If you follow this blog regularly you could be forgiven for thinking that my one and only passion is cycling, and the uber-niche of recumbent cycle touring at that. My recumbent high racer is fairly new and thus something for which a beginners enthusiasm might be expected to abound. But I’m not just a cyclist – I’m also a Christian and a drummer. These two loves come together when I provide percussion to one of the bands which plays at our church.
I first took up playing drums around 15 years ago, in an attempt to be ‘part of the solution’ to a church stuck in the 1850’s in my home town of the time in Hertfordshire. I’m unsure where I picked up the following principle, but it is one that shapes me, that being ‘You only have the right to complain if you are prepared to help do something about the problem.’ Life moves on and as resident or guest drummer I’ve played with at least six different worship bands since then.
What have I learnt over this time you might ask? (i) That it is better to play with a nice group of people, than a great group of musicians (and if you can combine the two then that’s really good). (ii) It takes 45 minutes to set up and ca. 30 min to break down and pack a rock kit. (iii) One accessory that any drummer needs is either an estate car or a van! But as of today, whilst (i) remains true, it may be that (ii) & (iii) are not necessarily true any more.
And so when get to the subject of this post – my first set with my Cajon. Firstly here is a picture.
If you are not familiar with the Cajon as an instrument read this. If you want to know more about the instrument in the picture then look here as well. Whilst you may think as I used to – what can be so great about a plywood box? – let me enlighten you. My DG Bravo is a bass, snare, toms and rim shot all in one, 4 kg box. The tonal variety of a Cajon is simply amazing. Traditionally they would not have been strung as mine is, but this gives me a sharp ‘rock kit’ snare sound and well as an authoritative bass. It really is so much fun to play. I play traditional ‘rock kit’ 4/4 and 8/4 patterns on it, and it really lends itself to this. Interestingly it is also excellent for double bass pedal beats too. My current band is rather different to those I’ve played with before – as well as guitar, keys and harmonizing singers, we also have a violin and recorder. This give a rounded sound with the option of the solo voices of the violin and recorder to add zest to a song. Also, they are a great crowd and forgiving of a self taught drummer who cannot read music.
So how was my first outing with the Cajon? From the number of positive comments from the band and from the congregation I’d say it was a pronounced success. I too loved the whole experience. It is amazing to think that my small plywood box could fill a 300 seater church, but this it did. One thing that led me to the DG Bravo was the fact that the tone was as good when played lightly as when played hard and loud. This is key in a church worship music setting where the tone of our music needs to be anything from reflective to driven, punchy and powerful.
Turn up, unbag the Cajon, sit down it and just play – how refreshing is that, swapping a 45 minute set up time to 10 seconds and swapping a car full to a simple shoulder bag. The Cajon, short on hassle, big on sound – it really rocks!