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Cajon joy / drumming magic

What is a cajon?

Yeah… it’s basically a box you sit on and hit like a drum.

Why play a cajon?

Music is a powerful tool. Music is composed of rhythm, melody, and harmony. As a drummer, rhythm is the part of music that has always appealed to me. I believe rhythm is the “heart beat” of not just music, but of life, and has great power. It’s also accessable to everyone at any time.

Everyone has experienced the joy of clapping along to a song. When you’re doing that, you’re drumming. Let me be clear… you’re already a drummer. Since you’re already a drummer, I hope to convince you to explore the power of drumming further, and use it’s power to make your life happier.

Add joy to your life

My approach to drumming is a meditative, and even “spiritual” approach. (Remember… we danced religion well before we prayed it.) The repetitive practice of counting; 1, 2, 3, 4 or 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &, or even 1 da & da 2 da & da 3 da & da 4 da & da form a meditative background to push out the stress & worries of daily life, and provide a framework for further exercises with the hands. Hand patterns help you concentrate, which in itself is one of the foundations of happiness. Counting, hand patterns, and the music you play along with are all combined into a total experience. All this helps you eventually achieve something like what in modern psychology is called a flow state, what ancient Greeks referred to as an ecstatic state, and Buddhists refer to as the jhānas.

The goal of this approach is to learn to enjoy music to the point that you feel connected to, or part of the music. To have the feeling of “dancing with your hands”, and over time, your entire body, an experience that will give you a feeling of inner joy.

Practice… practice… practice…

It should go without saying… the more you play your cajon, the better you will get. Practice will help you with your timing, and will also help you learn to get the exact sound you want. There is no substitute for practice. That’s good advice for pretty much anything in life, not just drumming.

A good length of time to practice each day is about a half hour or about 8 songs. Here’s a big YouTube playlist of songs (also available on my home page via the “music” link) you can use to play along to. I move new songs to the top of the list regularly so you can start the playlist from the top and have different songs to practice to each day.

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Cajons are affordable

When I got mine it cost about $40 and came with a case that let’s me carry it like a backpack, which is useful if you’re gonna be taking it out of the house for lessons or performances. It was on sale at the time, but I think I hit on a popular one because today they are selling for almost $60, but it’s still a model I can recommend at that price. a/o 4/19/2019 WOW… noticed today this cajon went up in price again to $68.12… I feel like I got a stock like Google or Facebook when it was cheap. How high can these cajon’s go? ☺

Here are some inexpensive full sized cajons I can recommend. Notice that all these are 20 or 21 inches tall. That means you can comfortably sit on them. Be careful not to buy a cajon you think you are going to sit on, only to find that it is the size of a shoe box. Not all cajons are made to be sat on, some are made smaller and meant to be… held in your hand? Just be careful that you are getting what you expect. I have not tried any 17” tall cajons. I’m almost 6 feet tall, and since my 20 inch cajon is very comfortable, I am hesitant to order one a full 3 inches shorter. But… if you’re shorter, or find a 20” cajon too tall, give the 17” models a look.

Sawtooth ST-CJ120B Cajon Birch Wood with Padded Seat Cushion and Carry Bag (20” Tall 12” Wide 12” Deep) - This is the model I originally purchased. In the Sawtooth line this is the brightest or highest pitch model they have available. I love this, possibly because I now consider it an old friend after playing it for a few years. Possibly because I love the high crisp snare drum sound I can get at the top end. When I played a drum set I always like the sound of the smaller piccolo snare drum over the deep snare that was popular at the time for rock music. I think of this cajon as my “alter to funk” where I make my “sacrifice” of time & to time. (In drumming parlance to “keep time” is an expression used to lay down a good constant beat that is the framework that the other musicians play on top of. So, “time” is a word that I like to pun with.)

Sawtooth Ash Wood Cajon with Maple Back and Sides, Includes: Seat Pad and Carry Bag (13” x 21” tall x 13”) - I ALMOST tried this model. I ordered 4 of these from Walmat, but a few days after the order was placed & confirmed, a third party vendor of Walmart contacted me saying that did not actually have the cajons, but would be receiving some in 14-16 weeks. Needless to say, I declined to wait that long. But I think that even untried, I can recommend this model.

Sawtooth Satin Mahogany with Gloss Cherry Mahogany Back and Sides Standard Size Cajon (12” wide x 12” deep x 20” tall) - This model is like a beautiful piece of furniture. The wood is beautifully colored. The sound is deeper and more mellow than the birch model. This cajon is a beauty to the eye, and of all the cajons on this list is the one your eye would be immediately drawn to when all are set up in a collection.

Latin Percussion Cajon (LP1428NY) (21” Tall x 13” x 12”)
     - LP cajon via Amazon - LP is a huge respected name in the percussion industry. This cajon will likely be made & available long after I am dead. LP is the industry standard. A cajon you cannot go wrong with.

Let’s say you buy a cajon and end up not pursuing the practice. The worst-case scenario? You have a beautiful coffee table that’s also a great conversation piece that your friends will beg to try themselves, for under $100. See… there’s no downside to the cajon awesomeness.