Having Fun with Cajóns!
By: Matt Schaeffer
Meaning box, crate, or drawer in Spanish, cajns are becoming ever more popular in todays music. Developed in the early 19th century, the cajn was used mostly by slaves to get around the ban of musical instruments in different colonies; because the player sat on the instrument, they could easily be disguised as seats or stools! Famed guitarist Paco De Lucia is credited as introducing the cajn to flamenco music in the 1970s, which then spread from there to other forms of contemporary music. Today one can hear the cajn in many applications, from coffee houses to an unplugged set during an arena rock show. To get you started with the cajn, weve got a couple of fun patterns to get you going!
Striking the Cajn
The cajn has many sounds but we will be concentrating on two of its main sounds: The high sound (slap) and the low sound (bass). The high sound is achieved by striking the uppermost front section of the drum with closed or slightly open fingers using your wrist as the fulcrum. The bass drum sound comes from a full, flat hand hitting the mid section of the drum. Instead of the movement coming from the wrist, the bass note comes with a full arm movement. Both of these strikes should have the hand come off of the drum immediately after each stroke for a full and resonant sound.
Notation for the following examples has the higher staff line for the slap and the lower staff line for the bass note.
The Warm up
This pattern should get you acquainted with the sounds of your cajn and get your hands nice and warm. Start slow and build up to speed. Were looking for good sound quality not to win a race!
Cajon Warm Up Audio Clip
This particular pattern has its roots in the Middle East, but it is used in both pop and dance music today! Start with each line by itself, repeating as necessary until you are comfortable. After you have made it through all four parts, play each line in succession to get the full pattern.
Ayoub Pattern A Audio Clip
Ayoub Pattern B Audio Clip
Ayoub Pattern C Audio Clip
Ayoub Pattern D Audio Clip
Ayoub Full Audio Clip
A) This pattern is a more intermediate pattern, but definitely a cool and classic percussion line. Start by playing each tone by itself, starting with the bass line. After getting both parts down separately it is now time to combine them. You may notice that you are playing what seems like two separate rhythms simultaneously, this is known as a polyrhythm. Take things slow and look for when the parts line up together. Also, listen to the example given to get your ear accustomed to the flow.
Bossa Nova Audio Clip
B) B is for BONUS section! If you feel youve bested the Bossa Nova, its time to kick it up a notch with another limb! Take a tambourine, jingle bells, or some sort of noise maker and either strap it to your leg or put it under your foot. The highest line on the staff is for you to shake/stomp your foot in time! Listen to the final example for both a slow version followed by an up to speed take. I hope you have a blast with these!
Bossa Nova With Shekere