Hand percussion never felt so good…
The rise of acoustic instruments continues, and the Cajon’s popularity shows no signs of stopping. From its humble origins as an improvised shipping crate-cum-percussive device – which was designed by West African slaves to create music without their captor’s knowing – through to today’s expertly engineered and in some cases electrified instruments, the Cajon has come a long way. Pretty much every week one pops up on a popular Sunday morning national television programme when the musical guest is doing their thing.
We’ve previously written a guide on the cajon, so we decided to pick out our 4 Top Choices to get you off the ground both figuratively and literally.
1. Mirage Cajon SL
Kicking things off is the affordable and functional Mirage Cajon SL, which offers a fantastic introduction into the world of cajon. Built to a full-size 22-inches and constructed using resilient hardwood, the Cajon SL provides a suitable instrument for children and adults alike. Every consideration guarantees that you won’t slide about during performances. The top of the box features a non-slip rubber pad to sit on, whilst the base is home to four non-slip rubber feet. Whether you sit straight or tilt the box back, you can rest assured that you won’t lose your grip.
By using durable hardwood to construct the enclosure, the Cajon SL boasts a highly resonant response. As one would expect, a tight snare-like snap when striking closer to the top edge, whilst a pronounced bass-drum type sound booms when striking closer to the centre of the faceplate.
Within the Cajon SL there are snare-style strings that rattle when striking the faceplate, adding depth to the already brilliant percussive output. By adjusting the strings via the rear soundhole, you can alter the sound to better produce the sound that you’re looking for. Not only that but the Mirage Cajon SL surprisingly has sleigh bells too, which expand the breadth of percussive elements at your disposal.
Whether you’re starting out your musical career or fancy adding another string to your bow, the Mirage Cajon SL allows you to do so without shelling out a small fortune. There’re even two options to choose from in Birch or Bubinga.
2. Meinl Headliner Series String Cajon – Siam Oak
If you’re familiar with drums, then there’s more than a good chance that you’ll already know Meinl. Not only do they produce outstanding percussion products, but they also cover just about every possible percussive instrument under the sun. Let’s just say, they’ve got experience by the bucket load. The Meinl Headliner Series String Cajon offers professional-level quality at a wallet-friendly price. From Flamenco to world music to stripped back and unplugged rock/pop styles, there isn’t anything that the Headliner can’t turn its hand to.
Built using Siam oak for all side panels and faceplate, the Headliner Series String Cajon delivers an articulate response across a vast dynamic range. You can give it a gentle tap to achieve a light output or hard-hitting strike for greater emphasis, allowing the subtle nuances of your performance to shine.
Your tuning, your way
In keeping with its pro-level capabilities, you can adjust the top corners of the cajon to alter the character of the sonic reaction. For more of a slap when you strike near the top corner of the faceplate, you can loosen the screws around the top edge for a snappier sound. The Headliner also comes with an Allen key for tuning the cajon to match your desired tone. If you look through the rear soundhole at the back of the Headliner, you’ll see two strings that you can tighten or loosen to home in on the sound you want.
As we’d expect from a brand of Meinl’s quality, the Meinl Headliner Series String Cajon has anti-slip rubber feet to prevent unwanted movement or sliding as you play. There is also an anti-slip sitting surface, so you can twist or lean back on the cajon without sending yourself flying.
Another consideration is that via the rear soundhole, you have the ability to mic up the cajon from inside, expanding the recording potential of the Headliner as well as live performance. You may be doing a low-key acoustic set but if you need that extra bit of oomph, then you can easily place a mic in there and you’re good to go.
3. Schlagwerk CP404 2inOne Snare Cajon
When it comes to skilfully engineered Cajons, it is hard to think of anyone who can compete with Schlagwerk. The CP404 2inOne Snare Cajon is their most successful product and for a variety of very good reasons. First of all, the resonance box is built using eight layers of birch, whilst the playing surface is a smooth beechwood.
At the heart of the CP404 2inOne Snare Cajon there are removable coils that press against the playing surface at a precisely defined angle. As you strike the enclosure the coils vibrate to produce a snare cajon sound. However, if you wish to remove them then you can achieve a more traditional Cuban sound. Hence the 2inOne title!
As with the Meinl Headliner, there is a rear soundhole for you to access the internal components. Again, there’s nothing to stop you from slipping a mic in there as and when you want that extra sound reinforcement. You can also adjust the faceplate screws to attenuate that feel and sound of the CP404.
Each Schlagwerk CP404 is hand built in Germany before making its way in the world. You can rest assured that the performance from each one is as solid as they come. From the practise room to the stadium stage they can endure that most enthusiastic of players. Not only is it a highly versatile instrument but it is one that can make a faithful touring partner for many years to come.
4. Meinl Headliner Series String Cajon in Ash
Revisiting the awesome Meinl Headliner Series, this time we’re taking a look at the Ash model. Rather than favouring Siam oak, Meinl instead built the resonating body using eco-friendly medium density fibreboard, which joins a stained American white ash faceplate to stunning effect. Not only does it offer excellent resonant response, but it also adds an air of elegance to the proceedings too.
As we already know, you can adjust and tweak the Headliner Series string cajon to alter the feel and sonic output. However, ash offers a slightly different tactility compared to that of Siam oak. You can expect just as much liveliness from the ash with a crisp character. From dense bass to tight slapback, readily adjust the faceplate screws and internal strings until you find the perfect balance for you.
Across the top of the enclosure is a padded seat to spare you from unwanted discomfort. The base features those much-appreciated rubber feet to prevent unwanted sliding or slipping as you play.
Gimme some more
So, there we have it. When it comes down to making your selection, we appreciate that budget will dictate just as much as size, sound, versatility, etc. But with that in mind, you can rest assured that whichever cajon you choose to go for, you’re guaranteed an outstanding percussive partner to play with.
For our full range of Cajons, check out our online store.
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.