Play Bongo Drums

How To Read Drum Music

If you want to be able to play bongo drums, you're going to need to know how to read drum notation. Unfortunately, unlike drum sheet music there is really no universally accepted method of writing music for bongo drums. This can be very frustrating as you begin to play, having to switch from one style to another.

I've seen multiple ways of writing bongo notation and have included examples of each of them below. All the exercises that I write will be in the first format since it seems the most logical to me and it blends nicely with my other lessons on notation for drums. See my other lessons on how to read drum music, for help with drumset sheet music as you learn to play bongo drums.

The first method of writing bongo music places the macho notes in the same place that snare drums normally appears. The hembra notes are placed on the bottom where bass drums are normally. All the exercises you play on this site will be written in this format. I prefer to use standard drum notation, as I don't really have a program to write it any other way.

Another popular way I've seen bongo drums expressed in written drum music is shown above. It does away with the standard staff and uses only two lines, one representing both hembra and macho. I feel that this method is easier to read and play than those compositions that use the normal drum staff, but until somebody writes me a program that creates drum notation in this format, I don't have the time to write it this way. There are a few bongo books on the market that notate this way.

The final method I want to cover is one that is commonly used to play many types of world drumming compositions. It uses a single bar that has been divided up into eighth note patterns. Instead of placing notes on a staff, it uses symbols to represent which tones you play. In the example above:

Square = Open
Circle = Closed
Triangle = Slap

You probably won't see it a whole lot as you learn to play bongo drums. This type of notation is most commonly found in djembe music because the djembe is one drum that only differentiates tones. If used for bongo music, there should be letters underneath the symbols indicating M for macho and H for hembra.

You may also notice hand patterns underneath bongo notes indicating which hand you should use to play each strike. In most instances, hand patterns are meant to show you the easiest (most comfortable) way to play a particular pattern. If you find that another hand pattern is easier to play, feel free to use it.

In order to differentiate between the various tones used to play bongos, I will be using symbols to indicate each sound.

O = Open
C = Closed
S = Slap, with a smaller "o" or "c" above to indicate an open slap or closed slap
F = Fingers
T = Thumb

Related Links:
Continue Learning How To Play Bongo Drums.
Types of Drums

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