Looking to learn how to play Cajon drum? Check out this step-by-step guide that will have you playing in no time! Cajon drums are a type of percussion instrument that originates from Peru. They are typically made from wood and have a square or rectangular shape.
The front of the Cajon drum is played with the hands, while the back is played with a stick. Cajon drums are a great way to add some percussion to your music. They are easy to play and can be used in various genres.
Everything You Need to Know Cajon
A percussionist’s throne is a drum set.
You take up the drumsticks, and you drive the music forward, not the guitarist, lead singer, or bassist. You establish the tone and maintain the beat.
As impressive as they are, Drum setups can be difficult to move, install, and fit into a tighter gig or open mic situation.
So, what’s a good substitute for a drum set?
A Cajon is a good and convenient alternative to a drum set.
Let’s take a look at some of the advantages a Cajon provides and things to consider when shopping.
What exactly is a Cajon?
First and foremost, let us define what a Cajon is.
A cajon is a box-like instrument on which the percussionist sits and creates sound with their hands, palms, and fingertips. The instrument is 18 inches in height and 12 inches in width.
Although it may sound primitive, the tones a cajon can produce are incredible.
Cajons are constructed of hardwood with an additional layer of plywood fastened to the “front” side. The tone is determined by the front striking surface (the face or tapa) where you hit your hand.
You can hit the Cajon almost anywhere on its face and get a different sound. One of the sides has a circular sound hole cut out of it, which is where the sound exits and is constantly behind you.
A cajon’s size and weight make it a fantastic instrument to travel with and perform with on the spur of the moment. The more you play with it, the more confident you’ll be in pulling it up on stage with you and learning all the sounds it can make inside and out.
Cajons originated in Peru and are popular in Flamenco music. Still, they are also becoming more popular in folk, rock, jazz, pop, and other genres.
How To Play Cajon
How To Sit On The Cajon: Position & Posture
The first and most critical step in learning to play the Cajon is also the most important for your health and longevity, not just for the drum box.
Beginners frequently make the error of sitting and stooping forward on the drum, usually to make it easier to play the tapa (front face).
It, on the other hand, does nothing. It doesn’t increase much loudness or bass, but it does slow down your playing speed, resulting in subpar sound and maybe long-term back problems.
Instead, spend most of your time sitting on the Cajon with your back straight. To generate those varied tones, you may need to lean slightly forward when playing the sides of the drum, but maintaining your back straight is essential.
Your feet should be able to rest comfortably on the floor, with a modest bend in the knees, depending on your height and the height of the drum box. You’ll also want an excellent wide split between your knees to make it easier to reach the drum’s front face and sides.
You should sit on the drum box with your buttocks roughly in line with the drum’s back face, a little back from the front of the box.
There’s no need to sit or lean too far forward because you won’t be tapping the surface more than 5-6 inches from the top of the drum.
Last but not least, one of the most critical pieces of body alignment and posture advice I can give is to loosen up and RELAX!
Any tightness in your body will impair your playing speed and severely impact your accuracy, timing, and overall stamina.
Tones, Strokes, and Notes in Cajon Playing
There are different strokes for different people, just as there are for all percussion instruments. But, to get you started, below are the most common playing styles, strokes, tones, and slaps.
Tone of Bass
Most musical styles start with the lowest tone on a Cajon, which sounds like the bass drum on a regular drum set.
The most typical manner of playing the bass stroke is to strike the front face with the more significant portion of your hand, around 5-6 inches below the top of the drum, or simply such that your entire hand is over the front panel, with none of it reaching over the upper edge.
The area right above the ball of your hand to your fingertips should get the majority of your contact. After striking, immediately draw the hand away from the surface bouncingly.
Instead of forcing your hand into the drum surface, draw away after striking the Cajon to get the drum box’s best low frequencies and resonance.
Return your hand to its original place, hovering a few inches away from the tapa face.
Variation #1: To produce a more reserved and complex bass tone, strike like above but shift the focus of the contact to the finger pads rather than the palms.
Variation #2: If you wish to play a more staccato (shorter duration) yet more solid bass note, stiffen your hand and avoid letting it bounce off the drum face.
Variation #3: For a more profound and faint approach, place your heel on the top of the drum box and touch the tapa face with the pads of your fingertips. This is ideal for quieter areas or musical periods.
Slap Stroke and High Tone
A drum box’s high tone contrasts beautifully with its deep bass tones, and you can even imitate a snare drum’s higher-pitched crack.
In comparison to the starting position for the bass stroke, your hand should be pushed up a little higher towards yourself, with the palm of your hand in line with the upper edge of the drum.
When playing a slap stroke, you want to relax your fingers rather than keep them somewhat tense.
Your fingers should leap onto the drum face after your palm strikes the top edge of the drum. When playing, your fingers can be close together or slightly apart, but they must remain relaxed.
Also, unlike the bass tone, you want to retain your hand on the drum surface for a few seconds rather than immediately bouncing off.
The tone and sound of the slap stroke are affected by where you strike the drum. The corner portions will produce a higher tone than the lower-middle areas, which will provide a deeper bass tone.
Remember that the slap stroke can be tough to master at first, but with practice, you’ll be producing high, crisp snare drum backbeats in no time!
The ghost note is the last but most critical technique to learn when learning how to play a Cajon.
Drums and percussion instruments provide short-lived beats that leave space in between. It’s critical to fill those empty spaces to generate rhythm and groove unless you aim to achieve tension or a disruptive feel.
Ghost notes on the Cajon are ideal for this. They can be performed with either high or low tones.
High ghost notes are played by tapping your fingertips on the drum’s top corners, while bass ghost notes are played deeper down the drum’s midsection. Also, don’t be hesitant to try different sides!
The Cajon is more than the central playing surface (front tapa). In reality, there are five different possible playing surfaces that you can use in your song.
When playing the tapa, the sides of a Cajon are readily accessible and can produce a wide range of sounds!
The edges produce a warm tone ideal for accents and ghost notes, while the corners produce a brighter tone. The tones become substantially deeper and resonant as you walk along the face of the sides.
The upper face of your Cajon, where you sit, can also be played. The smaller playing surface creates a more harsh and higher-pitched tone when sitting on the drum box.
Slap tones on the top face give a great deep tone if you’re not sitting on your Cajon instead of playing the drum box like a conga.
The back of your Cajon produces beautiful and deep tones, despite being less accessible than the other faces. This is especially true if your Cajon is mic’d up at the rear soundhole.
Practice Playing Your Cajon
Timing And Practice
When learning to play the Cajon, timing is highly crucial to consider and practice.
It’s your responsibility, especially as a percussionist in a band, to establish the foundation or beat for the other musicians in the band to play around with and keep them together as a unit.
Listening to and learning from diverse musical genres is one technique to improve your timing and tempo as a drummer. Try to keep up with the music’s beat while listening.
Practicing your timing becomes both enjoyable and simple when you play along with various musical accompaniments.
Another piece of advice I have is to use a metronome to practice. It will help you improve your time and quickness tremendously!
The Cajon’s rhythmic powers are infinite, and you’ll be experimenting with numerous permutations for years to come.
Don’t be scared to experiment and compose your grooves and fills once you’ve mastered the basics of Cajon.
Click-Tracks & Metronomes
The metronome, sometimes known as a click track, has been overused and misunderstood. Yet, it is still necessary for playing and recording in the studio.
We grow less fearful of the metronome or click-track if we think of it as a reference point for where the beats in our music fall, and we learn to use it to our advantage. Maintaining a consistent speed throughout a song is one of the most challenging aspects of playing.
Live music is known to accelerate when it grows louder or more intense, while ballads and music played quietly are known to slow down. The metronome or click-track allows us to see how our playing varies when the music changes in style or volume.
When we use it to practice our Cajon, we may make the required adjustments to guarantee that we don’t speed up or slow down every time we play a specific style or reach a particular point in the song.
There isn’t enough room here to go into click tracks in detail; however, here are a few pointers:
Set the tempo of your click track to between 114 and 120 beats per minute (bpm). Practice your high tones, bass, combinations, ghost notes, and rhythms at this tempo.
Pay attention to where you accelerate or decelerate. Pay attention to where your beats fall in relation to the click: are they early, on the beat, or earl? Each of these will give the music you’re playing a distinct feel.
Rock music is slightly ahead of the rhythm to create a sense of intensity; ballads are slightly behind the beat to create a lethargic mood, and most modern pop music is almost exactly on the beat.
Reset your click anywhere between 66 and 75 beats per minute, and repeat the process. If required, make modifications where you can.
Reset your click between 140 and 160 beats per minute and repeat the workout.
This isn’t meant to be a definitive strategy. Still, I’ve found it helpful to track my playing style and improve my awareness of how I would react in an actual situation.
Because there is more adrenaline flowing in a live environment, songs are known to be played much faster than in rehearsal.
If the tempo is crucial (which it typically is), utilizing a click track to start a song at a specific pace is quite handy; hence, knowing how to use click tracks is very useful.
Is A Cajon Hard To Play?
No, playing the Cajon is not difficult. It’s one of the essential instruments available, making it ideal for beginners. They usually are relatively easy to play and have a low barrier to entry, but mastering them will take years of practice and skill development, like with most percussion instruments.
Which Cajon Is Ideal For Beginners?
The most affordable and accessible Cajon for beginners will be the drum box that is most economical and accessible to them. Focus on Cajons with minimal features for beginners, but focus on the maximum playing experience achieved through high build quality and sound.
How Can I Play The Cajon Without Injuring My Hands?
To allow your hands to toughen up, steadily increase the amount of practicing and playing you do while learning to play Cajon. Make sure you’re using correct Cajon hand movements as well.
If you use proper technique and conditioning, your hands should not hurt, except for minor redness and swelling after a long session.
Is It Necessary To Sit On A Cajon To Play It?
This musical instrument was designed to be sat on and tapped on. Sitting on top of the drum kit will provide you with the complete playing advantage you require to create music. You have the option of straddling or sitting on the box. It will rely on your comfort level while playing in any case.
Because of its size and simplicity, the cajon is a versatile instrument. You can add color to a groove by playing rhythms or taking over as the group’s main timekeeper. It has a long history of being utilized for improvisation and song and dance accompaniment. Fidlar hope you found this article useful, and let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below!