How To Play Conga



The conga instrument is made from a solid piece of tree trunk, most of the time made of gone wood or – even better – lengé wood. The harder and heavier the wood, the better the drum sounds. Traditionally it is believed that spirits inhabit the tree. Therefore, the chopping of the tree is always executed with ritual ceremonies and sacrifices to appease the spirits.

The specific rattling sound is caused by the ‘kessing, which is on its turn made of wire and tin. The instrument is played with bare hands and can produce three different drum sounds.

The drum sounds of the congas cannot be missed at any party in West Africa. Where its hip hop drum samples are eagerly used. A conga ensemble usually consists of three or four congas. One conga is used as a solo instrument and the two or three other congas function as the guidance. In addition, the low bass part is formed by the tumbao. The tumbao has two sides to play and its beats are produced with a stick. The drumhead of tumbao is very thick, and gives a deep low real drum sound.

There are three sizes tumbao distinguished: kenkeni (small), the sangban (middle) and tumbaoba (largest). You can also make the tumbao drum sound by using drum samples and playing it on a drum computer. However, when using the drums for this purpose, you should take caution in searching for real drum samples. When you put in some effort you can find some free drum samples on the Internet easily.

On top of the tumbao, the soloist plays on the highest sounding conga his improvised solos. The instrument is used in ceremonies like weddings, baptism and circumcision. Every special event in life has its own rhythm and drum samples. And with any rhythm comes a special dance.

Playing the Conga – Attitude

When you play the conga while seated, put the instrument between your legs and let it tilt slightly so this gives you an opening between your conga and the floor. This way the drum, especially the bass, will sound a lot better! Now, you can press the conga between your legs. There are also people who bind a string and fix it to the conga so the drum will not slide when they play.

Make sure you properly keep your back straight while playing and continue to breathe normally. When you are sitting with a bent back behind your conga, you get back pain quickly and you will not last playing longer than an hour or less.
The same goes for when you are holding your breath while you are playing a complicated piece. You will get cramped and the piece suddenly is much harder to play and the drum sounds will come out weak or badly timed.

In case you play the conga while sitting, it is advised to play while seated on an adjustable chair (drum or piano chair) In case you are playing the conga while standing, there are some special tires available and you of course always make your own. I think the advantage of standing play is that you are freer in your movements and your drum sounds will come out better.

The Sounds of The Conga- The Bass

You hit the middle of the drumhead with an outstretched hand while your thumb is turned a little bit up. Then you pull your hand back quickly. Do not pull your hands back too much because you will need them for the next beat again. The closer you keep your hands on the sheet the easier you can make your next drum sound. The drum sound should be a nice full bass. Hit the bass never too far behind on the drumhead (away from you. After some practice, surely you will be able to make this nice drum sound. For examples on how the bass should sound, you can also have a listen to some real drum samples through an emulator. Just search for free drum samples on the web and it will give you an idea and help you improve your own.

The Open Tone

The drum sound of this tone is pretty open and ’round’. The pitch depends on the tension of the head and the temperature. Hit the drumhead again with stretched out fingers, the palm (where your fingers start) hit the edge of the sheet, your thumb is again a little bit up (It can be painful, when you do not do this, as you will hit your thumb right on the edge… ) To get a beautiful tone beware of the following:
ο No power at your fingertips so it rebounds after hitting the sheet again.
ο Keep your fingers straight and closed, the straighter in line, the better and louder the drum sounds will be.

The Slap

With stretched (not too stretched though) fingers, tap the skin, the palm of your hand (where your fingers start) hits the edge of the drumhead, the thumb is still a little bit upwards. Also at the Slap do not press any power at your fingertips so it rebounds after hitting the drumhead again and this will create a perfect real drum sound.

By following these exact instructions you can create the best free drum samples for your music production.