renew them when you consider it necessary. Also, a feature that we can highlight about this bongo is that it can be a good option for beginner percussionists, as well as for advanced ones.
Similarly, this bongo comes with a tuning key, for adjustments before each rehearsal or performance. In addition, it has an elegant and resistant design, in glossy black, which gives it a modern touch.
Similarly, the male bongo measures 6 and a half inches, while the female is 7 and a half inches, making it very convenient to transport and store.
Next, find out what the most important pros and cons of this bongo are, it may be the one you need to play bachata, salsa or merengue.
Heads: The heads are buffalo and can be replaced when necessary, which is quite practical.
Tuning: The bongo comes with a practical key, so you can tune them whenever you want.
Dimensions: Thanks to their dimensions you can transport and store them without any problem.
Material: The body is not made of wood, but ABS, so the sound might not be the best, however, this bongo can be quite useful for beginners.
6. XDrum 5200 Retro Bongos
The XDrum 5200 has a retro red and cream design, making it very visually appealing. In this way, it can be used as a decorative ornament. Also, this is a suitable instrument for boys and girls who want to start in percussion.
Also, it has two drums, the male is 17 centimeters and the female is 20 centimeters, which have been made with natural and resistant materials.
On the other hand, we mention that it has an affordable price, so if your budget is low, this could be a good option for you. Also, it comes with the tuning key, so your child can tune the instrument before starting.
It should be noted that the bongo comes without a cover, but you could purchase one separately, which we recommend is padded.
This is a bongo drum with a retro design and useful for all ages, especially children, so we recommend that you know its pros and cons.
Design: It has a light brown and red design, being very nice to give to a friend, your son or nephew.
Materials: The materials used in its manufacture are natural for both the heads and the body of the bongo.
Key: It comes with a key to tune the instrument before use, which is quite practical .
Weight: This bongo is quite heavy, so it can be a bit annoying to carry in your hand, especially if it is used by a child.
7. LP Matador Wood Bongos
This is a robust bongo, which is characterized by having a traditional style. Teachers recommend it for their students, as its sound is quite warm, due to the body being made from Siam oak.
Likewise, the patches have been made of natural leather, which is selected by hand, to make it more resistant and durable. Likewise, we mentioned that the heads are 7 1/4 inches and 8 5/8 inches in diameter.
Also, this skin comes with the name of the Matador series, giving the bongo a touch of elegance. Regarding the base, it has been made of molded aluminum according to the size of the bongo.
Likewise, you should know that it comes in a natural color, so it will not go unnoticed.
If you are looking for a bongo drum with a professional sound and traditional style, this may be the right option for you.
Sound: Its sound is warm, thanks to the Siam oak wood that has been used in its manufacture.
Base: Its base is made of molded aluminum, so the bongo is quite stable and durable at the same time.
Color: It comes in an attractive natural color, so it suits the tastes of many people.
Paint: The gold paint on it is not very durable and could deteriorate quickly if you don’t take care of it.
8. Play TO802100 Bongo Synergy
Its patches are made of leather, being resistant and durable. In addition, this natural material allows its sound to be pleasant. Likewise, it comes in a beautiful Bahamas Blue colour, so it could be a good choice if you want a more flashy, modern bongo drum.
Also, you should know that the wood used in its manufacture comes from a plantation in Thailand, likewise, the instrument is turned and made by hand by musicians from the area.
On the other hand, it has black hardware and even its hoops are traditional, giving the bongo a very nice appearance. Likewise, we mention that it has dimensions of 6 and 6.75 inches, being small and easy to transport or store.
These are the advantages and disadvantages of the present bongo. Read each quality carefully if you want to acquire a good instrument to learn to play or give to a child.
Material: This instrument is ecological, since it has been made with carefully selected wood in Thailand.
Hardware: It has sturdy, black-painted hardware, giving it a modern look.
Heads: The heads have been made from leather so they are durable and offer a warm sound.
Key: The tuning key is not of very good quality, you may have to purchase a more resistant and durable one.
Accessories for bongo
Meinl THBS-S-BK Bongo Stand
If you are looking for a bongos stand, to play more comfortably and not tire your legs, check out this model from the Meinl brand. It has an elegant and robust design in black with non-slip material on its bases, to play with greater stability.
Also, you should know that it works for any bongo of standard size and design. You simply hold the instrument with its practical adjustable clamp. In addition, you can adjust the height of the stand and the angle of the clamp, so you have a better posture when playing sitting or standing.
Choosing a bongo is not easy if you are a beginner, therefore, in this article we will explain the most important qualities of this instrument. Once you understand each point you can acquire the bongo that suits your requirements properly. Next, we will talk about the body, sides, tensioners, size of the bongo and ergonomics.
body of the bongo
A guide to buying the best bongo can not miss this aspect, since the sound of this instrument largely depends on the body. For example, there are bongo drums that have a wooden body and others made of plastic, although the latter material is not widely used by manufacturers.
Wood is more widely used due to its low cost and acoustic properties. Some that we can highlight are beech, oak and walnut; but there are also others, depending on the country or area of manufacture. Likewise, it is very common for the manufacturer to take advantage of the natural color of the wood for the final finishes, specifically, the varnishing.
It should be noted that the type of wood influences the fact of how much a certain bongo costs. Normally, if it is high-end, for example, beech or walnut, the price increases, but, due to the different options on the market, you can find some good and cheap bongo drums.
If you are doing a comparison of bongos, you should also check the hoops. They are the ones that hold each patch of the instrument. Therefore, they must be very well designed, preferably with metal, since they must support the tension of the heads without losing their original shape or state. In addition, the tensors are attached to the hoops, so they must have some rings, generally 4 for each drum.
Likewise, there are lower rings for each drum, which some models of bongos only serve to protect the wood of the body. However, many other bongos hold the truss rods on both the top and bottom hoops. In this case, they must be of the same material, for example, wrought iron.
The tuning tensors are the ones that increase or decrease the tone emitted by each drum (male and female). Specifically, they alter the sound of the heads, which are made from natural skins which can be stretched.
In other words, by tightening the heads, the sound becomes higher in pitch, and if you loosen them a bit, they get a warm sound. Of course, keep in mind that the larger drum should sound different (lower than the smaller one), so don’t panic if it sounds that way from the factory.
Following the theme of the tensioners, we inform you that they commonly come in chromed metal, either silver or gold, as this gives the bongo robustness and elegance at the same time.
Many times the bongo comes in a standard size, which is approximately 7 and 8 1/2 inches, with respect to the diameter of each drum. But not all bongos measure the same, so you should look at this aspect before making the purchase. If the bongo will be for an adult, it is best to buy it in the standard size or, at least, approximate dimensions.
On the other hand, if the bongo is for a child, check that it is smaller and also lighter, so that the child can play it comfortably or move it to his room if he wishes.
Ergonomics is important when buying a bongo drum and the hoops are largely responsible for it. We explain to you. If the rings are rounded, they will be much more comfortable for the fingers and hands. This is something that most leading brands like LP and Meinl take into account when making bongos; especially when they are mid-range and high-end.
It is also important that the bongos can be attached to the turnbuckles, for example, when you are going to change seats or move the instrument to another room in the house. To be sure of this you should carefully review the images of the publication on the Internet.
Another important aspect of ergonomics is the carrying case, which not many bongos include in the package, only a few models. However, if the instrument does not come with a case, simply search for one online, as there are several models. The safest covers are padded, we recommend them if you want to take care of the bongo from possible bumps and scratches when moving it.
Finally, we recommend you purchase a bongo stand. With it you can mount the instrument to play sitting or standing, according to your requirements or needs.
Frequently asked questions
Q1: How to play the bongos?
Bongos are percussion instruments that are very easy to play, since you only need your hands. For example, a basic salsa rhythm is performed by applying 7 beats on the small drum and 1 on the big one. You start with the right hand and then the left, when you have 6 hits, the next hand (which will be the right) will play the big drum and the last hit is done with the left hand on the small drum. Do the rhythm in eighth note time, if you don’t know what we mean by this, just take a fixed time, but not as fast as clockwise. You can increase your speed while you master the rhythm better.
However, before playing the rhythm, hold the bongo in your legs, so you will have a better view of what you are doing and, of course, it will be more comfortable to play any song.
Q2: How to make homemade bongos?
To make homemade bongos, get two cylindrical plastic containers. Those that come with rubber paints can be used, it does not matter if they are made of metal. In addition, it uses two x-rays, one for each head of the bongo. The X-ray material offers a high, natural skin-like sound used on commercial bongos.
Later, cut each x-ray according to the size of the containers and use some glue that you have at home to mount them on them. Also, you can reinforce the x-rays with a bit of wire or some resistant cord. Finally, let the glue dry for a couple of hours. The next thing will be to paint it to your liking, to give it a personal touch and ready, to play.
Q3: How to tune the bongos?
The procedure for tuning the bongos is simple, but it requires a musical ear, since you are the one who decides how you want each drum to sound. First, look for the tuning key that probably came with your bongo purchase. You should turn all the nuts on the small drum counterclockwise a little. In this way, you will lower the tension of the head (leather) and, in turn, you will get a more serious sound. If you’re looking for a higher note, turn the lug nuts clockwise.
Do not turn the nuts too much, try half a turn first, then keep turning them. And, of course, while you are turning the nuts you must play the drum to check if you have achieved the tone you want.
Q4: How to make bongos with recycled material?
The first thing is to use recycled material such as tin or plastic containers, for example, those that come with powdered milk for adults or babies. For a better design, you can choose from two different sizes. Also, use 2 plastic bottles of water or coke. The plastic from these bottles will be used to make the drumheads for the bongo drum.
Next, you need to make two circles, slightly larger than the mouth of each milk powder container. You will use the remaining plastic to apply a little glue there and mount the circles on the milk cans. Once the patches have dried you can paint the bongos to your liking, wait for them to dry and that’s it, start playing.