Playing a Cajon is a lot more difficult than you’d expect, but once you get the hang of it, it will be extremely fun. You can find more info here about how to do this without having to feel any discomfort and making you the life of the party with this underrated instrument.
What is Cajon?
The Cajon is a box made from hardwood (most of the time, at least), on which you sit while you play it. When you hit a part of the Cajon, the wood is going to resonate and produce a different tone. Depending on the wood used, the sounds that are produced can differ which is why some people look up how to make a Cajon drum so they’ll get the sound they want.
A hardwood (such as beech or birch) is going to produce a much stronger and defined bass tone, with the high tones being more cutting. Different woods will create different sounds which is why it’s so important to be informed before buying this instrument. Ask a specialist online or in a store if you want to get the sound you are looking for.
Since the Cajon is a musical instrument, if the manufacturer is one that follows the rules, the product is going to be reinforced where it’s necessary, it’s going to have strong joints and good timbers, and so on. The top of the Cajon is used as a seat, so you may want to use some padding or cushion so you won’t feel any pain from the hardwood.
Of course, as you sit on the instrument, some deadening is going to take place, but, fortunately, since the top is one of the smallest areas of the instrument, this effect is going to be minimal. Similarly, if you are making use of some padding, the dampening effect is also going to be very small.
A great approach when it comes to playing the Cajon is to take your time when playing different surfaces at various intensities while playing in certain parts (the sides, the top, the bottom, etc). Getting to know the Cajon is going to help you a lot when playing it because you will be able to understand how sounds and tones are produced.
Position and posture
Your posture is very important when it comes to the amount of time you will be spending playing the Cajon – not because it affects the musical instrument, but because it can affect your health. You will be tempted to bend forward to play it as you can hit the front (called the tapa) right in the middle, but that doesn’t actually help.
Not only will this position actually slow down your playing of the instrument, but it will also lead to inferior sounds being produced. You may expect more volume or a greater bass tone, but you’ll actually get poor sound and a chronic back problem, so there is no need for you to actually adopt this position.
If you want to get the best out of the Cajon, you need to have a simple and relaxed posture – the more comfortable you are, the better for your playing. So, let’s look at some of the things that you should follow in order for your Cajon game to be 100%.
First of all, you ought to sit with the back straight. Of course, there will be moments in which you will need to bend over or lean on one side so you can access all parts of the instruments, leading to the creation of different tones, but, overall, those should be exceptions, while your back should be straight for most of the time.
Secondly, you need to rest your feet flat on the floor. Keep the legs bent around the right angles or slightly over. How much you should bend actually depends more on how long your legs are than on anything else. Keep the knees spread wide so you can access with ease the front of the instrument.
You should have an angle of somewhere in between 90 and 120 degrees at the groin. This will give you plenty of access to the front, while also letting you hit the sites with ease. Don’t forget to keep your back straight in this position as well. Now, let’s continue and see what else you need to do.
The third thing that you should keep in mind regarding your position is where your buttocks are placed. Yes, that’s an important part and you ought to have the buttocks in line with the rear face of the instrument, but, depending on your general size, you may go beyond that. Just keep in mind that it’s to be avoided to sit too far forward.
Sitting too far forward is going to restrict you from playing the whole of the front area, but you should also avoid sitting too far back as well, because this is going to make the Cajon unstable as you change the center of gravity so you have a bigger chance of falling on your back, which is something you probably don’t want to happen.
The final piece of advice is to relax. Many musical instrument players tend to be very tense in the arms and wrists, especially when it comes to those playing a drum kit. A reason why this happens is probably due to their habit of hitting the instrument hard, which creates tension in the body.
Tension is responsible for reducing your playing speed, the accuracy and timing of your hits, not to mention, your stamina overall is also going to be reduced. You needn’t hit the Cajon hard to create sounds, as, in fact, such hits will actually lead to a lower quality sound and generally poor quality tones.
Of course, as you are playing the instrument, you will find yourself breaking some of these rules from time to time such as when you are twisting around so you can play the back end of the Cajon, but these should be exceptions. Making a habit out of them will only create poor sound and will create poor health conditions for you, as well.
Main playing areas
As you can imagine, the Cajon has a very large potential of being played from all areas, creating a true symphony of sounds from just one device. But you can create melodies that are just as beautiful if you only play the 6 inches at the top of the face front, as this is where almost all sounds are created, actually.
Focusing on that area means you won’t have to bend or stoop, so you’ll be able to maintain your position for a longer period of time. Let’s check out some of the individual tones and see if you can make them happen just by playing that part of the Cajon.
The bass tone is the most important one and it can be generated by hitting the face 4-to-6 inches down the front face in the middle (meaning you are going from side to side). You don’t need to go lower to be able to create a solid and punchy bass tone that sounds focused, not to mention, it’s also reachable by everybody without much effort.
If you choose to go down the middle of the front (meaning you are going from top to bottom), you can get a bigger bass tone, but you’ll have to put in so much effort, that the end result is not going to be actually worth it. On top of that, you can affect the flow of the rhythm even more by doing this so while it looks like you’re playing it safe, you’re actually playing it right.
The high tone is the other important one that we need to discuss, so, let’s get to it. Again, you’ll only need to focus on the top 4-to-6 inches of the front part of the instrument. Playing the top corners of the front, the wood is going to be “trapped” on the sides by screws. What does this mean?
Basically, the sound is going to vibrate less, making it more high-pitched and “woody”. If you add to this the snare sound, you will manage to create the sound of a drum kit, which is what we were aiming for in the first place.
Follow this advice and you will surely become an expert in playing the Cajon in no-time!