We’ve all been there. You show up to the gig and are ushered to a little patch of real estate in the corner between a couple of tables and a potted plant. Yup, that’s home for the night, “the stage.” There’s hardly enough room for a couple of humans, let alone your gear. And where in the world are you going to put all those drums?
It’s no wonder that percussionists the world over are turning to a significantly smaller alternative. The cajon has become a popular addition to many a jam session, acoustic gig, and space-challenged environment. And in the right hands, the beat is as sweet, strong, and soulful as it ever was.
A cajon is basically a box. The percussionist sits on it and thumps on its face or tapa. Depending on how and where it’s hit, you get a kick or a snare drum sound. There are snare wires stretched inside and a sound hole in the back.
Cajon is the Spanish word for crate or packing case. The instrument dates back to the early days of slavery in South America. Slaves were forbidden to play music, so they used packing crates fashioned into drums that were easily disguised as stools or boxes.
The traditional Peruvian cajon has come a long way. Today’s models have adjustable snare wires, rubber feet, and even have contact microphone attachments. Although they all have the same basic box-like shape, cajons can be made from a variety of woods, with different thicknesses and finishes, each creating subtle and not so subtle differences in sound and technique. One manufacturer even offers a cajon with a transparent acrylic body.
No matter what style a drummer plays, a cajon can hold an important part his or her arsenal. You never know when you might need to squeeze a whole lot of groove into a tight little space.
Snare Cajon LP1438
LP’s Americana series cajons are handmade of hand-selected, 11-ply Baltic birch with an exotic lyptus and okoume wood front plate. Their Puresound Custom Pro brass snares produce lively, sizzling vocalizations that are both bright and resonant. Unique angled top corners deliver rich, deep bass tones and maximum durability and comfort.
Gon Bops Alex Acuna Special Edition cajon offers deep, resonant bass tones and a sublime “snap” close to its edge through adjustable guitar string snare wires configured diagonally across the top. Its seamless finish features Peruvian hardwood. Individual wood tiles create a unique mosaic. It’s handmade and meticulously tested by Peruvian craftsmen.
A unique model from Tycoon Percussion is their Vertex Acrylic cajon. Its solid, transparent acrylic body, bubinga front plate, and pyramid shape provide its sharp slaps and thumping bass tone. Its snare wires are Allen wrench adjustable. One interesting possibility with its transparency is the ability to put lights inside. Wow, talk about adding to the show!
Meinl Traditional Cajon’s sizzling rattle effect is produced by strings that touch the Makah-Burl front plate, spanning from top to bottom. An integrated adjustable string mute system allows you to control the string tension and adjust its sizzle. With a resonating body made of rubber wood, it also features a comfortable, foam padded sitting surface.