Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meinl Headliner Cajon Review


I have been messing around with a cajón for a few months now, and it is a blast. Of course this smells like blog post material to me…

The cajón is an Afro-Peruvian percussion instrument that has been around since the late 1700s. Cajon translates from Spanish to English as "crate" or "drawer", and it is pretty much a wooden box that the player sits on top of while tapping or slapping the frontplate.

It evolved from instruments from west and central Africa, and was adopted by Peruvian slaves using Spanish shipping crates. I have heard that these boxes became popular as musical instruments because the Spaniards had banned music in predominantly African areas of their colonies. Cajóns were easily disguised as stools or tables and thus were not identified as musical instruments.

Modern cajóns are popular in Peruvian and Cuban music. They are made of nice plywood for the sides and back, and may have different tonewoods for the front plate. The fronts are usually attached with screws, and the tone can be altered by tightening or loosening the screws.

They also have a mechanism similar to the one found on snare drums to give a sizzle sound. The tension of the snare can be adjusted, and more expensive cajóns will have a lever to disable the snare mechanism.

I have experimented a bit with my cajón and have gotten some great results with brushes and drum sticks, and even tried out my bass drum pedal on it. The pedal worked great, but I was afraid I might crack the wood, and it made me feel a little bit like a creepy one-man-band.

The cajón we are looking at today is a Meinl Headliner, model HCAJ1NT. It has a rubber wood (whatever that is) frontplate and body sprayed with a matte finish. This is a small-sized cajon, measuring about 18 inches tall by 12 inches wide and deep. There is a non-slip seating surface on top, little rubber feet on the bottom and an adjustable snare inside.

If you want to try out a cajón for yourself, this would be a good choice. The Meinl Headliner has a list price of $196 and a street price of $99. It is a lot of fun and makes a nice end table too.


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