Tuning a conga drum is mainly done by ear, and tightening the skin creates various keys and sound qualities. Understand how congas are tuned with help from an experienced musician in this free video on percussion instruments.
Hi, my name is Bobby Torres from Portland, Oregon. Today we're going to talk about tuning drums, tuning the conga drums. We have three basic drums, which is a tumba, this is a large drum, it's a base drum. We have the conga, the second drum and then we have the quinto, which is the improvising drum. In tuning these drums, basically three notes. The most common notes are G and C, which is the tumba is the G, the conga is the C. For improvising it's either D or E flat. Now, this is the most common version of people tuning drums. There's also finding the drum and listening to its tone itself. If you knock on it or you turn it upside down and listen or talk in to it, you can hear a tone. So what you try and do is compliment that tone that you have on the drum with the skin that you have. Now, also on different skins, the thickness of the skin makes a difference as far as the tone. Usually for a base drum you it uses a thicker skin, for a conga it's a thinner skin and for a quinto, it's a real thin skin. So it varies from a, I guess from half inch, about not even half, I'd say about quarter inch to sixteenth of an inch, maybe even thirty second for the quinto. For example on this drum, in tuning I'm listening on the tone for each lug. They all compliment this, they're all the same tone. This one's lower than this one, so I'll tune this one up to match the tone. This one's also lower. So you go around the whole lug, holding your finger in the middle, that way you get the same tone as you hit the drum. That's a rich warm tone. Do the same with all drums. Some people say you should tune the quinto down after you play so you don't stretch out the skin, because it's a tight. When you tighten the drum, it stretches the skin, you get a high pitched sound, and then due to difference in weather conditions, and because the skin can stretch out too much and you lose its tone. Now, this is the most common tuning, the G, C and D. I mean you can tune it to the drum sound itself, in playing by yourself or playing with people, and to compliment whatever rhythms you're playing, being that there are so many different rhythms in the world. You can tune it for a band, for Latin bands, this is the most common, is G and C, which is the G and the C. And this is for improvising, you can tune it any height. You can go up to F if you want if you have the skin to do it. It's what your ear is pleased to hear. Good luck.