Playing Cajon

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Playing Cajon 2017-07-17T13:25:42+00:00

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  • Profile photo of SharklaarSharklaar
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    Post count: 56
    #339 |

    I’m in a loud rock band, and we occasionally do an acoustic gig so I (badly) play a bit of cajon from time to time. Played one of these gigs yesterday and my hands are destroyed. My fingers are swollen – such that my wedding ring is now stuck on… Is this a normal thing that would get better after doing it a lot, or am I doing it all wrong? I suspect the latter…

    Profile photo of LeeLee
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    Hi Sharklaar. I’m not a cajon expert and I probably don’t have particularly correct cajon technique, I just do it my way, left hand lower down for bass notes and right hand higher up slapping out rhythms. But my main gig for 2 or 3 years was just cajon, and I added hi-hat, snare and ride cymbal. A couple of things I’ll suggest but they’re not necessarily an answer to stopping you getting swollen fingers.

    I always removed the ring on my pinky finger when I played because it reduced any potential damage to the cajon, stopped unwanted metal on wood sound and it probably prevented any shock vibrations or pressure of the ring against my finger. The other extremely important thing is posture. I was doing my back in, it was really hurting from playing cajon. I watched a couple of youtube videos and learnt not to bend forward too much but to keep the back as straight as possible. Sitting further back is better with your backside coming just slightly off the back end of the cajon.

    Something else. I know you said acoustic gig, but I used to have a microphone either inside or pointing at the rear port of the cajon. This helps by not having to play as hard because you’ll be heard more easily. With that all said, I think your hands will eventually get used to it, but it’s probably a good idea to seek out videos teaching good technique which may really help get a good sound and more importantly, volume with less pain!

    Profile photo of SharklaarSharklaar
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    Well I say acoustic, but the cajon is mic’d up and the banjoists using electro-acoustic guitars. I actually use my ring (matron) to make a ‘cross-stick’ sound so I’d like to keep it on… and yeah it is chipping the top edge of the box a bit, but it only cost me Β£40 so I’m not fussed about giving it a bit of character.

    My posture though is terrible. I’m leaning over a lot, so that’s probably not helping my back either! Might have to look into that. I find when I sit up though, I can’t get my hand far enough down to make a bass note.

    Profile photo of LeeLee
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    “I find when I sit up though, I can’t get my hand far enough down to make a bass note.”

    You’re in luck, I have the solution for that. πŸ™‚
    Check these videos. There is flexibility, you don’t need to sit rigidly straight, it’s more a case of not bending forward too far. Something that is very useful that I used to do is tilt the cajon up towards me for easier access. Balance feels ok when doing this. Also, I learnt you don’t actually need to reach right down to the centre of the cajon to get the best sounding notes.

    Profile photo of SharklaarSharklaar
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    Awesome, thanks dude I’ll check those out later πŸ™‚

    Profile photo of LeeLee
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    No problem. πŸ™‚ Even without watching the videos, the two key points are

    Tilt cajon back and bring it up towards you.
    The most resonant bass notes are surprisingly nearer the top than the centre.

    Profile photo of Hector1Hector1
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    Post count: 96

    I tried some of this kind of thing ages ago and decided to pass on it eventually due to most of the points already raised regarding playability and position. Even in the Video the thought of tilting with no support and having to concentrate on your balance etc seems a bit odd, but I guess everyone to there own!

    The Miking helped a lot as it did give a much better voice to that of just a wooden box beat, I also like some of the sounds from such an acoustic stage but would now probably opt for some thing in a stand and play standing up with a couple of different playing surfaces for practicality and sound.Doesn’t have to be massive (Think small two congas) maybe played between the knees if necessary and you preferred to be seated. This would also possibly give a bit less wear and tear on the hands as skins involved rather than a wood board, Kind of like playing a Simmons Drum pad to that of a Mesh/Rubber pad that’s used on electronic kits these days.

    I really do like to see the occasional Acoustic gig though as it real gives some bands a test of there organic skills with instruments and does lead to some great entertainment as well whilst say at a pub were you go out for a drink and you have a group of musicians that really can show and play with great tone and technique being displayed.

    Profile photo of SharklaarSharklaar
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    We recorded our acoustic rehearsal the other day, mic’d everything up into a mixing desk and took some video. Waiting for guitarist to get it all mixed, I’ll post it up when it’s done. Normally we’re pretty heavy rock so it’s a bit of a break from the norm for us πŸ˜€

    I think for our band I need a cajon or something similar to get a proper back beat for the style of music we play. Tried a pair of bongos and the sound just wasn’t right!

    Profile photo of Hector1Hector1
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    Post count: 96

    Thanks for the update Shark,look forward to seeing the video when your ready to post,take the point on the Bongos,I kind of put toe into water on this one to get some ideas and you have kindly replied with the sound you are looking for.

    Wasn’t there that Cube that Mike listed a while ago that was on the old site for a while and that could be stand mounted and all sorts of possibilities seemed open with that kind of format.Maybe look at a stomp box as well as an additional sound to give a bit more kick to the scene-but I guess that’s a little electronic cheat if your going all acoustic with the exception of the mikes to liven things up a bit.

    No probs with the Metal Rock band thing either,if anything that will be to your credit as when you go unplugged sometimes it really makes the band rock even more-Think Nirvana!

    Anyway best of luck with your endeavours and the great thing is might seem a bag of choices and change of technique and extra work to get things going,but it really is worth your while to peruse and you will probably find that after a couple of months of this and that it will lead to many other thing that you never even new your band could do.It’s one of those team work things but well worth it for the experience.I have done this many times with my electronic enterprises and there have been times when you really can hate technology but end up being a much more educated person from the frustrations of the experience and sometimes drives you to be more focused and musical and look to trying new things even as small projects,but communication and patience are paramount and success and fun will follow,rest assured.

    If there’s one thing everyone should do at some stage in there life is to take a step back and have a laugh at yourself-helped me many times in the past-but then I guess I’m going slowly bonkers in the process! LOL

    Profile photo of SharklaarSharklaar
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    Here’s a bit of a video from the gig we did the other day. Mostly we play originals, but the lady with the camera only video’d a cover! Guitarist fluffed the solo a bit. Sounded much better in rehearsal…

    Profile photo of Hector1Hector1
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    Thanks for the update Shark and for taking the time to record and post the video-much appreciated. Yes I can see the posture issue-if I was doing that for 10 mins or more I think I would just stop as being quite tall-not bulky but its enough to reach down for those Bass notes to really dig into your back quite a lot I would imagine.

    Again I have seen kick pedals with suitable beaters and angles to provided that kind of bottom end sound which shouldn’t really get in the way of the band as Acoustic setups are generally as least hardware as necessary kind of things etc. But somebody really does need to get something across the legs or onto some kind of stand kind of percussion wise but with a heavier orientated sound-I think you know what I mean and can be easily transported. Just a bit of thought and some ideas I think I mean look at what the street guys play when there hitting buckets etc but obviously look after your hands as well.

    Like the sound though -very Metallica and balanced nicely for me anyway-live doesn’t always end up being perfect but respect to all those that at least put these sort of gigs on and play covers/originals in there own ways, always works well in pubs for me and far better than any Karaoke nights that are just tragic waste of time in pubs with serious drinkers who seek a half reasonable sense of music entertainment.

    Profile photo of CeejCeej
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    I’ve been using cajons a lot of late. Used to play them the normal way – with hands – but found the same problems as you (posture, sore hands, damaged cajon face from my ring/watch, etc.). I still do play the occasional track au naturel but have moved it on a level.

    For starters, for playing a cajon in a normal way I recommend getting some cajon friendly brushes. These are perfect as long as you tape up the metal collars:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Regal-Tip-565U-Nylon-Brushes/dp/B000EENHE8

    I find with these I can get decent volume and a wider range of sounds out of the cajon but can also sit up a bit straighter.

    I also use various shakers designed specifically for cajon players. I used to stuff egg shakers in my socks but now you can get all sorts of foot tambourines and heel shakers.

    But…I’m now doing a lot of full gigs and open mics so I’ve been working on pimping up my kit. I tried a few variations, tried a cajon pedal (which broke after a few goes), tried making a mini-snare out of a tambourine which was a spectacular failure etc. but I’ve now got it sorted.

    I use a full sized cajon as a bass drum with a standard bass pedal but a cajon beater – the only one I’ve found that sounds any good is this: https://www.thomann.de/gb/meinl_standard_cajonbass_beater.htm?glp=1&gclid=CjwKCAjwtdbLBRALEiwAm8pA5RrwZ-p7ULZ8sReZElSyZ3O8ethLoJZMB2iPCJRhw9HoEb5Kv7X_eRoClMMQAvD_BwE

    You’d be amazed at the sound you can get with it and I think you’d struggle to get that sound out of a similar sized drum.

    I also use a travel cajon as a snare drum. Again, sounds really good.

    I also use one of these: https://indexdrums.com/products/index-hardhat

    The full sized cajon I use is one of these: http://www.knockonwood.co.uk/prod/Standard-Cajons/Leiva-Easy-Cajon.htm
    I pimped it a bit by glueing it together but leaving the back as a removable panel so that I can get all my gear inside. I also added a couple of floor tom leg brackets to the sides.

    The end result is this:

    View post on imgur.com

    Believe it or not, everything in that picture including a stool fits inside the bigger cajon. I then lay the cymbal (a 12″ Dream Bliss hi-hat) on top protected with non-slip mats.

    All of that fits inside a normal cajon bag and it all sounds remarkably good considering its size and portability.

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by Profile photo of Ceej Ceej.
    Profile photo of Hector1Hector1
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    Well done Ceej πŸ™‚ absolutely spot on with your designs and ventures,that’s really the Kind of thing I had in mind Top Job.

    Profile photo of CeejCeej
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    Thanks Hector

    I wanted to achieve three things:

    – to sound good
    – to fit into one carryable bag
    – with a quick setup time

    Although I’ve tried various mini cocktail type drum kits and generally they meet the first of these criteria the hardware necessary to set them up means the other two criteria are not really feasible.

    I see Pearl are now doing an ultra-portable kit. I guess this could possibly fit my criteria with a bit of pimping (I wouldn’t want to carry separate cymbals stands) but not sure about how good that bass would sound.

    https://www.thomann.de/gb/pearl_compact_traveler_kit.htm?glp=1&gclid=CjwKCAjwtdbLBRALEiwAm8pA5f7Y5kuiQjuAIywfWrsY_TKVRsDkmzqILRCNLw6EXtK0R22LZuBq1hoCC5sQAvD_BwE

    Profile photo of SharklaarSharklaar
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    Post count: 56

    That looks cool ceej! I’m curious about the volume – how’s the volume of the fixed hat and the cymbal against the volume of an acoustic guitar? Our guys use electro-acoustic so as long as it’s not super-loud, this sort of set up would suit me perfectly!

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