The Cajon drum is a type of a percussion instrument that is played by hitting either the rear or the front face that is normally made up of thin plywood. It originated from Peru during the slavery periods in the late 18th century. Some also say that the drum is a direct descendant of the Central and West African music box instruments more specifically, Angola. You can hit the faces using your hands or fingers. You can also use other items such as brushes and sticks to hit the surface depending on what sounds you intend to produce. These drums were majorly played in Afro-Peruvian music, jazz and in a variety of Flamenco styles among other noticeable genres.
The Philippines, Spain and the Americas are some of the areas where the drum is currently common. The modern versions of this drum have adjustable snares as well as in built amplification. The planks have also been bent in order to alter the pattern of sound production. This however, has not affected the drum as nothing much of the drum has changed. The drum is still generally a hollow plywood box capable of producing quite an amazing range of sounds and tones. The variety of sounds it produces can make using the instrument such a daunting task. The mastery of using this instrument much like others, can only be obtained through frequent practice.
How Different Types of Wood Produce Different Sounds?
In order to understand this, you have to have a general idea on how the different woods are used in the instrument. A thicker wood is used to make the sides of the Cajon while a thinner layer of wood (plywood) just like in a drawer, is used to make the front side. The rear side has a sound hole. The user sits on the Cajon Drum and strikes the front surfaces using different techniques and different parts of the body. Applying different levels of pressure on the surface also produces different tones. These, together with the different woods on the surfaces and their thicknesses, produce several different types of sounds. A good example is hitting the front playing surface at the middle to get a bass tone. Another example is hitting the part of the box that is closer to the top to achieve a higher tone. The variety of sounds it produces is quite remarkable.It has as a result become a very popular instrument used by acoustic bands all over the world. A basic rhythm is easy to come up with but perfection has to come from practice.
How Many Different Sounds Can a Cajon Drum Produce?
The Cajon Drum is known to produce quite an amazing variety of sounds. There are even particular tones that have variants making the overall number of tones produced quite numerous. Some of the majorly noticeable tones include:
1. Bass tones
To achieve these tones, you use your hands to strike the front surface. Allow the hand to bounce off as impact is being created with your fingers’ undersides and your palm. A variant of this tone can be created by striking the surface while locking your fingers together. The resultant tone is equally well defined but more subdued.
2. High tones
There are several ways in which you can make a high tone. One of the most prominent ways is to strike the top corner using the middle of your palm. The fingers, which will be more relaxed, will produce a remarkable pop sound when they strike the surface. A variant can be produced by allowing your fingers to bounce off as you strike the Cajon’s top surface. The different quality of high tone produced will improve the flavour of your music.
3. Pressed tones
These tones are achieved in a similar manner to the high ones. The only difference is that the fingers are kept in contact with the surface. They are not allowed to bounce off. The resultant tone has an added bit of pop, making it quite unique.
4. Ghost notes/Grace notes
The Cajon Drum can also be used to produce ghost notes also referred to as grace notes. These notes make the music a lot more engaging. This in turn interests both the dancers and listeners by adding more color and accent. Ghost notes are actually quiet but audible strokes played in between major beats. You can play most of them except bass ghost tones as high tones striking the top corner surface using your fingers. The bass ghost tones are used mainly to thicken the beat. The key to attaining the ghost tones is consistent volume and tone. Practice again makes perfect.
How Long Will a Cajon Drum Last?
The life span of a Cajon Drum depends on its quality. Much like the concert and marching drums, the high quality Cajon Drums will be efficient for about 10 years. The average quality ones will go for about 5 years and the poor quality drums will only be as effective for 2 to 3 years. The overall usage and instrument caring however will affect the lifespan. A frequently used drum will obviously wear and tear faster. On the issue of care, a drum that has a case will make it last much longer. Most manufactures of the drums have also resorted to making strong protective bags. These bags are to keep the products safe from mechanical damage. The bags are further padded in order to be gentle on the instrument.
The Cajon Drum is quite an interesting instrument to play. There are many manufacturers of the drum so you have to be well informed before you get one. There are factors that you need to consider before going for the drum for example the material used and the quality of the front surfaces. All in all, if you are a music enthusiast, this is definitely an instrument that you need to check out. All you need is a simple list of instructions on how to start using the instrument. You need to learn the basics first before you can go ahead and master the various sounds and tones it can produce.