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Reviving calfskin conga heads?


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  • Reviving calfskin conga heads?

    Let me start this off by saying I am by no means a conga player, I don't know anything about their construction, or the proper technique in playing them.


    But I've been getting steady gigs with a friend of mine playing congas in an acoustic duo. I've been doing it for a few months now, and I'm using my dad's old congas that he left me. All through winter they've sounded fine, but this last gig they were totally lifeless. I may as well have been slapping cardboard boxes.

    I assume the problem lies in the heads since they're older than I am.  I'm just not sure if I should replace original calfskin heads with some synthetic knockoff that's out there today. What do you guys think I can do with these? Is there anything I need to know before I try tightening them up, or should I just swap out the old heads for something fresh? I'd love some advice from some folks that have experience with congas... Because I have none!


    And for the hell of it, here's some conga porn...


     photo congas_zps1adfd70d.jpg
    Don't Sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things

  • #2
    those are dope.
    i miss you, mark
    r.i.p. rudy


    • jimtyler
      jimtyler commented
      Editing a comment

      Congas that classy need calf skin. If not that, at least fibreskin.

  • #3

    DW is right. Any natural skin head is going to be affected by the climate. When I was in college my proffesor told me stories of trying to keep the heads on his timpani in tune during outdoor summer concerts. If it's humid, or raining the natural skin is going to absorb some of that moisture and the tone will change.

    "An amature practices till he can do it right. A professional practices till he can't do it wrong."



    • Gremson
      Gremson commented
      Editing a comment

      Cool. Sounds like I need to lube up my heads and spend some quality time with a wrench....

    • Gremson
      Gremson commented
      Editing a comment

      Cool. Sounds like I need to lube up my heads and spend some quality time with a wrench....

  • #4

    to rehab calfskin heads, take the heads off and rub any hand cream with lanolin, palm oil, or shea butter into them ... NO petroleum


    just barely enough to coat them ... let them dry



    I used to have a handle on life, but I gotta jiggle it every now and then.


    • #5

      Yep, as previously stated, apply a lanolin based skin cream. Always worked for me.

      "If you can't SAY something with your instrument, try sellin' cars."-
      The late, great Tony Williams

      — Sonor Designer Maple shell (heavy) 8 pc. for studio
      — Premier Genista 7 pc. for live gigs
      — Tama Silverstar "Metro" 4pc. for certain live gigs.
      — Paiste, Bosphorus and Sabian cymbals, depending on what I'm doin'.
      — Small collection of assorted snare drums to suit my mood.


      • coyote-1
        coyote-1 commented
        Editing a comment
        If the heads are very old, revival using creams or oils is futile.

        Purchase flat skins, and make new heads using the metal rings within your existing heads. It's a great way to learn a bit more about your instrument.