How to Make Bongo Drums for a School Project

By Mason Howard

Popularized in Latin American music, bongos are hand-played, two-drum instruments that, although simple in structure, can be used to create intricate and rhythmic beats. Bongo drum building is often assigned in music classes to help teach kids the dynamics of percussion instruments. Using common household items, basic woodworking tools and materials, and proper drum-building techniques, a personalized and fully functioning homemade bongo drum will be the talk of the music room.

Obtain two round, empty, cardboard oatmeal containers. Store extra oatmeal in a plastic container for future use, if necessary.

Use a craft knife to cut one container so it is 8 inches high. Cut the other container 12 inches high. The shorter length will be the drum that carries a deeper pitch (the macho) and the taller length will be the drum that carries a higher pitch (the hembra).

Decorate the drum bodies as desired. Paint them or cover them with fabric or paper glued on with craft glue.

Trace the circle of the drums on canvas or cotton fabric. Add 2 inches around the circle. Use scissors to cut out the circles. These will be the drum heads.

Use a damp sponge to slightly moisten the canvas or cotton. This will loosen the fabric and make it more taut once it dries after being stretched on the drums.

Apply a semi-generous bead of craft glue around the edge of the circles and another semi-generous bead of craft glue just below the top edges of the drum bodies. Center and stretch the canvas or fabric circles over the tops of the drums, pressing the glued areas together. Hold the canvas or fabric firmly in place as the glue dries by placing rubber bands around the top edges.

Paint the entire drum heads with a coat of craft glue. This will stiffen the canvas or fabric and help in the tonality and volume of the drum sound. Allow the coat of craft glue to dry then paint on a second coat.

Drill holes 1 inch apart along the top edges of the drums, where the drum heads overlap the body of the drums. Use a curved needle to thread string or cord through the holes. Make two passes around each drum head. Knot the ends of the string or cord tightly together. This will help keep the drum heads secure.

Use a saw to cut a 4-inch-long block from a 1-inch-by-1-inch board. Paint the block to match the drum. Use hot glue and a glue gun to adhere the drums to the block. Position the block vertically, centered between the two drums.

About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.