Monday, January 30, 2012

Meinl FCA5-L Foot Cabasa Review

Good day!

When I first saw the Meinl foot cabasa, I thought it was a super idea. The cabasa is an Afro-Latin instrument with loops of steel ball chain around a cylinder; it is popular in Latin music, especially in Bossa Nova tunes. The German company Meinl came up with the great idea to mate the cabasa with a drum pedal to allow musicians to multi-task.

I figured this foot cabasa would be a natural for a guitarist that was looking for a little percussion, or a conga or timbale player that wanted to add a another layer of percussion to a live show. Not surprisingly, reality is a little different than I figured it would be.

The Meinl foot cabasa uses one of their turbo (I hate that adjective) cabasas with a stainless steel cylinder over a wooden block that has 5 sound ports on each side for extra volume. This is attached to one of their stout powder-coated foot pedal frames that would be similar to what you would find on a high-hat or bass drum set-up.

You can set up this instrument so that it will provide a single or double-stroke for each depression of the pedal (i.e. will rotate only when stepping down, or when stepping and releasing). A drum key is included for working on/adjusting the pedal.

This all sound great on paper, but when I tried it out I realized pretty quickly that it would not work out for me.

For starters, any idea you have of starting an acoustic one-man band you might be put off by the operation noise of the pedal. If you are playing an amplified set you might get away with it, but for an acoustic coffee house set the clanky pedal movement is just too loud.

Another issue would be the lack of volume control when using the foot cabasa. As you are not muting it with your hand you can only have one volume level, which is loud. Turbo loud, as the Meinl folks may say.

Of course, there is my personal problem, which is my complete lack of coordination, which prevented me from doing anything that would be consider even the least bit musical with this pedal.

Your mileage may vary, and this might be just the product you are looking for, but just be sure that you try before you buy, so you do not get stuck with something you will not be able to use. If you decide to pick up a Meinl FCA5-L foot cabasa, they have a list price of $276, and a more reasonable street price of $159.



  1. It's an actual "instrument" that requires patience and practice. If I am the only percussionist I use it in place of a high hat whenever I sit and play congas. It takes getting used to that's for sure but if you adjust it carefully and practice, it can be an excellent addition to ones set up.