Cajons are percussion instruments that are now growing in popularity. The surge in its popularity is not unconnected to the relative portability and affordability of the instrument. The instrument usually comes in a box shape where the player sits atop while beating the face with hands or other implements. Though the instrument has its origin in Peru, it has grown to become a widely accepted instrument in many parts of the world. It is used in live performances as a standalone percussion instrument or to complement other instruments. Cajons do not need any elaborate setup before you can play them. Sifting through the multitude of options may be tasking. We've taken the burden off your shoulders by bringing you a list of the best cajons in 2021.
Irrespective of the array of other percussion instruments available to drummers, everybody wants to have at least one cajon in their musical ensemble.
With the quality on display in our review of the best cajons, you may be undecided as to how to pick the ideal one for you. If you fall into this category, then this buying guide is for you. As you read on, you will find tips on the factors you should consider before buying a cajon. The buying guide also discusses the different price points of this percussion wizard.
In the end, we're going to shower you with answers to the most frequently asked questions about the topic and you'll be walking out of here as a confident individual, ready to give a lecture or two about cajons. So, without any further ado, let's dig in!
What Things Should You Consider Before Buying a Cajon?
When it comes to selecting a cajon, you are split for options. They are available in different designs and sizes. Therefore, you need to look at certain factors to ensure you get the one that best suits your needs.
The first thing you will want to consider is the cajon’s construction. The type of wood used to make the instrument has a far-reaching effect on durability and usability. A cajon’s construction can take two forms. The first is a single wood construction where only a specific type of wood is used to make the body and the front plate. The other is a construction that includes two kinds of wood – one for the body and the other for the front plate. You should ensure that the wood used for the body is of high durability to ensure a long-lasting cajon. Some common wood types that can stand the rigors of heavy use are MDF, mohena wood, and birch wood. As for the front plate, you should prioritize the resonance of the sound it gives out.
Shape and Size
Cajons are available in different sizes, which is why you have to pay attention to size when buying one. Apart from the traditional box-shaped cajons, we now have slap-top cajons that are mounted on the laps. Also, some manufacturers, in trying to add a new dimension to the instrument’s shape, come up with new designs. These new designs are a departure from the traditional box design. An example of such a design is the Latin Percussion Cajon we reviewed earlier.
In terms of size, there are compact and jumbo-sized cajons. Compact-sized ones are easier to carry around than jumbo-sized ones. However, jumbo-sized cajons trump the compact type in terms of resonance.
The box shape functions as an avenue for air to escape and eventually release sound when beaten. This is why you will always find a circular hole in every cajon. The size, positioning, and number of holes vary by brand. The size of the sound hole varies between 4 and 5 inches. It could be slightly larger in some models.
In terms of positioning, the sound hole may be rear-facing – behind the tapa face, front-facing, or side-facing. Rear-facing sound holes are the most popular of the two. The rear-facing sound hole can be located at the center or closer to the bottom. Center sound holes give more volume, while sound holes closer to the bottom offer more sustain.
Side-facing sound holes usually bring the sound closer to the front allowing the audience to hear the sound better. Front-facing soundholes are usually positioned at the bottom, with the tapa occupying the rest of the front area. They are meant to act like subwoofers to amplify the bass sound.
Therefore, you should scrutinize the sound hole and factor in the various variable when choosing your cajon.
Usually, you play the cajon while seated on the instrument. Therefore, it is important that you consider the comfort of the sitting surface as well as the stability of the cajon. Traditionally, the sitting surface is made of the same wood as the body construction. In recent times, some manufacturers have taken it a step further by providing textured sitting surfaces for better comfort. Also, manufacturers also add anti-skid rubber feet to the base
Guitar strings and snare wires are sometimes attached to a cajon on the inside. These accompaniments give a sizzle effect when you play the instrument. Not all models have the snare option. For those that have it, it may be adjustable or fixed. Adjustable snares allow you to tighten and loosen the strings as needed.
If you plan to use your cajon to perform in a packed hall, you will need the sound to be as amplified as possible. Some manufacturers include preamplifiers in the cajon, meaning you don’t need to set up an external microphone to amplify the sound. You should consider pre-amped models if you need your sound amplified with minimal effort.
Some manufacturers give you complimentary bags at no extra cost when you purchase their product. The bag could come in handy if you are always on the move and have to carry your instrument around. It saves you the stress of searching for the bag that perfectly fits your cajon.
How Much do Cajons Cost?
The price of cajons is usually dependent on the features and the material used to build them. You can buy low-end cajons for between $70 and $150. High-end models cost between $350 and $600. You can get a balance of cost and efficiency with mid-range models that cost between $120 and $300.
Best Cajon FAQ
Q: How do you maintain a cajon?
A: You should always keep your cajon away from harsh temperatures. Exposure to extreme temperatures can damage the wood.
Q: Can you use drumsticks on a cajon?
A: Yes, you can. However, you don’t just use any drumstick. There are cajon drumsticks that serve as alternatives to using bare hands. These drumsticks have a rubber tubing finishing.
Q: Is cajon hard to play?
A: Compared to other similar percussion instruments, the cajon is easy to play. You can start low and build up your skills.
Derek is a professional musician who specializes in percussion and works with the independent WGI group Cap City Percussion. With a Bachelors of Music from Capital University, specializing in Music Industry studies, he consistently finds himself playing and teaching percussion to anyone who has the will to learn. Derek is also a former member of DCI groups Legends (2014-15) and Colts (2016-18); he is also the percussion technician and instructor of the drum line at Olentangy High School. You may find him playing a gig throughout the greater Columbus, Ohio area.