What is a cajon?
Yeah… it’s basically a box you sit on and hit… a drum.
Why am I talking about cajons?
I believe a cajon can help make your life happier.
Music is a powerful tool, and can help a great deal in our quest for happiness. Music is composed of rhythm, melody, and harmony. Rhythm is the part of music, as a drummer, that has always appealed to me. I believe rhythm is the “heart beat” of not just music, but life, and has great meditative 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. I hope to convince you that since you’re already a drummer, you can explore the power of drumming further, and use it’s power to make your life happier.
It’s difficult to give drum lessons on a web page, but to give you a taste…
Most songs are played to what is called “4 beats to a measure” (waltzes are played to 3) Songs counted in 4 or 3 comprise almost all songs written. First we learn to count along to the music. 1,2,3,4 and then eventually we break each beat into 4 sub beats and count “one da and da, two da and da, three da and da, four da and da”. Then we hit the cajon on each of those 16 beats along to the song. We call these “sixteenth notes”
You will then work on three things; sticking, rests (non-playing), dynamics (loud and soft)
All these 16th note hand patterns are usefull to start with
- RLRL RLRL RLRL RLRL
- RRLL RRLL RRLL RRLL
- RLRR LRLL RLRR LRLL
I’m going to type “+” where you don’t play one of the sixteenth notes
- RL++ RL++ RL++ RL++
- RR++ LL++ RR++ LL++
- R++R L++L R++R L++L
I’m going to type R for a hard right hit and r for a soft right hand hit
- Rlrl Rlrl Rlrl Rlrl
- RLrl RLrl RLrl RLrl
- RlrL RlrL Rlrl RlrL
These three sets of excercies should give you some idea of the possibilies
If you simply start by playing the following 16th note hand pattern to any song in 4 beat to the measure every day for a month… RLRR LRLL RLRR LRLL (and repeat for the whole song) you will begin to see just the beginning of the meditation potential of drumming.
In the beginning, you will mostly likely not be able to play along with songs at this speed. So… just slow things down. If you can’t play at the 16th note speed, then play half as fast, what we call “eighth notes” (counted 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and) because you’ll be playing 8 notes in a measure. If you can’t play this fast just slow it down by half again and play “quarter notes” (counted 1 2 3 4) because there are 4 beats to a measure. Whatever speed you can play at you will also add to your practice a “speed exercise”. Instead of playing along to song, you play along to a metronome. You’ll practice the various hand patterns at a speed that you can comfortably play along at a 16th note speed. Then, over time, increase the speed of the metronome. This will increase your speed over time. Major milestones will be when you noticed that a song that in the past you could only play at a quarter note speed, you can now play at 8th note speed. That will be a great day, and will prove to you that practice is worth while. And then later you’ll have increased from 8th note to 16th note speed in those same songs.
It is also helpful to notice as you practice or play songs that you become familiar with how your mind wanders and how thoughts having nothing to do with drumming come into your mind. Eventually your goal will be to let these thoughts go, and not grasp them. But, first, it’s helpful to notice this is happening. Go ahead, try and tell yourself not to have any non-drumming thoughts during your practice session. Yeah… good luck with that. Understanding that thoughts are like the wind, they come into your consiouness virtually against your will, is an important step on your path to peace of mind.
This practice acts as both a ritual (a special event) and a practice exercise (to build your skill). The ritual / practice can be done both alone and in groups.
If this idea apeals to you, consider getting yourself an inexpensive cajon (see a bunch on Amazon) to help discover the joy of music. When buying your cajon, make sure you pay attention to it’s height & get one about 20” tall. Some are “mini” / “hand” cajons, and are meant to be played in the lap, certainly not sat on. You don’t have to pay big bucks, I got mine for $40 and it came with a case that let’s me carry it like a backpack, which is useful if your gonna be carrying it outside your house. The cajon I have is the Sawtooth ST-CJ120B Cajon Birch Wood with Padded Seat Cushion and Carry Bag (on Amazon).
8 song practice playlist
Below, you’ll find a playlist we maintain that you can practice to daily. When we add a new song it appears at the top, and the bottom song drops off. We keep the list to 8 songs so that you get a daily practice session of about 45 minutes.
I try to add new songs regularly, and Tweet when I have done so. The idea behind that is the help inspire you, to help you feel that we are in a little group, that you subscribing to my tweets will give you encouragement to keep up with practicing. Having played drums many years, my favorite songs tend to be those that have drum beats you can tap your toes to, but there is nothing particularly magical about my list. I’m almost 60 years old, so if your like 15 years old, my “old man music” may not appeal to you. If you prefer to choose your own songs go right ahead. I’d recommend you create your own playlist to practice to. That way you get to practice songs multiple times, and work in new songs occassionally. But, anything that inspires you to play more is worth trying. If there is anything I can do to help you, feel free to contact me any time.