In my experience over the years with conga drums and conga skins I have found that there is no best skin. It is what skin best suits your needs.
Do you have an old conga drum, bongos or other hand drums lying around because they don’t sound good? Putting on a new head is relatively easy and can transform the sound of almost any drum instantly! Here is an article I wrote on picking skins you might find valuable.
A good conga drum or bongo skin can make an average drum sound much better. A great or perfectly matched skin can make almost any drum sound good and can make a great drum perfect. For me it is about putting the right skin on the shell I already have. For conga drums there is no “best skin”. It is about finding the right thickness and type of skin for the sound you are going for.
You don’t have to buy a brand new drum to get great sound. I have put many new skins on several of my older drums such as LP Classics and they sound fantastic. A skin is a small investment compared to a new drum. And your new drum does not necessarily come with the best sin for your playing needs. Whoever is putting the skin on new drums is totally guessing or compromising in skin choice.
If your drum is made in Thailand like LP, Toca and Pearl to name a few , your drum oat likely is going to have water buffalo. Someone found out they were plentiful, cheap and did well in warm and humid climates. They are ring and not the best skins for most of the drums they are mounted on. Simply putting high quality replacement heads on can improve these drums immediately and immensely.
You want to pick your skin based on the type of shell you have, the wood and the sound you war to get out of it. Generally seeking on conga drums, a thicker skin will give you more full tone and a thinner skin will give you more or brighter, sharper slap.
Having said that if you crank (tighten) the poop out of the skin you can usually get slap out of it even in a thicker skin, but your hands may pay the price as the tighter it is pulled the harder it is on your hands.
Cow and steer skin tend to be easier on the hands then mule. However, it depends on the individual skin. Mule as i mentioned is generally harder and is a good choice if you are playing in bands or want brighter sound. Cow and steer is going to give you more mellow to more tonal sound.
The wood and your shell plays into the picture as well. For instance, I have Junior Tirado conga drums. Some of the nicest drums ever made. However, they are made out of Honduran mahogany. And they can be really ring with the wrong skins. When I received them I put on thin steer skin which was the wrong choice. I don’t know what i was thinking!
Steer would have been O.K. but thin skins made the drums toneless and too bright. I actually switched to bleached white cow, which are particularly good for ringy drums as they cut out all the ring and you still get the projection of sound that these drums are famous for. They are however harder to mount then other skins as they tend to be oily after you soak them. The when i was putting it on it was slipping all over the place.
It is therefore about balancing the sound of your shell (your drum) by knowing its tendency..(is it a ring drum, a balanced drum or no ring?) and the sound you want to go for. The thickness is very, very important as well and had to be chosen carefully.
When communicating about skin thickness instead of saying I want a thick, medium or thin skin when ordering from someone you can explain the thickness in sheets of paper. I want it 15 sheets of paper thick. I find it much easier then trying to find a measuring device. But thats just me, i am pretty low tech.
When buying skins I like to get them slightly larger then needed. I know it is wasteful but it makes the process so much easier. I generally don’t like thin skins. I put medium skins on my quint and requinto, medium on my tres golpes (conga) and thick on my tubas and super tuba. Most of my drums now have cow, steer or mule from Manito Percussion.
Ryan ‘Manito’ Wendel is a great guy to buy skins from because not only is he the importer but he makes drums and also is a great player. You can call and write him and discuss your needs and he can customize your order for the sound you are going for. This is a rare service in this day and age of no service. He has full stock of all the skins i have discussed and even has camel skin, which i have on my requinto.
Here is the contact info for Manito:
Ryan ‘Manito’ Wendel
706-614-4563 P.O. Box 511 Hull, GA 30646
You can even go and visit him, too!
I have demo tests of all of the skins I have mounted on my Youtube channel (michaelpluznick) and even some before and after videos of well so you can see and hear the difference.
Manito has a selection of premounted bongo heads that fit LP and Matador congas and bongos. Skin choices include Mule, Natural Steer, White Steer, and Camel. The skins are premounted and stretched on cold rolled 1/4″ Stainless Steel rings that will never rust or warp. Currently, he offers the standard LP size rings which includes all LP, Galaxy, and – See more at: http://www.manitopercussion.com/skins/#sthash.ifATm2yi.dpuf
PLEASE MENTION OR USE COUPON CODE 007 when ordering and receive a discount!