Bongo Mania!






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     Making new bongo heads is an art, and it can be a little frustrating at first, but it's worth the trouble: you will find that the heads you make yourself sound far better than any head mass-produced in a factory.

     This article will just cover making heads from animal hide. You can make some terrific macho heads out of X-ray film, but I have never successfully done it myself.

     First you will need a new hide. Some drum shops sell circular sections of hide for this purpose. Otherwise, there may be a leather supply store in your area, and there are sources on the internet. You want rawhide, not tanned leather.

     What kind of animal should you use? Hides from different animals will produce different tones, depending on the thickness, density, oiliness, and texture of the hide. The most common drumhead animals are cows, buffalos, and goats, as they are plentiful and their skin is thick.


     However many players prefer the sound and feel of mule, kip (newborn or foetal calf), or other less common animal skins. Some Caribbean bongoceros use the hides of jutia, a large tropical rodent. Personally I look for hides that have the right feel, regardless of the animal. The hide should have a slightly oily feel to it, should have one side that is glossy and smooth, and should be even in thickness, with no thin patches or pinholes.

     Generally speaking, thinner hides work best on the macho and thicker hides work best on the hembra, but there are exceptions. Find a hide that has a usable area at least 7" larger in diameter than the drum it will go on.

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