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Add Some Pizazz to Your Playing With Congas

Congas, or tumbadoras, are long, narrow drums that originated in Cuba. First used in Afro-Cuban music, like conga and rhumba, they have become an integral part of genres like Afro-Cuban, jazz, salsa, merengue, and Latin rock. You can find a wide assortment of new and preowned drums for sale on eBay.

The different kinds of conga drums

Congas come in several sizes, including the following:

  • Ricardo: These measure 9 inches across and are the smallest drums.
  • Requinto: The 10-inch drums have a higher pop than ricardos.
  • Quinto: A quinto measures 11 inches across and accents rhythm.
  • Conga: Conga drums measure 11.5 to 12 inches across and are used when there is only one drum.
  • Tumba: These drums measure 12 to 12.5 inches and usually come as a part of a conga-drum set.
  • Supertumbas: The largest of the drums, they measure 14 to 14.5 inches across and have a deep bass sound.
Do they still use buffalo skins on these drums?

Traditional Cuban conga drums were made from olive barrels with a calf or buffalo hide tacked to the top. More recently, drum makers use wood and fiberglass. Brand names like Toca, Pearl, Meini, Tycoon, and LP still use water buffalo, also known as true-skin or rawhide. Buffalo hide has a yellowish hue and looks transparent. It produces a sound that is cleaner than that made with steer hide, and it fits well with salsa music. When tuned low, buffalo is known for its projection and warmth.

What are some brand names?

Aspire, CP, and World Beat are entry-level brands with affordable congas. Designed for players ages 7 and older, the drums are smaller than standard models, but they produce a full range of tones. Matadors are similar but have hand-picked heads. LP drums are used by professionals and made with premium heads, parts, and shells. They also produce rich tones. Each of LPs 20 models is made for a specific playing level. The LP Series is the premium model. The Matador series is the intermediate and advanced level. The Aspire/World Beat Series is the entry-level model.

What kinds of accessories does LP make?

LP makes bags and cases, conga handles, heads and skins, drum rims, protectors, and other small parts. The handles come in a variety of metal finishes and attach with screws for ease when holding the drum. Specific sizes of hides are available for different models and include options like pre-fitted, hand-picked, steer skins, Fiberskyn, and buffalo. The largest skin is 26 inches.

What are the drum shells made of?

Contemporary drum shells are made from staved wood, such as oak or ash, or fiberglass. Some are also carved from solid pieces of wood. The head is usually attached with screws, and the hardware, which includes lugs, rims, nuts, and bolts, is made of metal. The average conga drum is around 30 inches from the bottom of the shell to the head and may be attached to a stand for a player who stands or at a normal height for one who is seated.