How to Make Bongos Sound Better

Knowing how to tune, hold and strike the drums properly will help you make your bongos sound better. Bongos come in pairs of two drums and are indefinite-pitched instruments. The Proper technique ensures your bongo playing follows correct performance standards. With a strong commitment and practice sessions with the correct playing methods, your form and technique will gradually improve. With time, your technique will improve and your bongo playing will reach new levels of professionalism.

Step 1 Tune the bongos by tightening the screws along the sides with a tuning wrench. Move between each peg around the drum to ensure that the tension spreads equally. While you can't nail down a specific pitch, generally you can tune the bongos approximately a fourth apart from each other.

Step 2 Sit on a chair or stool with your feet solidly on the floor, shoulder-length apart. Straighten your back and ensure that you are sitting up straight. Your shoulders should be relaxed and slightly back, do not bend over the bongos.

Step 3 Support the bongos between your knees. The curvature of your knee holds the bongos. You may choose to set up a bongo stand as well, but most players simply put the bongos between their knees. The larger bongo will face your dominant hand.

Step 4 Rest your forearms on your thighs to prevent strain and exhaustion from holding your arms up during a long period of playing. Cup the palm of your hand around the rim of the bongo, and use your fingers and hands to strike the instrument.

Step 5 Practice striking the bongo near the center of the drum to create the densest and most professional sound. Striking the drum on the side wall will create a dull, thudding sound. Hitting the center of the drum will create a resonant boom.

Step 6 Learn about the basic strokes and how to apply them. Either hand may be used for any of the strikes and typically you will alternate hands between strikes. The "closed slap" places one thumb on the rim of the drum while the other hand strikes. Another "finger" strike uses just the fingertips and, in some cases, the thumb to strike the drum. "Rim shots" are possible by throwing your fingers across the rim of the drum. An "open stroke" strike uses an open hand to strike the drum.

Bongos do not create definite pitches, and sound generally high or low. To ensure that bongos are tuned correctly, check to see that the drum heads are tense and not loose. There should be no rattling when you play and the drumheads should feel firm. If you have trouble identifying the interval of a perfect fourth, listen to bongo recordings and attempt to match pitch with professional bongo players. A perfect fourth consists of the first leap in "Here Comes the Bride." The distance between "here" and "comes" consists of a fourth. Your bongos should have the same relationship.


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