The Cajon, which has centuries-old roots in both Peru and Cuba, has become highly famous, making sporadic appearances in popular music.
Rightfully so. You can take it almost everywhere. It is cheap, and it is a ton of fun to play! What is there to dislike?
Even though a Cajon seems like a straightforward drum box, you sit on, learning to play one can be an enriching experience for everyone. This article will help you.
What is a Cajon?
Let’s start by discussing what a Cajon is in reality.
The percussionist sits atop a box-shaped instrument called a Cajon while playing with their hands, palms, and fingertips to produce sound. Its dimensions are a good 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
Although it might sound a little primitive, the tones a Cajon can produce are incredible.
Cajons are constructed from hardwood and have an additional sheet of plywood attached to the side designated as the “front.” The tone that is emitted depends on the front hitting surface (also referred to as the face or tapa) where you strike your palm.
The Cajon’s face can be struck pretty much anywhere to create a distinctive sound. The sound escapes through a circular sound hole that has been cut out of one of the sides, which is always at your back.
A Cajon is a fantastic instrument to travel with and perform with on the spot because of its size and weight. You will become confident enough to bring it up on stage with you and discover all the sounds it can produce as you have more opportunities to play with it.
Cajons were invented in Peru and are frequently used in Flamenco music, but they are now gaining popularity in other musical genres like folk, rock, jazz, and pop.
*** Read more: How To Set Up A Drum Set? Step By Step Guide
The Parts of a Cajon
– The face of the drum, which contains the primary striking zones, is its thinnest portion.
– Because it must hold the weight of the player seated on it, the shell is solidly built.
– The sound hole is at the back and allows air to leave, facilitating some air movement that enhances the tone.
– The majority of Cajons today have snares. Some of those include levers that make it simple to modify. The snares give the sound a slight rattling that keeps the instrument lively among the other noises.
How To Play Cajon?
#1. Position & Posture – How To Sit On The Cajon?
Although it may not be crucial for the drum box, the first and most crucial step in learning to play the Cajon is also crucial for your health and longevity.
One of the most frequent errors new drummers make is stooping forward while sitting at the drum, usually to make it easier to play the tapa (front face).
However, it accomplishes nothing. It does not increase loudness or bass but restricts your playing speed, producing subpar sounds and causing chronic back issues.
Instead, spend most of your time sitting on the Cajon with your back straight. To generate those varied tones when playing the drum’s sides, you might need to lean slightly forward, although maintaining your back straight is still essential.
Your feet should be able to rest comfortably on the floor with a modest knee bend, depending on your height and the height of the drum box. To make reaching the front face of the drum and the sides simpler, you should also spread your knees out quite far.
Your buttocks should be loosely in line with the drum’s back face as you sit on the drum box, a little to the side of the front of the box.
There is no need to sit or lean too far forward as you will not typically be pounding the surface more than 5 to 6 inches from the top of the drum.
Last but not least, letting go and relaxing is one of the most crucial pieces of advice we can offer regarding bodily alignment and posture.
Any tightness in your body will eventually slow down your playing, negatively affect accuracy and timing, and generally, deplete your stamina.
*** Read more: How To Tune Your Drum In 7 Steps – 2022
#2. Cajon Playing Style – Tones, Strokes, And Notes
a. Bass Tone
The basis of most musical genres is the lowest tone on a Cajon, which resembles the bass drum of a standard drum set.
There are many different ways to play the bass note. However, the most popular one is simply placing your entire hand over the front panel without letting any of it extend over the upper border, roughly 5 to 6 inches below the top of the drum.
Most of your contact should be made in the region between your fingertips and the ball of your hand. After striking, you should immediately move the hand away from the surface in a motion akin to bouncing off.
To get the best low frequencies and resonance out of the Cajon, you should pull away after striking it rather than forcing your hand into the surface.
You should now bring your hand back to the tapa face, hovering a few inches away from it.
– You can produce a more subdued and complex bass tone by simply striking as described above but shifting the focus of the contact to the finger pads rather than the palms.
– You can use greater firmness in your hand and prevent the hand from bouncing off the drum’s face to play a more staccato (a note of shorter length) but heavier bass note.
– Simply placing your heel on the top of the drum box and striking the tapa face with the pads of your fingertips is a more subtle and profound technique that works well for those quieter settings or musical passages.
b. High Tone & Slap Stroke
A drum box’s high tone contrasts beautifully with its deep bass tones, and you may imitate the snare drum’s higher-pitched snap.
Your hand should be brought closer to you than it was at the beginning of the bass stroke; the palm of your hand should now be parallel to the upper edge of your drum.
When playing a slap stroke, you want to relax your fingers rather than preserve a small amount of tension in them.
Your fingers should leap onto the drum face once your palm strikes the top edge of the drum. Although you can play with your fingers slightly apart or close together, they must remain relaxed.
Additionally, unlike the bass tone, you want to briefly retain your hand on the drum surface rather than immediately bouncing off.
The tone and sound of the slap stroke will depend on where you hit the drum. In contrast to the lower middle, which produces a deeper bass tone, the corner portions will produce a higher tone.
c. Ghost Notes
The ghost note is the last trick, but it is also one of the most crucial while learning to play the Cajon.
Drums and other percussion instruments typically produce short-lived rhythms interspersed with silence. It is crucial to fill those empty spaces to generate rhythm and groove unless you are going for tension or a disruptive effect.
Ghost notes on the Cajon are ideal for this. They can be performed using either high or low tones.
Bass ghost notes are often played further down the middle of the drum, whereas high ghost notes can be made by tapping your fingertips on the top corners of the drum.
*** Read more: How To Hold Drumsticks? 5 Ways To Hold Drumsticks
d. Other Playing Areas
The Cajon is more than its main playing area (front tapa). There are five possible playing surfaces that you can use in your music.
When playing the tapa, it is relatively simple to access the sides of a Cajon, which can produce a wide variety of sounds!
While the corners produce a louder tone, the edges produce a fantastic tone ideal for accents and ghost notes. The tones become increasingly deep and resonate as you walk along the face of the sides.
The Cajon’s top face, where you seat it, can also be played. A more penetrating and higher-pitched tone will be produced when playing while seated on the drum box due to the narrower playing surface.
Slap tones on the top face of the drum box produce a lovely, deep tone if you are playing it more like a conga than while seated on your Cajon.
The back of your Cajon produces lovely and deep tones while being considerably less accessible than the other faces. This is especially true if your Cajon is mic’d up at the rear soundhole.
#3. Timing & Practice Advice
When learning to play the Cajon, timing is crucial to consider and practice.
Your responsibility as the percussionist in a band is to provide the framework or beat so that the other musicians may interact and keep the band together.
One approach to improving your timing and tempo as a drummer is to pay attention to and take notes from different musical genres. Try to match the rhythm of the music as you listen. When you play with various musical accompaniments, timing practice is enjoyable and easy.
Practice using a metronome is the other piece of advice I have. It will significantly increase your playing speed and timing accuracy!
You will be experimenting with numerous permutations of the Cajon’s rhythmic capabilities for years to come.
Do not be scared to experiment and create your grooves and fills once you have a basic idea of how to play the Cajon.
#1. Is Cajon hard to play?
No, playing the Cajon is not tricky. One of the most accessible instruments available, it is excellent for beginners. They are often relatively simple to play and have a low entry barrier, like most percussion instruments, but mastering them will take years of practice and technique development.
#2. What is the best Cajon for beginners?
The drum box that is most accessible and economical to novices will be the ideal Cajon for them. Because of their excellent build quality and audible output, beginners should concentrate on Cajons with a few features that provide the best playing experience possible.
#3. How to play Cajon without hurting hands?
To help your hands become more resilient as you learn to play the Cajon, progressively increase the quantity of practice and playing you do. Additionally, you should make sure your Cajon hand skills are correct. Your hands should not hurt with proper technique and training, except for some slight redness or swelling after a lengthy workout.
#4. How to play Cajon with brushes?
Using brushes to play the Cajon is a terrific way to create original sounds. They are ideal for understated acoustic shows and are played like ordinary drum brushes.
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You can start to master this beautiful instrument after choosing the ideal Cajon by concentrating on good posture, honing proper hand-hitting and slapping skills, and perfecting your timing.
Remember that you may make playing the Cajon as simple and pleasant as you like. Do not speed the learning process and damage your hands at first because the instrument is straightforward.
Enjoy the process, go slowly, and play along with and listen to musical works that feature the Cajon.