Cajón of my own
May 17, 2012 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Should I buy a cajón? I know the best thing would be to go to my local big box drum store (ba-dum-dum) and try them out, but in the meantime...Can I get something in the hundred dollar range that sounds good, isn't too fragile, and is portable-ish? Are there particular brands/models that are considered particularly good value, can't-go-wrong choices? Also, I'm 5'2" -- Should I be worried about getting something too big? I'm interested in getting a cajon because it seems versatile and reasonably easy to get nice sounds out of it even while learning. Is that a safe assumption, or is there a better choice in the portable-hand-drum, sitting-around-playing-music-with-friends department (e.g., bongos, djembe...)? Have I asked too many questions for one post?

Should I get this one (Meinl Headliner)? Do they make one with a backrest and matching ottoman?
posted by SampleSize to Shopping (8 answers total)
I wouldn’t over think it, it’s a box that you hit. I took part of an old desk and put a thin piece of plywood across the front. That’s just me though.
posted by bongo_x at 10:29 AM on May 17, 2012

A well-made cajon will sound different than a piece of an old desk, though the desk piece is of course a valid instrument.

I don't know much about cajons but I just came in to say that I've played one before and they are super fun, so yeah you should get one. Very satisfying thumps and lots of different tones to be got out of it from hitting it in different ways.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:47 AM on May 17, 2012

I don't know much about the cajón either, but one of my friends does. The first lesson in his series on iDrum covers what you might want to know about it.
posted by ambrosen at 11:05 AM on May 17, 2012

I had a cajón very similar to the one you've linked to (I think mine had a 'seat' or pad on the top of it, but was otherwise the same). It was pretty damned fun, and it functioned as a nice little stool when you needed it to as well. I did a little recording with it, and it sounded great.

I say get it.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:37 AM on May 17, 2012

I was always told that the cajón did indeed originate as a dresser drawer or a shipping box or something cheap and simple like that. I picked one up in Peru 15 years ago, and while it's a fun instrument, it is rather limited in terms of expression, in my opinion. And your hands WILL hurt after playing it at volume for a sustained period.

But yeah, definitely try one out. In fact, ALWAYS make a point of trying out a musical instrument before buying one.
posted by monospace at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2012

It's not really a great playing position for any extended playing (bent over). You would be able to get higher and lower tones from almost any hand drum like a djembe or a dumbek. Bongos are surprisingly hard to play well and a decent set will be both expensive and hard to find, lots companies make crappy bongos. The only set I have found that I like were made by Gon Bop, who are no longer in business.
For djembes, if you are a casual player and not interested in playing it traditionally, I would take a look at some of the synthetic drum bodies with tunable heads. Purists will scream that a goat skin head tied on with rope is the real thing and nothing else will do. As some one who played one in a mixed set of hand drums with no intention of ever playing it traditionally, I say tunable and easily replaceable heads are a big plus. These drums all have different sounds, so play it before you buy it. Some of the synthetics have a lot more high end and ringing when playing near the rim. This is either a plus or minus depending on how you play. I started with a synthetic and eventually "upgraded" to real wood jembe and found it to be nowhere near as flexible.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:39 PM on May 17, 2012 one, didn't like it, returned it. I'm not sure if mine was defective, but it seemed to require a lot more thwapping force to get a real sound out of it than the ones I saw in videos. In fact, I think it probably was defective. But having toyed with it a bit, I think I do prefer a djembe or bongos or something.
posted by SampleSize at 8:31 AM on June 1, 2012

They look like they're in business.
posted by SampleSize at 8:32 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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