How To Play Bongo Drums

As you learn how to play bongo drums, there are two basic techniques that will really improve your playing and open up a lot of variation to basic patterns and rhythms. The first technique is actually a combination of two different hand strikes.

I covered the basic hand strikes in this Bongo Lesson. The second one is a simple enough single finger strike that is great for accents. Below are a few basic pictures that show you how to play each method and which part of your hand to use. There is also a short video that demonstrates how to play these sounds.

Heel-Toe Technique

As I said, this technique is actually a combination of two different hand strikes. It uses both the thumb and finger hits to create one swift motion that allows you to play a one handed roll. You can see my other one handed snare drum roll lesson for a cool drum set technique.

Thumb (Heel)

There are two different ways to produce sound using your thumb. The pictures demonstrate both ways and show you what part of your thumb to use.

This first way uses the entire length of the thumb from the tip to the meaty ball. I feel that this method gives a slightly deeper tone than the second and is easier to use in heel-toe mode.

The second way uses just the tip to the first, or sometimes second, knuckle. This tone seems a little higher to me and tends to ring out better. Play them both and listen closely for the difference. It's subtle, but it's there.

Finger (Toe)

When using the finger strike by itself, you only use the tips of the fingers to hit the drum head. This changes when you play the heel toe technique.

Now that you know the strikes used, you can use the heel toe method. It's simply a thumb hit followed by a finger hit, but the finger strike sweeps the head towards the thumb. The motion is similar to raking crumbs off a table into your hand. The video below shows how to play bongo drums using this method.


Rimshots are great accents that can be used to create polyrhythms or add variation to basic beats like the Martillo.

To play a rimshot on the bongo drums, use your index finger only from the tip to the first knuckle.

Strike the bongo head at the very edge to produce a high pitched tone. See video to hear it.

This video shows you how to play bongo drums using the techniques described above.

See More Drumming Techniques or Continue Learning How To Play Bongo Drums with these Bongo Drum Lessons.

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