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The Bongos were first used in the cuban music called the son (1900 - peasant music tradition from Oriente province in eastern Cuba). 

They were the principal percussion instrument of Cuban Popular Music before the addition of congas later in the conjunto.The larger, low-pitch drum is called the hembra (female), and the smaller, high-pitched drum is the macho (male).The bongos are played by holding them between the knees, facing outward, the large bongo to the large bongo to the right of the player. 

They may also be mounted on an adjustable stand. Tuning varies amomg players (generally much higher than the congas).Because the physical differences between the Congas and the Bongos, the technique for each instrument is quite different. 

The most important rhythm/technique played on bongos is the martillo.


Basic technique

The most important rhythm of the bongo is the "martillo" (hammer). It consists of eight distinct strokes and like the "tumbao" is a one-bar pattern which is repeated. The sound of "Martillo" could be phonetically interpreted as "dicky-docky-dicky-ducky". 

The right hand accents the first and third beats with a sharp, muted sound played on the high bongo. The left fills in the rhythm by alternating between the thumb and fingers with a sideways rocking motion (manoteo - heel toe movement); the thumb muffles the right hand strokes. Open sounds are palyed on two and four on the high and low bongo respectively.

The Martillo is effective for all rhythms from slow boleros to fast rumbas. Its function is like the ryde cymbal in jazz drumming or the tumbao of the congas. Martillo and Tumbao can be played togheter without disrupting the stability of the rhythm. 

Martillo pattern


Martillo technique



Latin Percussion LPM200-AW Santana Mini Tunable Wood Bongo
Latin Percussion

Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 12 x 7 inches
No band has been more important in popularizing Latin rhythms to the masses than Santana. Legendary Carlos Santana, world-renowned musician has had a long and celebrated relationship with LP. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Santana has sold more than 90 million records, performed for 100 ...

LP Bongo Cajon
Latin Percussion

Product Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 20 inches ; 2 pounds
It may look like a mini-cajon, but it\'s a Latin Percussion Bongo Cajon. That\'s right, now you can have all those cool bongo tones from a cajon. Sized to sit perfectly on your lap or between your legs, the Bongo Cajon gives you all the traditional bongo tones you want. The included drawstring bag i ...

Bongo Grooves for Beginners DVD (2011)
Alan Dworsky

Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
Learning to play the bongos has never been easier than with this new DVD from Alan Dworsky, the award-winning author of \"Conga Drumming\" and \"How to Play Djembe.\" Designed for the first-time hand drummer, this video teaches fun, funky grooves that fit with all kinds of music. The instruction is ...

Bongo Drumming/Beyond the Basics Book/2 CD Set
Trevor Salloum

Paperback - 80 pages Book & Cd edition
(September 5, 2000) Mel Bay Publications

Play Bongos & Hand Percussion Now: Basics and Beyond
by Richie Gajate-Garcia

Paperback: 96 pages
Warner Brothers Publications; (November 6, 2002)
This book approaches bongo playing in a very user-friendly way. A must for all students who wish to learn the basic styles, patterns and techniques from world-renowned artist/teacher Richie Gajate-Garcia. This package contains 2 CD's with Richie performing all exercises and has play along tracks to ...

Bongo Book
Trevor Salloum

Paperback - 64 pages Book & Cd edition.
(June 1997) Mel Bay Publications.


  •    Martillo Variations
  •   Martillo Fill-Ins
  •   Martillo Fill-Ins 2
not available