Plays the drums hard on his knees

Bongos - little drums ... great sounds!

by Tom Schäfer,

Bongos sound crisp, cheeky, assertive and deliver refreshing sounds that combine wonderfully with the grooves of the drums. “Sound” is one of the highest commandments when making music, because great sound is the basis for creating gripping and exciting grooves. In our workshop you will find out how to get a great sound out of your bongo drum!

Sit comfortably, e.g. on a drum stool or on a cajón. The bongos are held between the legs in the traditional playing position. The macho lies in the left squat (a little above the knee) and the hembra rests on the right lower leg (a little below the knee). This position allows the bongos to be tilted with the skin side inclined forward. In this way, the skins of the bongos are easy to play with both hands and fingers.

This is how the bongos are held.

Alternatively, there is a tripod assembly. Here, too, all manufacturers offer systems to attach the bongos to a single stand. Such mounted positions are advantageous if you have designed your percussion set for playing while standing anyway.

First sounds

Use the fingertip of your right index finger to play the edge areas of the skins (see picture 5). And imagine that the skins are hot stovetops that are only touched briefly. The finger snaps back immediately after playing hard. This is how the so-called "Open Tones" are created.

The open tone is created by playing the fur edge with the first link of the index finger.

Do the following exercise: On beats 1, 2 and 3 you play the macho. And the 4 belongs to the Hembra. This creates a very simply structured first bongo groove. The next step would then be to add another beat to "2+" with the index finger of the left hand.

Hence the tip again: Bongos are crisp and bright-sounding drums whose tightly taut heads love to be played with a lot of “pepper”. So don't be too timid! However, that doesn't mean that you should fuck your fingers for the devil. When you have placed the bongo drum between your knees - and they should rest comfortably and securely there - hold your hands about 8 inches above the skins.

From this distance you pull the impact pulse through in one swing and without slowing down (see picture 1). Play with the fingertip of the right index finger on the edge of the skins (see picture 2) and imagine that the skins are hot stovetops that are only touched briefly. The finger springs back immediately after the vigorous touch. This is how you develop “Open Tones” - they are sounds that denote a free development of sound and the open swinging of the head and shell. You can of course also create these sounds with your left hand (index finger).

Image 1

picture 2

To warm up your fingers and get used to the initially sizzling sensation in your fingertips, here is a little warm-up groove: With your right index finger you play a quarter pulse on the beats 1, 2, 3 and 4. The first three You play hits on the macho (snare drum), and the fourth beat - i.e. the 4 - is on the Hembra (larger drum) executed. Now the index finger of the left hand comes into play: Try to get exactly the counting time 2+. In the note image it looks like in note example 1.

The music samples

The second groove is a little more tricky (note example 2): The first measure corresponds to the warm-up pattern, but the second measure is more sophisticated. Make sure that the 2+ (left index finger) is precisely placed rhythmically here. With this two-bar pattern you have already worked out a basic groove that goes wonderfully with a 4/4 drum rhythm. Just try it out with your drummer! Even played alone on the bongos, this figure, when approached with speed, gives a lot of drive.

The groove in note example 3 offers even more power: This is based on the 1/16 counting method. The dotted notes give this pattern a good dose of rhythmic liveliness. You can use this to achieve driving power, especially in fast tempos.

Now when you learn the bongo drum, you come to the most important groove of the bongos, the "Martillo". It is the Bongo rhythm par excellence, which can be used multifunctionally playable in its whirled agile way not only wonderfully in pop, jazz, rock, hip-hop, but actually everywhere. His quarter-stressed pulse consists of four successive beats - three on the macho and one on the hembra, which are executed with the index finger of the right hand.

The quieter notes in between are performed with the left hand on the macho, alternating the thumb (D) and fingertips of the index, middle and ring finger (F). Due to the stoic quarter-pulse attacks of the right hand, the groove marches forward like a hammer blow. And that's where the name comes from - Martillo is Spanish and translated means: Hammer.

picture 3

Picture 4

The movement sequences in detail: The work of the left hand is very important, even if the sounds do not appear superficial at first. Press your thumb with force and firmlycentered on macho skin (see picture 3). Then the thumb is raised and the fingertips of the index, middle and ring fingers are now light pressed on the edge of the fur (see Fig. 4). Playing this alternately results in a rocking motion between thumb (D) and fingers (F).

The rhythm of the rocking movement is as follows: The thumb is pressed on the 4+, i.e. on the skin in a timed manner. It remains there for exactly two eighth counts (4+, 1) until it is released by the fingers that are pressed onto the skin at exactly the counting time 1+. Again, two eighth counts (1+, 2) pass until the thumb again loosens the fingers on the 2+ count.

The whole game takes place unchanged over the beat and all further bars and generally across the entire rhythm. The macho fur always has finger contact, and the movement of the thumb and fingers always takes place on the “and counts”, with the fur contact lasting two eighth counts. The note example 4a illustrates the rhythmic movement (rocker D – F).

Now to the right hand - and there we have it, because the index finger only plays the open tones in the quarter pulse, namely on 1, 2, 3 (macho) and the 4 on the Hembra. See note example 4b.

Both movements (left hand and right hand) put together result in the Martillo (see note example 5).

Tip: You will notice that on 1 and 3 the thumb (left) and forefinger (right) touch the macho fur at the same time (see picture 5). That has to be the case to emphasize the really good and authentic Martillo sound. Because the 1 and 3 must sound crisp and bright, because the thumb (left) presses the skin tightly and thus increases the skin tension. You can also play 1 and 3 more vigorously (right) than 2 and 4 to give the flow of the game a dynamic wave movement. On 2 and 4, however, the fingers (left) and thumb (right) touch the macho fur at the same time.

Image 5: On 1 and 3, the thumb and index finger touch the macho fur at the same time.

With the Martillo you are musically at home everywhere, because this classic can be used perfectly and genre-spanning in all styles. Have lots of fun with it!

Tags: bongo, percussion

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