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What exactly is a Box Drum or Cajon?

There is been a fantastic surge in interest in box drums lately. You'll see and hear them everywhere in all sorts of music from flamenco to globe to bluegrass, jazz, fusion, pop, rock and hip-hop. American Idol has even featured a percussionist inside the home band who in some cases brings it downstage to accompany an acoustic unplugged efficiency.

So what exactly is a box drum?

Box drums, also popularly recognized by their Spanish name, cajón (pronounced ka - hone) are really pretty old. They have been made in the 1700's by African slaves in coastal places of Peru. As their Spanish overlords forbade them from obtaining any musical instruments, one theory is the fact that these instruments had been fashioned from the shipping crates and boxes that had been being unloaded off ships. Slaves sitting on boxes beginning make beats and there you might have a new drum.

The word "cajón" actually translates as drawer in Spanish. So a further theory is the fact that some enterprising musician pulled out his wooden drawer and began playing beats around the thin wooden bottom surface. Whatever the true story is, the box drum has been heard in Peruvian folk music for centuries.

cajon drum

Integration into Flamenco music and beyond

Inside the 1980's, world renowned flamenco guitarist Paco DeLucia was offered a cajón by a Peruvian maker as a gift. DeLucia was fascinated using the sound and had it incorporated into his group. Someplace along the way, they began experimenting with adding guitar strings operating along the faceplate from the drum.

This added a sizzle impact which proved very beneficial. By striking unique areas on the drum you could possibly get a great facsimile of a full kit sound with this one portable box! I've heard these drums becoming employed in jazz, folk, bluegrass and also in music therapy classes and kindergartens.


The design from the box drum is just about unchanged from days of old. It is a box about 18 inches tall with a square footprint of about one foot by one foot. The percussionist sits straddled around the box along with the front surface is struck by the hands. By hitting with different components of your hand and fingers and in distinct areas, you can get quite various sounds.

Modern Box Drums

Today's cajóns or box drums have began to branch out as modern day instrument makers make refinements and innovations. You can find some that use snare drum wires as opposed to guitar strings. There are some using a pronounced bass effect by adding a front facing bass sound hole. There are actually even some which can be played using a bass drum pedal or with brushes.

Why the Surge in Popularity?

The box drum is definitely an attractive solution for percussionists for quite a few reasons: portability, versatility, and affordability. You do not have to plug it in and can be utilized even inside a street-corner busking scenario. And they may be inexpensive also.

It is possible to purchase a professionally produced and gorgeous wood instrument for a little more than $100! And you can even get a kit to create one particular for half of that.

And along the way, the cajon tends to make a nice finish table or additional seating in your living space! I believe we are going to hear and see lots of extra box drums in recordings, on stage and in schools as a lot more musicians find out this stunning instrument.

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