4 Best Beginner Cajon in 2022 Reviewed
Cajon drums are a great way to get into percussion without investing in a whole drum set. And if you’re already a drummer, they’re fantastic for adapting your drumming skills so that you can master percussion no matter what type of instrument you’re playing.
These wooden instruments are essentially hollow box-shaped drums, played by slapping the faces to generate sound. They're compact, versatile, and endlessly fun to play.
You have a few different options when looking for the best beginner cajon. While it may look like a simple box, more distinguishes the exemplary brands from the cheap ones.
The four best beginner cajons we’ll discuss in this article are great for those just starting, and each one has unique features that set it apart from the rest.
Read on for reviews of the best beginner cajons available right here from the Drum Center of Portsmouth—plus check out our guide to selecting a beginner-friendly option.
4 Best Beginner Cajons Reviewed
If you're planning on making your first cajon purchase, make it be one of these to set yourself up for success.
1. Meinl Bongo Cajon Super Natural
The Meinl Bongo Cajon Super Natural is easily one of our top picks for the best beginner cajon. It's an excellent option for those who are new, with its simple design and easy-to-use features.
This cajon material is rubberwood, allowing it to deliver a warm, clean tone. It’s perfect for both beginners and experienced players alike. It also features some higher bongo tones, channeling the classic slap sounds that come from hand percussion instruments.
It's a smaller-sized option for those who are also worried about space. You’ll find it's easier to play by placing it over the thighs when seated rather than sitting on the cajon itself as you typically would.
- Both high and low-pitched surfaces for versatile tones
- Compact, lightweight model that is easy to transport as needed
- Comfortable, lap-style design
- Rubber feet option for playing on a tabletop
- Lower cost than full-sized models
- Not a full-sized model
- No snare wires
- The sound may be weaker
- Size: 15.75 x 6.75 x 7 inches
- Material: Siam Oak (Rubberwood)
- SKU: BCA1SNT-M
- Warranty: Comes with a 2-year warranty
2. Meinl Headliner HCAJ1AWA Stained American White Ash Cajon
The Meinl Headliner HCAJ1AWA is a great beginner cajon for those who want more control over their sound.
This cajon consists of American white ash and medium-density fiberboard with a cabinet construction. The composite material gives it a wider tonal range than some of the other options on this list. From snappy highs to resonating bass tones, you'll be able to match any sound with this cajon.
With its fully-adjustable strings and a front plate, you can use this cajon traditionally with Flamenco music and dance or any world music. It's a full-size option for someone comfortable sitting on top of the cajon to play it, and it also features a stylish black logo and accents.
- A wide tonal range for any music style
- Fully adjustable strings, top corners, and sizzle effect
- Stylish black logo and accents
- Clear tone due to white ash front plate
- No-slip surface
- Comes with an Allen wrench to make adjustments
- Larger size may be less portable
- Higher price tag
- Size: 11.75 x 18 x 12.25 inches
- SKU: HCAJ1AWA
- Material: White Ash and medium-density fiberboard
- Warranty: 2-year warranty
3. Tycoon Percussion 24 Series Supremo Cajon
The Tycoon Percussion 24 Series Supremo Cajon is perfect for any beginning percussionist looking for quality construction and authentic sound.
This cajon features a body made from hand-picked composite Siam Oak and a front plate made from Agathis Kryssfaner hardwood. Each product is handmade and tested one by one to ensure its sound quality is up to the brand's standards.
You'll know the Tycoon Percussion 24 Series Supremo Cajon when you hear it. Its loud and deep bass tones counter its sharply high slap tones. Don't like the sound it's producing? Use the included Allen wrench and adjust the snare wires until you get a sound you like.
The size of this cajon is suitable for a smaller adult—it's just 24cm wide, which is not as big as some models, so larger adults may find it uncomfortable to sit down on it.
- High-quality, hand-selected materials
- Each model individually tested
- Wide variety of tones
- Adjustable snare wires with an Allen wrench
- Black sides and a beautiful wooden front plate with a black logo design
- At just 24cm wide, it's not ideal for larger adults
- Size: 11.5 x 11.5 x 19.5 inches
- SKU: STK-24
- Materials: Siam Oak wood and Agathis Kryssfaner hardwood
- Warranty: None
4. Meinl Headliner Cajon 11 3/4 W x 18 H x 11 3/4 D Frontplate: Natural
Love the Meinl Headliner series but prefer a different look? Get all the same features you know and love but with a more natural finish with this cajon from the same series.
Unlike the Stained White Ash model, this Meinl cajon sports a gorgeous natural birch wood finish on all sides, although with a similar cabinet construction. You'll enjoy the classic Headliner features such as adjustable strings and front plate and a wide range of tones from dark, deep bass to bright and vibrant highs.
The natural tones look gorgeous in any setting, from on the stage to in your storage room. It almost looks like furniture and can blend in anywhere for easy storage. The black logo looks crisp against the lighter-toned wood for a final stylish touch.
- Beautiful natural birch wood finish throughout
- Wide range of tones
- Adjustable strings and front plate
- Comes with an Allen wrench to make changes
- Stylish black logo
- Comfortable sitting surface
- More costly than some other models
- A larger size means it may be more difficult to travel with
- Size: 11.75 x 18 x 12.25 inches
- SKU: HCAJ1NT
- Materials: White birch
- Warranty: 2-year warranty
How to Choose the Perfect Cajon for Beginners
When you're looking to buy your first cajon, there are a few things you need to consider.
From checking the product specifications to listening and playing before you buy, here's how to make the right choice every time.
Make sure you measure the size to ensure it will fit you—unlike other acoustic drums, the drummer typically sits on the cajon, so make sure to take that into account. Some models are smaller than others, and some are lap-top models.
Look for Quality Wood
You'll also want to make sure the cajon consists of high-quality wood. Avoid any models made with particle board or pressboard, as these will not produce a good sound and may even fall apart over time.
The best beginner cajons typically feature birch, mahogany, or Siam Oak (also known as rubberwood).
- Birch is popular because of its density, which offers a more dynamic range of sound, with a mix of bass and high tones.
- Mahogany is on the warmer side of the Cajon spectrum of sound but is also great for heavy bass and high tones.
- Oak, usually Siam Oak, is less used than the others but is still a good choice because of the heft and volume it provides—but beware, it's brittle and needs delicate treatment.
You'll also want to make sure the cajon has a front plate made from hardwood—this will produce the best sound.
Tonal Quality and Testing
Make sure to test the sound quality of each cajon. You'll want one that sounds good when you play it—not too tinny and not too muddy.
Take some time to listen to the different tones each cajon produces. Different models will have different sounds, so you must find one that fits your goals.
Looking for more resonant bass tones and care less about highs? Or are you more concerned with high bongo slap tones? Ask yourself these questions and modify your results as such.
Many music stores will have a demo area where you can try out each cajon before purchasing. Don't be shy. If you can, try it out before you buy to avoid any surprises.
Aim for Minimal and Functional Design
When looking for your first cajon, you'll want to avoid any models with too much design or complicated features. You're not looking for a drum set—you're looking for a cajon. So, avoid any models with lots of extra bells and whistles.
Choose one with or without snares. Look for a laptop or traditional design and quality materials. You don't need much else.
Think About Musical Application
You'll also want to think about what style of music you want to play.
If you're looking to play traditional Peruvian folk music, you'll want a cajon with snares. If you want to play more contemporary music, you may be interested in a cajon without snares to complement the various sounds of world music.
Keep Costs Low
Try to keep costs low since this will be your first purchase of this kind. You don't need to break the bank on your very first cajon—there are plenty of affordable models on the market that will still give you a great sound. Plus, if you find it's not the instrument for you, you won't have spent an arm and a leg to get it.
Typical prices for cajons can range from around $50 to $200. If you feel confident in your purchase, you'll get the best quality from the upper side of that range. If you're brand-new and are nervous about spending a fortune, aim for the lower part of that range for a safe bet.
Another thing you may want to take note of is a warranty—does the product you're interested in buying come with one? How long is the warranty, and what does it cover? Not all cajons come with warranties, but some quality brands will provide them.
Playing the Cajon
Once you have a cajon and want to start playing, begin with the proper posture. Sit with a straight back, leaning slightly forward, with feet resting on the floor. Others prefer to sit on a chair behind the cajon with it just in front of them.
Once you've found a good posture, look for a hole cut into one of the sides and ensure it's facing backward.
While drumming, feel free to tip or tilt the box a bit in any way to change the sound. You'll need to play around a bit with it to learn the sounds it makes and get familiar with them.
Use your open palm to smack the face of the Cajon—notice how slightly adjusting your fingers or palm when slapping the drum will change the sound.
To hit the snare, slap the upper corners of the drum with just the wrists and fingers. For bass, hit the middle of the box with your whole palm.
There are plenty of online tutorials available if you want some guidance as you get started.
There's a lot to think about before making your first cajon purchase. You want one that's high-enough quality to produce a favorable musical experience, but you also don't want to be spending all your money on something you're just trying out. Use these tips to guide your decision—or, when in doubt, simply pick one of our recommendations for the best beginner cajon drums, and you can't go wrong.
Is the cajon drum easy to learn?
Yes, cajon drums are relatively easy to learn—especially if you're already familiar with percussion instruments. You'll be able to start making basic rhythms within minutes of playing your first cajon.
Even if you don’t have prior training in playing percussion instruments, the entry bar is pretty low for a cajon.
That said, this instrument might surprise you with how versatile—and complex—you can make it sound.
Which brand makes the best cajon drum?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as each brand offers a different sound and experience. However, we've highlighted some of the best beginner cajon drums in our buyer's guide. Some of the best ones include Meinl and Tycoon.
How much do cajon drums cost?
Cajon drums typically range from around $50 to $200, but the price will depend on the materials, features, and brand.
What type of music can I play with a cajon drum?
The possibilities are endless for the types of music you can play with a cajon drum—from traditional Peruvian folk to modern rock and jazz. Whatever your style, there's a cajon out there for you.
The cajon's roots go back to Peru when enslaved Africans repurposed crates used for fruit or fish and transformed them into percussive instruments. As the instrument became refined over time, it solidified its role as an important part of Peruvian culture and worked its way into Cuba. The cajon was traditionally an accompaniment to the traditional dances of Tondero and Zamacueca.
Today, the Cajon is not just limited to Peruvian music and is prevalent in Cuban, Flamenco, Andean, and music from around the world. Cajon drummers cover many popular songs, and some of the most popular of these include Guns N' Roses' Sweet Child of Mine and Luis Fonsi's Despacito.
Can you sit on a cajon drum?
Yes, cajon drums are for playing while sitting on them. They're typically quite sturdy and can support a musician's weight without any problem.
What's inside a cajon?
The inside of a cajon typically contains a snare, which gives the drum its distinctive sound. You can adjust the snare to create different tones and sounds.
Additionally, they contain a resonating chamber, which amplifies the sound of the drum. This chamber is what gives cajon drums their characteristic deep bass tones.
Not all cajons have snares, though—more contemporary models often come snare-free to fit a wider variety of musical styles.
Why is a cajon better than a drum set for beginners?
The cajon is a great percussion instrument for beginners because it is relatively easy to learn and doesn't require a lot of space or equipment. Additionally, cajons produce a wide range of sounds, making them versatile enough for various genres.
On the other hand, drum sets can be more challenging to learn and take up more space.
What to know before buying a cajon?
First, know whether you want a lap style or the traditional style that you sit on to play. Then, decide whether you want snares or not.
Finally, consider the range and quality of sound you want. Try a few options out until you find what you're seeking.
Picking the Perfect First Cajon for Beginners
Cajons are an excellent option for curious musicians who want to explore percussion for the first time or take their percussion skills to the next level. Learning a little about cajons and what to look for will help make your buying process easier, so use the tips shared above to guide the way. If you're still stuck on what to buy, rely on our hand-picked selections for the best cajons for a safe bet.
Ready to become a rhythm master using this percussive box? Pick up the best cajon for beginners today at Drum Center of Portsmouth!