A Cajon drum is a surprisingly incredible percussion instrument. It is easy to operate, and it can be carried anywhere. On top of that, the best cajon drum is one that you can sit on while you play your music and perfectly accompanies a song alone or with other instruments.
The origin of Cajon drum is equally interesting, as well. There are two theories as to the origin of the box drum. One is, it is patterned from and is a direct descendant of other boxlike instruments from central and west Africa.
Another theory is that it’s invented to subvert the ban on music imposed by the Spanish colony. The Cajon Drum became popular among slaves during periods of slavery, and it served as a way for African slaves to express their musical sides even under suppression.
Cajon Drum in Modern Music
Although Cajon drum is currently used in Coastal Peruvian music, it is also used to accompany piano or acoustic guitar solos.
Furthermore, this box drum can be played as a replacement for a full drum kit in minimalist performances. Thus, it is now gaining popularity in other music genres such as blues, jazz, pop, rock and funk music played in a smaller crowd and simpler setup.
Also, currently, the popularity of Cajon drum is being increased rapidly by some musical covers using this box drum as a primary instrument published on YouTube.
How Cajon Drum is played
This simple instrument has provided musicians with some options on how to play it. Its versatility has allowed other methods that produce music with different texture, form, and style.
For a start, to play this instrument, you have to possess a knack for rhythm. Not everyone can ride on a beat or has a talent for following and producing a rhythm. Cajon drum is rarely a standalone instrument. It’s usually played with other instruments with the purpose of enhancing the music.
Thus, if you intend to play this drum, you need to be able to blend with other instruments.
The usual way this drum is played is by hands. The player usually sits in the box and taps the front side of the box with two hands. The quality and type of sound produced by this box depend on where you tap it and its distance from the center.
The nearer the place is to the center, the louder the sound and the greater the bass are. Consequently, the nearer the part to the sides is, the weaker the sound and the greater the treble are.
Using Drum Brushes
There are some variations, however, with how Cajon drum is played aside from the usual method. One is using metal and plastic brushes designed for ordinary drums. Drum brushes produce richer beats that pair well with acoustic instruments.
The music generated by a Cajon Drum, either with a hand or with a music brush, is vocals friendly. That is, they accompany a vocal performance (or recording) very well.
As a bass drum pedal
With little tweaks, a Cajon drum can be a bass drum pedal. This makes the Cajon drum into an indirect percussive instrument.
The player can sit on the Cajon drum as usual. He needs only a kick pedal. However, the setup is different from the standard one since the kick pedal needs to be set up backward. One who is used with the standard bass drum pedal will need to adjust for some time.
Types of Cajon Drum
Cajon drum exists in various forms. The original instrument is just a box you sit and tap on. The variation is due to some modifications in the device that its users add to fill their musical needs.
The Peruvian Cajon is, perhaps, the closest to the original design. Cajon originated from Peru and the modern Peruvian Cajon very closely resembles the original design. It is a simple box drum with no snare or strings. Because of its generic sound, you’ll only probably find Peruvian Cajon useful for playing Peruvian folk music or in some fusion music.
The need for a richer sound has prompted the modification of the traditional Cajon. The first Flamenco Cajon has strings behind the front panel. These strings help create the crisp and airy sound reminiscent of that of a drum kit.
An improved version of Flamenco Cajon, known as Cruz Cajon, uses piano strings instead of guitar strings. This helps create a richer-than-usual sound.
You’ll find Flamenco Cajon mostly in flamenco music, but it’s also popularly used in contemporary music such as hip hop, pop, RnB, gospel, funk, rock, soul, jazz, and country, among others.
The need for an accentuated kick and a stronger snare sound has prompted the modification that uses a snare system instead of strings behind the front panel.
The said system utilizes drum snare wires thus the sound closely resembles that of real drum kits regarding power and tone.
Additionally, modern versions have mechanisms that allow players to turn the snare on or off. This allows players an added option with the sound by giving them the power to modify the sound of their Cajon easily.
Cuban Cajon is very similar to the traditional Peruvian Cajon in that it has no strings or snares in it. However, instead of the usual rectangular cuboid shape, it has five sides.
The lack of either strings or snares allows it to produce the traditional open sound. Its use is mainly in Afro-Cuban music.
Reviews Of Our Best Cajon Drum
1. Meinl Jam Cajon JC50LBNT
This Cajon is among the smallest of its kind and is perfect for on-the-go gigs or jam sessions. Although it's small, it packs the same power as large Cajons. This Cajon uses two sets of snare wires inside that brushes against each other to give a sensitive and crisp snare effect.
Also, its size makes it perfect for small kids although some may find that one needs a stronger force to produce the desired sound since the material used is nearly unsuited for its size. If you strike it with a weak force, it gives off a muffled sound. You need to hit it stronger to produce a crisp sound.
- The sound can be changed through minor modification. The distance between the resonating body and the front plate can easily be adjusted with a simple turn of a screwdriver. This allows the user to control the amount of “slap” sound the instrument produces
- Highly stable. It has four rubber feet that allow it to plant firmly in the ground when seated upon while being played
- Highly resonant. The rubber feet not only enable the box to be lifted off the ground by a few centimeters, but it also prevents the vibrational transfer from the box to the ground, thus allowing the box to produce a highly resonant sound
- Comes with the official two-year warranty
- Minimalistic and compact. It's lightweight, smaller than other Cajons and has a simple yet attractive design
- Very powerful. You can either tap it gently to produce a controlled sound or tap it with the normal force and create a powerful, yet crisp, sound
- The material used is thicker than it’s supposed to be. A lot of complaints from users stem from the material being thicker than usual. This makes the sound that it produces a bit muffled under low force
- Not very child-friendly. Although it looks like it's designed for a child, the energy required to produce a crisp sound is not that which an ordinary child can provide. It needs to be modified before it suits a child
- Has consistency issues. Users remarked a change in its sound after about a month of light use
2. Meinl Headliner Cajon HCAJ1NT
This Cajon is a bit smaller than the standard one but is larger than Meinl Percussion JC50LBNT. The resonance of an instrument depends on its size (and the size of the internal space), and this Cajon proves to be among the finest of its size.
Meinl is known for producing customizable Cajons, and this one is no different. You can adjust its strings and the corners at its top. This gives two points of variations in sound.
Adjusting the top corners by tightening or loosening the screws allows one to control the amount of “slap” this Cajon produces. Adjusting the metal strings through a hex key provided allows one to control the amount of snare sound.
- Highly adjustable. You can customize the sound of this instrument by merely adjusting its parts. It comes with an Allen wrench that you can use to loosen or tighten the snare wires. This will allow you to control the quality of the sound of this Cajon
- Produces a balanced sound. The design of this instrument allows it to deliver a great balance between the bass and snare. This makes it perfect for acoustic music. It has a particularly non-intrusive percussion sound that supports acoustic instruments well
- Perfect for microphones. The design of this Cajon allows air to escape while one plays it. The area where the air vents out is an ideal place for positioning your microphone especially if you want a stronger and richer sound
- Comes with a two-year warranty
- Built with rubber wood. The solid body made of rubber wood seems to influence the tonal qualities produced by this Cajon. Specifically, the bass sound is broad and the sound, in general, is profound and punchy
- Difficult to tune. Although it is highly customizable, you’ll find that you’d need to adjust some things and perform the adjustment for an extended period to get the sound that you desire
- Has consistency issues. Products are not built with similar materials and do not sound the same. You’ll find that one sounds better than another even after making some adjustments
- Sound quality issues. Although most products are astounding, some have extra sounds such as rattling, hissing or buzzing sounds you don’t want to hear from a Cajon. You can fix most of these additional sounds by making some adjustments. However, you’ll find that adjusting it takes a lot of effort and time before you get the sound that you want
- Durability issues. The primary material is rubberwood, which is durable. Thus you’d expect it to be durable. However, the truth is far than what they say. It can’t hold up to very demanding performances, and some users remark that their products failed to hold up even after one gig
3. Meinl Slap Top Cajon TOPCAJ2WN
The design of this Cajon is very striking because it highly resembles a hammerhead shark. The top portion extends sideways to accommodate found ports at each side.
The size of this Cajon allows it to produce sounds that are as powerful as a full drum set. Additionally, its design allows it to create sounds that are stronger, more subtle and crispier than other Cajons of its size.
Although it’s among the largest Cajons, this instrument is highly responsive to soft finger rolls, bass hits, and corner slaps. One of the best attributes you’d want from a Cajon is its ability to respond to mild and soft taps, and this Cajon gives you that.
- Forward projecting sound ports help produce pristine sound. Few Cajons can match the music generated by this instrument
- High responsive. This device responds to soft finger rolls, mild taps, and gentle bass hits
- Serves as a perfect alternative for a full drum set. The design of this Cajon allows it to produce powerful sounds that perfectly blends to your music
- Comes with a two-year warranty
- Highly adjustable. Like other Meinl Cajons, you can easily adjust and customize this instrument to produce the sound that you want
- Has durability issues. This drum is not ideal for hard hitting for prolonged periods. It easily sustains cracks at the center of the playing surface. Play very hard for an extended period, and the playing surface will split
- The sound produced is not similar to traditional Cajon. The design of this Cajon is not similar to the traditional one so don’t expect it to sound like one
4. LP Aspire Accents Cajon LPA1332-DWS
This Cajon is shorter than other brands and models, but it produces the best sound. This instrument comes with correctly adjusted snares, so you don’t need to change it to fit your needs.
Although some find it a disadvantage that this Cajon is not adjustable, you’ll find that you won’t need to because it produces the very sound you expect a great Cajon to provide.
It has a textured seating surface. Usually, Cajons have a smooth seating surface that is very uncomfortable to seat with since you can slip off it with the wrong garment. A textured seating surface addresses that problem.
- Produces the best sound. Compared to Cajons of similar size, it produces the best sound. You don’t need to adjust it because it sounds perfect the first time you play it
- Elegant design. The color gives off an impression of excellence, and you’ll find, by playing, that it is an excellent Cajon
- Very responsive. You can tap it mildly in the corners, and it will produce sounds that you expect it to. The responsiveness makes it very player friendly
- Durability issues. It loses its edge after about a month of playing. It doesn’t support adjustment, so you don’t have any option to fix it after the quality has declined
- Not adjustable. Although you won’t find the need to adjust it since it sounds perfect the first time, an option to customize it could be a bit handy. Some find that the sound it produces declines in quality over time—an adjustment option could address such a problem
5. Pearl Jingle Cajon PCJ629
An interesting thing to note about this Cajon is that it’s not wood. It is finished with a Carubinga wood lacquer but its fiberglass. Nonetheless, this Cajon sounds great, and you won’t even detect a difference between one made out of wood and this one.
It has an elegant design which makes it not only an attractive instrument to have in a gig, but a home device, as well. Of all the Cajons mentioned in this review, this one is the most perfect with a Cajon kick port which greatly enhances its sound.
This Cajon is very responsive and expressive and comes with four sound options and two jingle options: the stainless-steel tambourine and the Brazilian platinella-style jingle.
- Elegant design. The design of this Cajon has earned positive remarks from several music enthusiasts and professionals
- Very responsive. You can tap it gently on its sides, and it will produce a great sound
- Adjustable. You can adjust the screws on the corners to modify the snare and slap sounds that you want to get
- Produces loud sound. Compared to other Cajons of its size, it produces the loudest sound
- Weak snares. You can adjust the screws on the corners to give you a better snare sound, but it’s still inferior to the snare sounds of the rest of the Cajons mentioned here
- Has durability issues. You may think that because it’s durable because it’s made of fiberglass, but it’s not. Some report problems with it after a month of use
The design and the technology introduced by Meinl Percussion TOPCAJ2WN may be a bit new and ambitious, but they’re effective. We find that, compared to the Cajons reviewed here, and to most Cajons in the market, Meinl Percussion TOPCAJ2WN is the best considering all its features and the quality of sound it produces.
It may, however, have one drawback and that’s its durability issues. Presently, it’s the most pressing of its issues, but hopefully, the company will address it given the number of complaints about it from the users.
We hope you enjoyed our review and found it helpful and that you’ll be able to decide which Cajon will work for you best.
You can read more: Top 9 Best Electronic Drum Set Reviews 2017