When you think of Caribbean islands you can’t help yourself but think about the conga drums playing those wild Afro-Cuban rhythms and sounds. Instantly, you will connect that iconic sound to the colors and smells and tastes of the Caribbean, imagining people dancing on the streets and just relaxation everywhere.
Of course, congas are now used all around the globe, in all forms and genres of music, but this humble instrument started off with African slaves bringing it to the Caribbean, especially the island of Cuba and developing it into the instrument it is today.
Congas are usually set up from several drums of different sizes, that all have that unique long look to them. Played in a combination of two or four, these sets comprise different drums providing a wide range of sounds to be played.
Our Pick of the Best Congas
1. NATURAL CONGA DRUM SET
Natural conga set is a great addition to any amateur looking to learn how to play congas or anyone looking for cheap, but quality sound conga set to play. This set comes with two drums, 9” and 10” in head diameters and with a 30-42” long stand. This means you can play them standing as well as sitting and you shouldn’t have a problem with adjusting them to your height. These congas are ready to play out of the box, so there is no need for any additional knowledge about them.
Even though they are a bit smaller in size than the professional, big congas, these babies will give you loud and decent sound and cover every basic need you can have with them. Also, a great thing about them is that they are fairly cheap so there is no need to worry if you have budget restraints.
2. LP LPM198 Mini Tunable Wood Conga
If you’re looking for a cheap, but quality little drum to use for practice and goofing around on jam sessions, then look no more. LP’s LPM 198 Mini Conga is a miniature version of the famous LP congas, and it really shows when you take it in your hands.
Even though it stands just 11” and 7.5” in diameter, this drum is not a toy. It’s made from quality wood and head materials, giving it a high-end sound. OF course, you can’t expect a drum this small to produce a very loud sound, so it’s not really usable in a band environment, but just what makes it perfect for house practice – you won’t annoy your housemates or neighbors with your drumming. This is a great, reliable, budget–friendly little conga that’s perfect for practicing or learning how to play, especially in a house environment.
Toca 2300 AMB is a full–on conga set consisting of two 10” and 11” diameter congas and a stand for them. These drums are substantially more expensive than the previous two mentioned are definitely made for professional use.
You can buy them in three different colors and the shells themselves are made from plywood with rawhide heads on them. Since they are standard size, you can play them and get almost any sound you want from them and they will provide you with quality, mellow sound. These are a great fit for anyone looking to get quality, decent conga set to be used in studio or gigs.
4. Latin Percussion LP City Wood Congas
Older brothers of the previously mentioned LP LPM198 Mini conga, these bad boys are the famous full version of that mini conga and are great. This set consists of two congas (10” and 11” in diameter head) and a stand for them. The drums themselves are made from wood (body) and real rawhide heads, which gives them depth in sound and really high quality when playing them or listening to them.
Latin Percussion LP congas come in beautiful sunburst color and are a great addition to any bend or performer because they look great on stage. Even though they are quite expensive, for that money you will get a high-end high-quality product that will last you a long time and will provide you with great playing sound.
5. MeinlPercussion HC512WRB
And now last but not least Meinl Percussion HC512WRB. This superb conga set consists of two congas with 11” and 12” drum heads, both 28” tall, holding baskets and tuning key. You can get these in several different colors, but all are beautiful on these drums.
The drums themselves are made from quality wood with natural hide drum heads. A great addition to these congas is holding baskets, and not stands. This means that congas are much more stable when playing them, preventing any misfortune and possible damage to them. Also, the baskets are compact and easy to set up, so there is no need to worry about that.
One possible problem with this set is that you need to tune the drums yourself. This means that this set is not really the best solution for the beginners, as you probably won’t know how to tune the drums if you never played them. But, if you’re a professional or seasoned player you will have no problem with this, as you can adjust the sound to the one you need really easy.
These congas are not the most expensive out there, but they have a high-end overall build, which means they also provide great, high-end sound. With all this in mind, it’s really a no-brainer if you should get this set if you need the best bang for the buck and a pro sound for a reasonable price. Wooden drums are sure to provide you with great acoustic conga sound that will cover your every need in studio or on a stage performing live.
More about Congas
The congas themselves are a single, barrel-like made drums, made from wood originally and sometimes plexiglass in modern times, covered with rawhide (or some other material for drumheads). The conga originated from African drums, but really developed independently in Cuba, so it is an indigenous instrument for itself.
Even though congas are now played all around the world, these drums are undeniably connected to the Cuban folklore and folk music itself. They were essentially just a Cuban instrument up until the 1930s when Americans fell in love with Cuba. Cuban music fused with jazz swept the USA off its feet.
From then on, these drums became a well known and loved instrument, used to play in many different genres, from all sorts of Latino music to jazz, funk and even mainstream pop music. Also, today these instruments are used all over the world in acoustic sets, as they are perfect for playing together with acoustic instruments and they bring that mysterious, sexy sound to the overall song that’s being played, whatever the style of the song is.
Because of the everlasting interest in the congas, we decided to make this list of the five best congas currently in the market. From budget–friendly, starter’s choice congas to the high-end, professional’s instruments, you can find something for anyone on this list.
We hope we helped you with making your choice with this list. There are a lot of good instruments on the market, but this list is our pick of the top five you can find. Whether you’re an amateur just looking to get started, or a casual hobby player, or a hardened professional playing congas to make a living, you can find anything on this list.