No matter what your role in the music industry, from a manager to an artist, from a songwriter to someone who just enjoys pickin’ on the guitar on your porch, the cajon is at the very least an interesting instrument, and possibly an important part of your live show or recording.
Originating from the Peruvian Andes Mountains in South America, the cajon has been around for a very long time. Just like the djembe was popular a few years ago, the cajon is beginning to take over. It is a versatile instrument that is also very portable, like the djembe. The main difference between the djembe and cajon though is the cajon can emulate a drum set. There are various manufacturers and models of the cajon, ranging in price from around $100 up to $800+. Depending on your purpose for the cajon, the basic models may be just what you need.
So, how can a cajon help you? I’m glad you asked. Each one of these examples comes from personal experience, so, it CAN be done!
Managers: You would find the cajon perfect for your artists who are going out on a radio tour. A few weeks ago, I was up in WI and MN doing a radio tour with a country artist. We performed on air, as well as for a few listener appreciation lunches for the radio stations. The cajon translated well over the air, and also was a great conversation piece at the listener appreciation lunches, giving your artist “memorability.”
Artists: The cajon is perfect for those shows where you can’t afford, or don’t want, to have a full band. Maybe the venue is a small room, or it’s not paying enough to bring out your band. I just played a few one-offs with a CCM artist. There was a utility player, the artist (who played guitar/piano), and the cajon. The cajon added rhythm like a drum set, but since there wasn’t a bass player or lead player, a drum set would have been too much.
Songwriters: You need the cajon at your rounds. How many of you are getting tired of just having your guitar or keyboard? Add some extra energy to your songs and round! A great cajon player will automatically add that extra “umph” to make your round, your songs, and YOU stand out among the mass of songwriters. I play songwriter rounds all the time. It’s amazing the difference between songs that have rhythm to compliment them, and songs that don’t.
If you just dabble in music, the cajon would be fun piece to have around a campfire, or on your porch. I’ve done many little house concerts, or just messed around with friends on a porch. The cajon makes it more fun for everyone.
The cajon is also great for recording! I record full drums, but occasionally the producer or artist wants a more “organic and raw” sound on their song. Last week I was at the studio recording drums on some demos. The producer wanted to do a song that wasn’t gonna have a lot of production, driven mainly by vocals and an acoustic guitar. I ended up using the cajon, and it was perfect for the song.
Whomever you are, no matter what your role in the music industry, the cajon is a great addition, and will help you reach your goals.
About the Author: Brent Clifford, originally from Dallas, TX, has called Nashville “home” since 2005. He plays full drums with touring artists and does studio work when he’s not out on the road. You can check out his website for more info: thebrentclifford.com