CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Volcano Percussion - only eye candy... bad for your teeth!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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Volcano Percussion - only eye candy... bad for your teeth!


ive been keeping my mouth shut on this one.. but...

The word is, that the price is over $3000 a drum.

Ive played three sets of these drums, and they are bright and uncontrollably ringy, at best. Over built and metallic sounding, heavy and uncomfortable to play. but boy, they sure look nice... (eyes rolling)

For all those who love these drums:

If anyone wants to send me a video of them playing a set of these drums, Im happy to post it here so all can make up their own minds about how they sound.

A friend and reader of this blog was quoted over $30 thousand dollars for two sets of three 'drums' ! Now that is truly ridiculous.

Whats the big deal? Why do i care what they charge? Well... all you have to do is ask the conga makers of the tradition, and they will tell you... Prices will continue to rise, and this ridiculous price collectors pay, makes it very hard for a working musician to buy high end drums made by the actual master drum makers of our day - Matt Smith and Jay Bereck for example.

The price of hand made congas is being driven up for several reasons, and this inflated asking price is not helping the tradition.

I hope you all invest in the true master builders of our day, Matt Smith and Jay Bereck. You will find them exponentially better than Volcano Percussion.

Hope that helps,



  1. Thanks bro. I admire your boldness. I too am sadden by the fact that for some people it is now about the money and no longer focused on the wonderful long on going tradition of the playing of such a beautiful instrument.
    The news of the cost of these drums just makes me more glad that though I was considering Volcanos I decided to go ahead and ordered my set from Jay Bereck, in fact I they are scheduled to arrive this Friday (7th Nov.). I have no worries because I know what I’m getting, sound and quality not to mention the fact that I have the satisfaction of knowing that my drums have been made by one of the world’s best artisans in the field.
    Continue to bless us with your Blog brother it is great!

  2. Juan,

    Thanks for the kind words about the blog, it helps keep me motivated.

    Everyone has the right to charge whatever they want, i guess. but the musicians are the ones who feel the inflation.

    I bet you are like an expectant father, waiting for your tubs. Its nice to know you'll be ecstatic about Jay's drums. Ive never played an SOS i didnt like. Long into the future, these tubs will be loved by many a player.. strange to think about, but they will out last all of us. Jay is so talented.

    I too am waiting on the set of my dreams, for over two years now.


  3. They all look like their in their 8th month of pregnancy. ;)

    Like the song says:
    "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing"
    (Marvin Gaye)

  4. Sadly, it sounds for a fact that you don't know what you are talking about. Your talking about price and not comparing the quality, workmanship, expertise and finsihed product of the drums.
    If you compare Volcano Percussion drums against the other drum makers you mentioned, there is no comparison.
    The woods are exotic woods to start and very expenses wood. The hardware is stainless steel, not chrome. the staves are doweled together not just glued.. thats why you dont see metal bands holding them together. And the shapes give these a very loud and clear sound with little effort. I know for a fact the research this company has put in for years to make the best handmade drums in the world.
    And if you cant afford them, you cant afford them. Continue to drive a Buick when you really want to drive a Cadillac. Im sorry my friend but I own 3 of these drums. And there is no comparison when owning the best.. These are a piece of jewelery not covered up ash wood or drums held together with bands.
    Please do more research before you speak. These drums are expenseive because they are museum quality drums.
    and in no way was your friend quoted that much for 3 sets. Your post was sad.

  5. My whomever you are,

    Im sorry you bought these drums.

    I can tell you bought the sales pitch, hook line and sinker.

    You should read the post again, perhaps you will read the part about them being over built and not good sounding.

    As for the research... can you find anyone who has played all the manufacturers listed in the following post?

    Everyone has their own taste, but non of the top players play these drums, for a reason.

    Id like to know were we can see you play these works of art, so everyone can see for themselves how they sound, and your experience as a player.

    As for being sad... id be hella happy to own Matt Smith, or SOS's.. you would be too.. I can tell you haven't played them, or you wouldn't have spent your money on Volcano drums.

  6. These are the most beautiful drums I've ever seen.

  7. For those of you whom may care I received the email at the bottom of this post last year from Tom at Volcano Drums. I was, and still am, interested in buying all six sizes of drums plus a matching set of bongos from him. I don't know if I'd go with the 24k Gold, maybe, but I would definately go with the Koa drums.
    He did send me a pricelist before this email.
    I thought I'd pass this along after reading some of the comments here.

    I already own a full set of Valje congas (bought new in 1977)and they are spectacular too.

    Tom's email to me:
    Aloha Gary,

    Your basically correct. Actually in full curl koa there's not much necessity for bookmatching. That's off-gallery price though. In gallery is $6,000.00 each. Of course more if you want 24kt. gold plated hardware. There all beautiful no matter what the price and the sound and quality is identical. The cost differential is in the value of these rare premium hardwoods price controlled by world market for fine furnishings. Attached is a photo of our most popular drums today. This is Hawaiian Monkeypod from Waipio Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii. Very rare.

    Aloha, Tom Alexander
    Production Manager
    Volcano Percussion
    "Where Every Drum Is An Original"
    P.O. Box 6280
    Ocean View, Hi. 96737

  8. Let me throw in my two cents. I just bought 3 congas form Tom at Volcano Percussion. I have been shopping around and I paid the same price that I would have paid for a set of Timbas. Timba is located in Ontario California and is 15 minutes from my home. I bought Volcano because the are built better, they are exotic woods from Hawaii and I'm a big fan of Hawaiian woods. I have a DW Koa veneer drum set. I also have a regular DW laquer kit. I bought the exotic, because it is exotic. Koa wood has very musical properties too. My congas are Chocolate Albezzia wood, an Acacia wood similar to Koa, but 1/3 the price. I don't NEED the exotic woods, that's what I wanted. Regular ugly old Oak or Cherry would have worked just fine, but I wanted the Eye candy. If I could afford it I would by a set of Mango, Monkey Pod and Koa. Just because I like the woods.
    I have a segmented snare drum made from Koa. It's the most versatile and musical snare drum I own, and I own a several good ones. So for me, it was about the wood. Yeah it's expensive, but it's my choice. I also own a Toyota and a BMW. Both have their purpose. another thing that I like, I got to spend a lot of time on the phone with Tom. I like to know the artist of the art I buy. That goes for the oils paintings, Prints, glass, instruments, flintlock rifles and furniture that I own. So it is a personal preferance. Anyway, keep talking about drums and making music. Gordy

  9. Hammer here, I just finished playing my 3 Mango Volcano drums and happened on to this conversation. I also own two Volcano Koa drums and three Monkeypod. I have a set of Matt's Ritmos, Fats, Meinl Flotuns, Valjes, Kings, Gon Bops, and many other interesting drums. The sounds we all chase after are probably accomplished by the player and the skin as much as by the instrument. I have know many drum makers and repaired by own over the years. I must say "Tom Alexander has taken the art of making drums to a new level" Would everyone appreciate that, I do not know. Just keep playing and the sound you want can be found in some of your mom's kitchen ware.

  10. Your full of bull. Volcano Percussion congas are the best congas made.

  11. Some of you are seriously dellusional.
    $6000.00 per conga?
    You have got to be kidding me.
    Some of the most over built, terrrible sounding drums I have ever encountered. Talk about overtones and ringing. Ah well, what ever floats your boat.

  12. You know, you can put a monkey in a suit but, in the's still a monkey! Dressing up conga drums with gold plating, crushing diamond chips into the finish, or smearing godsmack onto the head won't make it sound better. No, unfortunately it's in the skill set possessed by the player, or the lack there of. I will say however, despite my previous statements, if you can dress up your equipment (eyecandy), and have the $ to through at your hobby, or love of drums, then by all means you should. It gives those who don't have the luxury of doing so, something to gawk at. I've actually played numerous congas throughout my musical career, and have found even the most simple, scarred and rusted drum to produce such a melodic percussive sound, so as to appease the masses. Hopefully, you all will find your middle ground to walk on and play your drums, whether museum pieces or battle drums, together. Afterall, when it's all over, who will you leave your drums to?

  13. someone mentioned that matts or s.o.s-juniors or jcr congas needed to be held together with banding. mind you, volcanoes need DOWLING to hold the wood together. another thing, these true and most respected artisans that i mentioned also use EXOTIC woods. i have yet to see KNOWN heavy cats using VOLCANOS. MI DOS CENTAVOS

  14. All of the handbuilders of congas deserve our respect. It is hard enough for these artists of musical art to compete with the corperate giants. So let's show any and all handbuilders the respect they deserve. The handbuilders maintain the tradition and make the advances forward. The corperate stuff is right for many but the corperate stuff is all pretty much the same all over.

    Peace and Respect.

  15. Short story: Years ago four of my friends and I had a drum lesson in Seattle with Jesus Alfonso Miro of Los Monequitos and his son. John of John's Music, great guy that he is, let us use the drums off his floor, and his back room. We all searched out the best drums we could find, comparing tones and labels. Jesus and his son walked in, grabbed the first drums they saw and went into to give the lesson. They had each picked up a cheap Cosmic Percussion that most "serious" drummers wouldn't play. One guess as to who's drum sounded the best that day.

    In my limited experience with Master drummers they don't talk about what drum is the best. They talk about listening, music, rhythm, respect, children, intention and spirit. I think it's important that we respect the drum and the drummer. Whether Volcano or Valje, Cosmic Percussion or your belly, let's celebrate the drum, the drum makers, the drummers and the choices we have.

  16. If Jesus Alfonso didn't care what he played, he would not have played Moperc as his primary gigging set. Funny how you dont see any maestros playing an aspire at a public gig. That said, they can make anything sound good, as opposed to you and I. Obviously, equipment matters to most everyone, as does technique and knowledge... maestro or not.

    This celebrate the drum thing perplexes me.. crappy drums are just that. Perhaps Im missing something, but what does Ana have to do with kids toys and/or well made furniture?

  17. Tony, Your information is way off base about Volcano congas. These drums are way more than eye candy. They are ear candy as well. Its to bad people like you give out false information. I think when you get a little older and a bit smarter you will understand just how stupid you sound. If you could not get a Volcano conga drum to sound great then you should learn how to tune a drum or perhaps learn how to play a conga. Dont worry I know you wont post this this because you dont have the balls. It takes a big man to admit he made a mistake. You are a very little man indeed.

  18. Tony, Yes you are missing something, maybe it's the tone from your bleached skins! How much effort did it take to make this page appear alongside a google search for Volcano Percussion? Thats quite sneaky and underhand. I guess that's your personality...
    All the best with yor broken drums!

  19. Yes, I prefer the unbleached sound, and I love a broken drum..

    Since you meant to ask.. I put zero effort into how this page ranks, its actually your comment that increases the rank, I believe.

    If you dont want my blog to rank high, I would not read it, or post comments on or about it. You should never click on any of my posts if you can help it.

    Better yet, start your own blog and post your positive reviews about volcano.

    I thought about deleting this honest post, but its comments like this that encourage me to stand on my principals of free on honest speech.

    I know, life would be easy if we all agree and keep our mouths shut.

    As far as personal insults go, feel free, its not a reflection of my character, Anonymous.

  20. Again, Im happy to post an unedited high quality clip from someone playing Volcano products, so everyone can judge for themselves.

  21. I've owned Gon Bops, LP, Tycoon, Toca, you name the brand. Volcano's are the best I've ever owned.

  22. Interesting...
    But, the best part is that I went to the Volcano web site, and there I saw a photograph of an old friend playing Volcanos...

    I haven't seen my good friend and conguero Gary S. in 30 years.

    So now, for me, Volcanos have a really good vibe.

    Mark D.

  23. What an embarrassment this page must be for you Tony (I do not expect you to admit that!)
    I do not know a single person who would make a page such as this, even if they happened not to like VP.
    Shameful, I suppose if you enjoy sending out negativity to the percussion world then you are on the right path. Well here's some back at you.

  24. Yes yes yes.. its all a big shameful embarrassment..

    In your world, no-one would say anything negative about anything (a thing) publicly, and we can all cast shame on one another anonymously.. .. have fun with that.

    Funny how I dont hear something constructive like 'I play them, and here is a video of how nice they sound'.. as I will post it, without a doubt.

    So, as I say, everyone can judge for themselves. Still no takers many years later...


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