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July Cajon Exercise

26 July 2011

In this newsletter I want to share with you one of the first cajon exercises I learnt with Juan Flores in Barcelona. Juan is an amazing player and teacher, and if ever you are heading to Spain, definitely worth looking up and getting some classes with. He also organised the now famous Cajon Seminarios held annually in Barcelona. 

This is an exercise I use with all of my students, no matter what level, and it’s a great one to keep coming back to with more and more variations and complexity.

It its simplest form, it is an exercise exploring triplets, or groups of three.

Pattern A

First, practise alternating your hands with light and even beats on the cajon. At this stage, there are no double beats with either hand, so you should be playing R L R L or L R L R etc. Next accent (play louder) the first of each group of three (that is, the “1”), as follows:

1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3

Pattern B

Once you can do that, try to accent the second of each group, that is the “2

1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3

Pattern C 

Finally accent the third of each group, that is the “3”

1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3

Pattern A + B + C

Once you can do this, try to play one round of each pattern, as follows:

12 3, 12 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3

1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3

1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3

You can see how the pattern displaces each time by one count in the table above.

Take your time with this, and once you can easily play the cycle over and over, try to bring your foot in on the first of each group of three - that is on the “1”. This is easy with Pattern A as both your hand and foot are accenting the same beat. With Pattern B and C, it gets trickier, and is basically the start of foot and hand independence, (where your foot is doing one thing, and your hand another.)

This exercise forms the basis of rhythmic patterns and variations that can be found throughout flamenco, rock, R & B and blues. If you get the basics right, the sky’s the limit. We’ll look at some fun variations in the coming months too.

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