A cajon is a percussion instrument from Peru. They mostly consist of a box with a striking surface, with snare wires on the inside. Hitting the box up high on the striking surface produces slap and snare sounds, while striking down low produces bass tones. A cajon’s snare can be adjusted via the screws on the striking surface, or faceplate. This is important for finding your ‘perfect snare sound’.
Step 1: Materials
• Cajon with snare
• Phillips-head screwdriver
• An ear for percussion
Step 2: Loosening the Snare
It is important whenever we are adjusting the snare wires to work in an alternating manor. Start with the screw in the top left, loosen it a few turns, then loosen the screw in the top right. Then, move on to the top-middle left, and top-middle right screws. When adjusting the sound of the snare on your cajon, only this top set of screws is necessary to adjust.
Before we try to get the ‘perfect’ sound, we should get a nice starting point. By loosening up the snare, we can incrementally tighten it until we get the sound we like. Loosen all four of the top screws, in alternating manor. Be careful to not loosen so far as to remove the screws. We want the faceplate to still be attached.
Step 3: Slightly Tighten the Snare
Now that we have the cajon in a nice, loose state, it’s time to work on that punchy sound you desire! Tighten the leftmost screw slightly, only half a turn. Do the same for the rightmost screw, and then the two middle screws. By working our way up slowly and utilizing an iterative process, we can insure we don’t miss a potentially fantastic sound.
Step 4: Test the Sound
Now here is the best part! Sit on your cajon, and jam out for a minute! Pay close attention to the sound of the snare, not just objectively, but also in the context of the bass and slap hits. Determine carefully whether this is the perfect sound for your cajon or not. But, don’t be too careful. You can always come back to it later! It is likely that you still want to experiment with new sounds and levels of snare-punchiness, so I suggest you rinse-repeat steps 2-3 until you get that desired sound!
Step 5: Check Faceplate and Snare Wires
It is prudent at this point to check your faceplate and snare wires for stress or damage. If you tightened your screws too tight, the faceplate (or striking surface) of your cajon may be digging into the rest of the casing, and could cause long-term damage. If this is the case, I would advise loosening the cajon some. If this prevents you from acquiring ‘the perfect sound’, it may be time to buy a new cajon.
It is also important to look inside of your cajon and check the snare wires. Make sure they are lying correctly against the striking surface and are not bent back over themselves. If they are, then once again you may need to loosen the cajon some more.
Step 6: Have Fun!
What is the ‘perfect snare sound’? That’s different for every individual, and is dependent on the style of music they play, the instruments that accompany them, and how hard they hit. But once you’ve found your ‘perfect snare sound’, are you in for a treat! Congratulations, you’ve succeeded. Now go rock out! Create something new, play some sweet covers, have a good time. You’ve worked hard and it’s time to make some sweet, sweet, cajon-based love.