CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: The ideal conga - a dream in progress - best conga ranking

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

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The ideal conga - a dream in progress - best conga ranking

I think im in love with the search, I'm not sure what i will do, if i am able to assemble my ideal instruments.

I have found the ideal set for my Latin Jazz gigs - the Mahogany El Chino's. They are so comfortable and somewhat effortless to play, and very nice sounding at low volume.

Ive played just about every drum on the market, short of Moperc, Timba Ismials, Sonoc, Vergara and a few obscure others.

Id actually like to list the congas ive played, for my own entertainment, and to stave off Alzheimer's... Please forgive the repeated use of Congas, but it helps in the search engine rankings...

Lp Classic Congas
Lp Player series Congas
Lp Aspire Congas
Lp Caliente Congas
Lp Accents Congas
Lp Matador Congas
Lp 30th anniversary model Congas
Lp Candido Congas
Lp Potato Congas
Lp Giovanni Hidalgo Congas
Lp Valje Congas - Oak, Beech and Cherry
Cp Congas - early models
Cp Congas - later models
Meinl Floatune Congas - fiber
Meinl Congas - rubberwood
Toca Congas - Oak
Afro Congas
Junior Tirado Congas - Mahogany
Jay Bereck, Skin on skin congas, Cherry, Oak and Ash
JCR Congas - Oak
Isla Congas - Canoe ( Poplar, i believe ) Cherry
Matt Smith Congas, Ritmo Congas -Oak, African Mahogany, Honduran Mahogany
El Chino Congas - Mahogany
La Playa Congas - Mahogany/Fir
Valje Congas - La, Sf, ashiko's, bata of oak; very early mahogany 5 banded quinto
Gon Bops Congas - 50's Mahogany first 1000 series (32"ers with # stamp on the crown)
Gon Bops Congas - Mahogany and Oak, all basic series of all ages
Gon Bops Congas - California series Oak prototypes.
Gon Bops Congas - California series Oak
Sol Congas - Oak and Mahogany, various series.
Timba Congas - Oak
Mombizas Congas - solid shell
Motherland Congas - solid shell
WestCoast percussion
Fuji Congas
Slingerland Congas
Royce Congas
Ecotone Congas
King Congas
Bauer Lite Congas - Ash
Bauer Congas - Cedar
Raul Congas - Cedar
Candido Requena Congas
Del Cielo Congas
Volcano Congas - Mango
Vergara Conga
Candido Requena Conga

... I'm sure i forgot a few, but other than some rare pieces from Cuba and Mexico, thats about it.

pic is of James' old cuban Candido Requena

Point being, there were a few drums that really did it for me. Sos Cherry, Bauer Cedar, my favorite unknown Mexican Mahogany drums (pic), Matt Smith's African Mahogany, Sol oak, Valje, Gon Bops early Oak, Isla Canoe, Junior Mahogany.

Sound is subjective.. the ideal tone is in he ear of the beholder. And there are several different uses, and different sounds i want out of a set of drums.

For me, having specific sets for Rumba, Salsa, and Latin Jazz work is ideal. It might be helpful for some to know my favorite drums, and how they stack up to all the high end drums on the market.

One can always rebuild a drum, or fix a crack, so to me, the sound is what is most important. Quality of construction is important only to the point that it enables the drum to sound as good as it can for as long as it can.

Im not talking about furniture here, so if you're a fan of the most beautiful drums on the market, Volcano percussion, for example, and like to pay a million to have your drums to look like a million bucks, this is not the post to be reading. I'll leave that post up to collectors who like to look at their "congas"/conversation pieces - they can hold a beauty contest on their blogs if they like. This blog is about instruments. (yea, it's my pet peeve - i dont like the inflation in conga prices, in the middle of a recession hitting musicians disproportionately hard - the collectors need for pretty furniture drives the price up for actual players, the rich always have money... please guys, go back to collecting fine watches ;)

I only listed drums one can find, either new, or used. And this is only my opinion, and is based solely on my direct experience.

Ranked according to sound for Salsa:

Matt Smith, Sos, Junior, Isla, Timba, Valje, Sol, Bauer, Gon Bops.

Sound rank for Rumba:

Isla, Gon Bops, Bauer, Valje, Sol, Matt Smith, SOS, Junior

Sound rank for latin Jazz:

Junior, Isla, Bauer, Valje, Sos, Matt Smith

Ranked according to quality of construction and durability:

Matt Smith, Sos, Valje, Sol, Junior, Bauer, Isla, Gon bops, Timba

JCR needs an honorable mention as one of the best on the market, but their hardwood drums are super heavy, and need heavy skins to manage the ring. They are great sounding drums with the right skins. They are built like tanks and will last for several generations to come. The hardware is fantastic.

I you are looking for one set of all purpose congas, i would recommend the following congas with the best value:

at $1000+ each, i can't recommend anyone

at $750+ Matt Smith

at $450+ Isla Percussion

at $300+ Gon Bops - used market

at $200+ Lp Matador's - used market

at $100+ Cp older traditional models, Toca traditionals - used market

Some of my favorite less expensive drums:

Lp Matador congas
Toca traditional oak
Meinl Rubberwood, traditional rims
older CP oak
Lp Classics

Other medium priced recommendations: Lp Giovanni's, Meinl Floatune

Im looking forward to further searching, and a long awaited set of Matt Smith Black Walnut will somehow make its way to me, at some point.