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Getting a conga and a quinto, how to tune each other to obtain the most harmonious sound ? Do they need a specific tone shiftting ?

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I'm going to quote heavily from: http://salsa-musicality.blogspot.com/2009/12/tuning-congas.html

[The notes to tune to, highest to lowest (smallest to largest):]

  • The quinto is tuned to a high-E
  • The conga is tuned to C
  • The tumba is tuned to G

If you are just starting out like me, chances are you bought just a pair of congas. If that's the case, you most likely purchased a quinto-conga set.

I own a couple of electronic tuners (from my old days of playing guitar - badly). So, I just used these to play the appropriate pitch per drum, and then tuned the drums in accordingly. If you own a metronome, there might also be a pitch feature that will do the trick.

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[The tuning process:]

  • Try to keep all the [tension rods] to approximately the same setting (i.e. don't purposely have one side of the drum way out of balance with the other).
  • It only takes a slight adjustment of each [tension rod] to make a big difference... i.e. a 1/32nd of a turn on each [tension rod] can raise the pitch of the drum by more than a note.
  • Make sure that all sections of the drum have the same pitch. Check this by placing your finger in the centre of the drum, then strike an open tone on the rim just above each [tension rod]. Adjust as necessary.

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remember... if it sounds way too high... it probably is... detune it before it breaks

Here are some notes about tuning drums in general:

  • Always start with the head too loose and tune up to the desired note.
  • Do not attempt to tune one rod all the way from loose up to the note. Once the rods are all finger tight, put no more than half a turn on a rod before moving to another one. As you close in on the note, reduce to a quarter turn. For fine tuning, 1/8 turns might be too much.
  • Tighten the rods in a star pattern, as detailed on this page. If you have two drum keys, using both at the same time on opposite sides of the head will help to evenly tune up the head quickly.
  • When first tightening a head from loose, periodically push down in the middle of the head to even out the tension around the rim. Stop pushing when or before reaching the fine tuning stage, except if you have a lot of trouble making the tuning even all around, a gently push in the center might even out the tuning a little.
  • To tune a drum to a specific note, it might be possible to have an electronic tuner detect the note a drum is playing, but this is a difficult way to do it. If you can tune by ear, then a better way to tune a drum is to have a tone generator or keyboard playing the continuous note that you want to tune to, and tuning the drum to that (this is what the quoted passage means by "play the appropriate pitch per drum").
  • Drums dials are great for drums with rims, but online reviews seem to indicate they are not as useful for congas or bongos.
  • Learning to tune an instrument is like learning the instrument: it takes practice and you get better with time, and it's also rewarding and can be fun. Cleaning and tuning are acts of love for the instrument and the craft, IMHO, and are very rewarding on their own.
  • Thank you for this great answer. As english is not my natural langage I will have some work to understand it all ;) but I think I get the essentials. "to have an electronic tuner detect the note a drum is playing, but this is a difficult way to do it" Yeah I tried it and could not have a "stable" tone, tune by ear might be the only solution.... Now concerning the tone, I've read elsewhere that the barrel/shaft (dont know if it the correct term) has it's proper tone and we have to tune the head accordingly – Loïc MICHEL Sep 17 '15 at 14:41
  • I think the word you're looking for is "shell". The shell is the part of the drum made of wood that is like a cylinder with the heads on one or both ends. Many drum shells do have a base note where they will sound best if you tune to that note. You can also tune a fifth or an octave above that note on some drums and get a good sound. I think the notes indicated above apply to all congas that are the standard size, since it's the size that determines the base note more than anything else. – Todd Wilcox Sep 17 '15 at 14:59
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And I found using a keyboard with a continuous tone works better then a tuner I couldn't get a precise reading on a guitar tuner

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