A humble percussion instrument, at first glance, you don’t need much to make a cajon sound good. That said, there are plenty of tricks you can use to get even more out of your cajon. Maybe you want to expand the percussive range with some add-ons and set yourself up with a broader dynamic array and sound that’s unique to you? In this blog, we serve up five short-cuts to your own signature cajon sound.

Pull the Best Out of Your Cajon: 5 Quick & Simple Tricks

#1 Tweak Your Own Snare Sound

The modern cajon comes in two different basic flavours: the string cajon and the snare cajon. With a string cajon, a length of string has been pulled taught just behind the playing surface, and it’s easy to personalise the sound by loosening or tightening the tension of the string. By loosening it, the sound becomes dryer, while tightening it up sharpens the sound. Meanwhile, the snare cajon features internal snare wires, much like the snare drum of drum kit. The snare system is usually mounted at an angle against the playing surface, and the closer the wires sit to the playing surface, the more crisp the sound gets. More deluxe models might include an adjustment knob, but if you don’t have one, you can just remove the playing surface to make custom adjustments. You might also be able to gain access via the sound hole on the rear, which is definitely the quickest method, but it can mean that you’re working on feel alone. There are also cajons that allow for the addition of an extra snare-module to really give the snare sound a hefty boost.

#2 Adjust Your Playing Surface

The pitch of your cajon can actually be adjusted by loosening or tightening the screws that hold the playing surface in place. Generally, the rule applies: the looser the screws, the lower the pitch. With a new cajon, the screws are usually tightened as much as possible, so loosening them up will be your only option. By just turning the screw by a quarter or even an eighth, you can immediately hear the difference, so avoid turning the screws too far, especially if you’re loosening them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with screws poking out all over the place and risk ripping holes in your hand every time you play. Also, not every screw will need adjusting, so take note of the screws that you do adjust. For example, by loosening the screws at the top, you’ll get a louder slap-sound in the top corners, and by loosening the screws at the bottom, you might end up with some nasty snare buzz – which nobody wants.

#3 Use a Few Add-Ons

An easy way to get more sound out of your cajon is to use some accessories or add ons. Even just adding a set of brushes to your kit bag can make a big difference. There are special brushes designed exclusively for cajons, and while they will require a different playing technique they have the same sound as brushes on a snare drum – something immediately different. Using add-ons, you can stock up your cajon with an array of extra sounds. There are castagnettes, tambourines, and even hi-hats that have been specially designed so they can be mounted onto the side of your cajon and can be played by hand, so you don’t have to change up your technique so much.

#4 Add a Cajon Pedal

Drummers that turn to a cajon as a quieter alternative for acoustic gigs often miss their kick drum pedal. Luckily, there’s a simple solution available: the cajon pedal. Essentially a kind of ‘remote controlled’ kick pedal, the pedal itself and the beat assembly are separate units linked by a cable that drives the beater. Set up one of these pedals, use your feet to play the kick drum part, and free up both hands to play even more complex beats. You can even take things a few steps further by adding a low hi-hat and a couple of hand-cymbals to your custom cajon-based kit.

5# Get Some Online Inspiration

To cram more variation into your playing, you could also develop and expand your playing technique. To get some help with this, you could, of course, contact a local cajon teacher, but these days you can also find plenty of paid or free online courses. A great example is Heidi Joubert’s YouTube channel where, among many other things, she explains the techniques involved in playing in different styles. There are also plenty of renowned cajon players you can watch and study, including Stephan Maass, Paquito Gonzalez, Nina Rodriguez, and Juan Carlos Melian.

Of course, you can also learn plenty from your fellow cajon players. So, if you have any of your own tips & tricks to share, let us know in the comments!

Want to know more about cajons? See our dedicated Cajon Buyer’s Guide.

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