Time to buy a conga set? One of the bigger choice to make is about the shell material… traditional wood or modern fiberglass congas?
Choosing a new conga set is exciting, but also overwhelming with all the options available.
For people new to congas, I recommend to check out two articles from our PercussionConga archive:
- The first one is introducing the Conga Anatomy, to be sure you have the right terminology and understanding of all the components of a conga drum
- The second one is about how to buy an used conga drum, that is always a good option to take into consideration
Whatever you’ll chose to go for a new or a used set, one of the big decisions to take is about the conga shell material: wood or fiberglass?
Let’s see in this article pro and cons of the two options.
As a general rule, the sound produced by a wooden conga is warmer and more natural, while the sound produced by a fiberglass conga is louder and more crisp.
Because of the sound properties, wooden congas are the first choice for studio recording, and normally requires microphones when playing live music.
Fiberglass congas are sometimes preferred when playing live concerts, when the conguero wants to be heard without playing too hard (bad for the hands!)
Some people prefer fiberglass when playing rock/pop music and wood for Latin jazz music.
As fiberglass congas are more resonant, they’re considered easier to play in the sense that is easier to produce tones on them.
Fiberglass congas are not affected by weather conditions or temperature.
If you plan to play outside in rainy London, for example, you may want fiberglass as it’s a material that doesn’t change properties between (or during) gigs.
The opposite is true with wooden congas, that require to be tuned more often depending on the climate, and are more sensible to humidity and temperature.
While fiberglass shells are more resistant than wood, it doesn’t mean they’re more difficult to scratch as many people think (the photo on the right if from a fiberglass conga).
The resistance is more regarding bumps and hits, considering also that in wooden shells the material is more stressed due to the pressure.
This is an important quality if you’ll transport your congas often because indeed the most scratches and damages to the drums are made during transportation.
A fellow conguero, nickname B-CERO, reported his funny experience on a forum:
“I used to have a set of L.P. patatos (fiberglass) when I played in bars, and outdoors they got alot of rough treatment one actually fell off a 5′ stage to the floor below, it hit on its’ side and bounced about 3′ up! It was not damaged! I think a wood drum would have shattered.”
I won’t try with mine wooden congas to see if he’s right!
In our experience, fiberglass congas are lighter than wooden congas, but it really depends on the model.
I never found any fiberglass conga heavier than my Pearl Elite conga (weight 12.6Kg), so in my opinion this is another plus for fiberglass congas in case you need to carry them around.
Living at 4th floor with no elevator, I’d like to have something lighter… but without sacrifice the sound quality!
All in all, there’s not a real winner.
Just consider what you really need and see which material is more appropriate for you.
And try them, ALWAYS, to check how they feel for you!
We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment!