A drum set but not, like, a drum set
October 12, 2021 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I need a percussion instrument that is versatile like a full drum set but much more compact than a drum set and also somewhat intuitive to use for anyone who might want to sit down and play it. I don't really know what I'm asking for because i don't play drums.

We have a room in my house with a bunch of instruments. Sadly, they don't get used very often these days but in The Before Times every now and then some musically-inclined friends would come over and something resembling music would get played.

One of the instruments was a drum kit, which we removed because it was taking up half the room. Sometimes someone would play drums and now there's no drums to play.

So I'd like to have some kind of percussion thing. Possibly but not necessarily electronic. I don't want to have one of those big electronic kits though because that would still take up some space.

It would be great if it didn't require a separate amp though one could be provided if needed. It should have as few features as possible. Nobody is going to want to do more than sit down on it, press a single button and play it. Nobody is going to use this to record an album.

We already have a djembe and a bodhrán but those are sort of specific things. I think I also want something more than just a pair of bongos.

I think I have seen various electronic kick drums with like a button thing for a cymbal and a snare on top. Something like that, maybe. Again, I don't even really know exactly what I mean when it comes to drums. Bass, snare, cymbal.


I want something compact and fun that someone can casually play drums/percussion with along with other various musical instruments.
posted by bondcliff to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Cajon
posted by bricoleur at 8:16 PM on October 12, 2021 [16 favorites]

Best answer: What you are after is a cajón.

It's essentially a box (cajon!) with various bits of percussion on the inside: experienced drummers can make it sound more or less identical to a full kit, anyone can have fun hitting it and making rhythms. They come prebuilt or in kit form, not expensive. Ideal for this use case.
posted by motty at 8:17 PM on October 12, 2021 [8 favorites]

I have a Tama cocktail-jam kit that sounds great and doesn't take much space. Got it for $250 used.
posted by InfidelZombie at 8:19 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cajon is the answer; add an ankle shaker and you'll have a legitimate groove kit.
posted by jmfitch at 8:36 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cajon is definitely the answer you seek.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:48 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: nthing cajon

(they're amazing for players and dabblers alike, and a good one really sounds GOOD)
posted by goblinbox at 10:58 PM on October 12, 2021

The pandiero can also be used like this. I have heard Brazilian musicians describe it as a "laptop for percussionists" because you can can use various strikes to imitate bass drum, snare, hi-hit, etc - or the equivalent samba instruments (surdos, tamborim, etc). . Here is one being used as part of a kit - with a cajon. Here is a demonstration of the instrument in use by itself. - big attraction: fits in a backpack.
posted by rongorongo at 12:24 AM on October 13, 2021

An electronic drum kit is a lot more compact than a true percussive drum kit, but you do lose fidelity. They can vary greatly in size with different pad sizes and numbers.
posted by kschang at 4:43 AM on October 13, 2021

Korg Wavedrum - Official Product Introduction? Might be hard to find, depending on where you are.
posted by krisjohn at 5:41 AM on October 13, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I am a bit worried that the cajon is a little too close to a djembe. Seems like you at least need to know the proper ways to hit it to get various sounds. I'd also prefer the sounds to be a little more distinctive. Perhaps I'm not quite understanding what it can do.

A main advantage with the cajon is that it's got the seat built in, which would save space. I might look into one, or perhaps add it to my "stuff to build" list.

I think the Wavedrum is what I was thinking of in my original post, though it would be nice if it had a pedal for the bass drum.
posted by bondcliff at 7:16 AM on October 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

So get one snare on a stand, and use a cajon for a seat.

If someone can't figure out the cajon, they get to be The Little Drummer Boy for the night.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:20 AM on October 13, 2021

I think the problem with sample based instruments like the Wavedrum or a Nord Drum or even a Novation Circuit — which you can pick up pretty cheap on Reverb — is that they just don't lend themselves to turning them on and just playing by someone with no experience. It's all too easy to get sucked into trying to pick a sample.

Everybody knows how to hit something with their hands. A cajon can make a boom, pop, and sizzle which is all you really need to keep a drum groove going. That article has a variety of models to fit every need and also has enough construction details that I imagine a woodchuck like you could knock one out in an afternoon.

I also saw in that article that Roland makes an electronic "El Cajon" that one can play acoustically, amplified, or turn on the built-in Roland drum module and trigger samples. That seems like a a great idea for your use case.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:33 AM on October 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I feel like a cajon isn't going to scratch that "drum set but not like a drum set" itch. You probably want something where someone who already knows how to play a normal trap set can pick up a pair of sticks and go to town without much transition. Which probably means electronic.

How much money do you want to spend? If you're willing to drop some benjamins, you could go for something like a Roland Octapad kit or a Roland SPD-SX sampling pad kit or the like. (You can also get the pads without the pedals and stand, but, you know: why?) And, hey, if it's good enough for Scary Pockets . . .

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are a gazillion different portable electronic drum kits to choose from. Some are as cheap as $30 and basically toys, others are several hundred, even up to $1000. I don't have recommendations for you there, but you can probably find something that sounds acceptable for not too much money.
posted by gritter at 11:44 AM on October 13, 2021

Empty buckets are always a possibility, I guess.
posted by rongorongo at 11:37 PM on October 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, All. I think I'm just gonna go ahead and build a cajon. Seems pretty straight forward and I've been looking for a project to distract me from all my other half-finished projects.
posted by bondcliff at 1:23 PM on October 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: When I asked this question I had every intention of buying a thing and no intention of making a thing and yet here we are.

Thanks to all those who suggested a cajon. It'll be a nice addition to our music room and percussionist wanna-bes will now have something to bang on.
posted by bondcliff at 3:37 PM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

That's awesome, it looks great. Thank you for posting that follow up!

Your guitar build project post is one of my Metafilter all-time favorites. I had feelings about whether or not you should have replaced the first neck, but I kept changing my mind.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:00 PM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

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