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Why Cajons are causing waves in Australian Schools

24 May 2011

I have been using the cajon in schools as a tool for both musical and social development for many years now, and I currently run cajon ensembles at Curran Public and James Meehan High in Macquarie Fields, Sydney. In this series of articles I’ll be looking at some of the reasons why it is such a magic instrument for schools and teachers, as well as offering some suggestions for ways to run ensembles.

So why the cajon in schools?

Apart from the obvious relevance to a school’s music syllabus, the positive effects of drumming on students’ broader social, intellectual and creative development has been well documented. Increased motivation and attendance, improved class work overall and the development of social skills including team work, problem solving and performance skills are just some of the benefits the schools I have worked in have observed. But what is it about the cajon in particular that makes it so successful.

Hands on instant buzz!

While there’s no doubt that the sound of a cajon improves with some basic technique, it’s also true that anyone can hit a box!! For students that are struggling with low self esteem issues, it’s an ideal instrument to get an instant positive feedback experience from...and then from there to build up technique, skills and ability. Unlike some instruments that take at least a period of time before you can get a sound, the cajon gives back an instant buzz.

Drumkit in a Box

The two main contrasting sounds on the cajon are equivalent to a bass and snare drum on a drumkit. While the quality of these tones varies enormously from cajon to cajon - as with drumkits - any music that uses a drumkit - rock, pop, hip hop, funk, latin, swing, heavy metal and so on - can be replicated with a cajon.

Relevant to youth culture

As we can play any rhythm on the cajon that is played on a drumkit, the beats and grooves that young people tend to listen to today - hip hop, rock, R & B etc work perfectly on the cajon. Some students will be able to play grooves they listen to without any guidance from you.

Students can practice right away

Students - or the school - may not have cajons of their own, but because of the nature of the cajon, it’s easy to find something to practise on - a wooden chest at home, a strong cardboard box, a table top and so on. Some students might have a friend or relative that can build them a basic cajon. For schools interested in buying kits to make cajons, contact me here.

In the next article, I’ll be discussing ways of setting up and starting off tips for drum ensembles. And of course, I'd love to hear any feedback from you through the site,

Claudia :)


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