How to play Cajon drum

There is much more that goes into playing Cajon. Cajon skills require more than imitating drum kits or hitting the box. Want to learn how to play a Cajon drum? Read on to find out.

Playing a Cajon drum is much more than imitating drum kits or hitting the box. Not enough people approach the Cajon with expectation of creating something complex or unique. The truth is, when played in the right ways, Cajon can produce music that will blow your mind. You need to sit properly and hit the Cajon with the right mix of bass, high tones, ghost notes and pressed tones to produce a good rhythm. This article will help you understand more about the Cajon, how to play it, the basic strokes of the Cajon and more.

What is Cajon?

Cajon is Spanish for box and its history is rich but also dark. According to 18th century legends, THE Cajon drum was created by Africans salves in Peru. Today, different countries have adapted to their own Cajon version. Since then, there have been tons of different variations. Some of the most popular ones include:

Types of Cajon

The Peruvian Cajon – The Peruvian Cajon has no snare system and its corners are sealed off. This Cajon drum has 6 sides and a sound hole located at the back of the instrument.

The flamenco Cajon – it is designed with guitar strings at the back that gives off a flamenco sound when played.

The snare Cajon – this is more like the modern version of the Cajon. It accents and kicks up the sound made by traditional Cajon by producing snare sounds when played.

The Cuban Cajon – it is a 5 sided drum that has so much in common with the Conga drum. Unlike the other makes, it has more open sounds and is popularly known for creating Afro-Cuban music.

How to play Cajon drum – what are the basics

Bass tone

The bass tone is a foundation for majority of the music styles played on percussion and melody instruments. To generate the bass tones, you need to hit the Cajon tapa, which is around 3 to 6 inches down the front face.

Strike the tapa face using your whole hand. This includes the whole hand from your finger tips to the ball of your hand. This creates a warm, full bass tone. Simply hit the tapa face, making the impact with the palm of your hand and the undersides of your fingers. Don’t hit the Cajon drum hard, the hand should start just a few inches from the tapa face.

For a warm tone, ensure your fingers are slightly apart but for a more subtle tone make sure they are together when toy are striking the Cajon tapa face. When tension is added, the bass tonnes become more subtle or quieter.

High tone and slap

High tones are great for providing contrast to the bass tones. For a high one, you need to play in the top 4 or 2 inches of the tapa face.

To generate a high tone of your Cajon, your fingers should strike the Cajon tapa face while the palm hits the tope corner. Keep your fingers realized and slightly close or apart for different tone. For slightly more subtle tones, you should reduce the number of fingers used to strike the Cajon tapa face.

Pressed tone

This is basically kind of a subtle high tone. To play it, hold your dingers together and hit the top corner of the Cajon. Your fingers should be in contact with the playing surface for a few seconds before you make the next strike

Ghost notes

Ghost notes on the Cajon are the key to achieving a rhythm, groove or flow. They allow you to add accents and nuances to the music. They are quiet, audible strokes played between the other beats. You can play them as high tones y using your fingers to strike the top corner of the Cajon gently.

How do you sit on the Cajon?

The simple answer; you should sit on the Cajon in a relaxed and comfortable way

What does this mean?

Sit with a straight back. While you may occasionally need a forward lean to access the sides and the front of the Cajon for special tones, you pretty much need to sit on a straight back

Rest both feet flat on the floor with your legs bent at right angles. The end on your legs will differ depending on how tall you are. Make sure your knees are well spread to allow you to access the front of the Cajon. This position should also allow access to the side and the tapa face of the Cajon for click strokes.

Place your buttocks parallel to the rare face of the Cajon. Avoid sitting too forward as it can restrict your playing area in the front. Sitting too forward can extend your centre of gravity beyond the rear of the instrument and this will make you unstable.

Lastly, relax. If you are a drum kit player, you may feel natural tension with your wrists and arms. However, this is not good at all when playing the Cajon. Tension can impede the timing, accuracy and reduce your speed and overall stamina.

Final word

Once you get the hang of it, the Cajon drum is really easy to understand and play. For such a seemingly simple instrument, the Cajon has surprisingly reached many genres of music. With modifications in styles, building techniques and playing techniques; there is a lot to be anticipated from this instrument. As a musician, learning how to play the Cajon will definitely increase your sound and style when it comes to producing and playing music.


Can you play the Cajon drum with drumsticks?

Yes. There are drumsticks created for Cajon drums. Cajon drumsticks are very convenient and can be kept in the pocket for easy reach. You can use them to have a more creative performance with the combination of your hands and the drumsticks.

Is Cajon difficult to learn?

The Cajon is relatively easy to learn. The instrument is very practical, does not take much space and has a low barrier to entry. You can play the instruments seated and after learning its basic bass and snare sounds.

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