I have been playing drums for more than a decade now. I feel a little bit off when using a drum set for an acoustic set so I usually use cajon for these type of gigs. Being a musician without a car, it’s a little bit hard to commute with a bulky percussion instrument, that’s why as much as possible, I always go with the lightweight and portable alternatives like the Meinl Hybrid Slap-Top Cajon.
Three months ago, I was browsing the internet and came across this new model of cajon from Meinl; the Hybrid Slap-Top Cajon. There have been very few reviews about this model but out of curiosity and the itch to get a new cajon, I purchased one online to try it out. So far, I’m enjoying it and it’s serving its purpose; lightweight, portable and it produces a lot of percussion sounds.
What is a Cajon?
Cajon (pronounced as KA-HON), is a wooden box-shaped percussion instrument that originated from Peru. It typically produces bass drum and snare drum sound by tapping or slapping the front, middle, rear or side faces of the instrument using hands, fingers and other implements such as sticks, mallets or brushes. The sound is projected through a sound hole usually located at the side or back of the instrument.
The cajon’s origin can be traced back from the late 18th century and is most widely used in Afro-Peruvian music. Today, it is becoming popular in blues, pop, rock, funk, world music etc. especially for minimalist sets (acoustic sets).
Modern cajons are usually rectangular in shape made up of thick wood as its frame and thin sheets of plywood for the striking area. Snare wires or metal cords are usually attached on the opposite of a striking area to produce a buzz-like sound.
Normal Cajon VS Slap-Top Cajon
Slap-top cajon and normal cajon usually differ in the striking surface location and playing position.
A normal cajon’s striking surface (bass and snare) are located at the front. Players usually sit on top of the cajon. Slap-top cajons, on the other hand, are usually played either between the legs or can be put on top of any flat surface. Striking surface is located at the top just like the bongos and congas.
Because of the dimension that a normal cajon has, it can produce a sound that is louder than a smaller cajon and has a deeper resonance. You can also attach different accessories to any sides other than the playing surface to have more sounds than just the usual bass and snare.
Hybrid Slap-Top Cajon VS Other Slap-Top Cajon
The Hybrid slap-top cajon has two main playing surfaces. One side for the usual bass and snare playing surface and the other is the bongos playing surface. Other slap-top cajons only have one playing surface (although players can definitely explore other sounds) where different sounds can be produced depending on which part you hit.
Bongo cajons are slap-top cajons that mimic just the bonggo sound.
I used to have a Meinl TOPCAJ1MB Makah Burl Slap-Top Cajon that I used for doing gigs. I really like this cajon because of the round bass drum and crunchy snare sounds but it’s a little bit heavy and troublesome to carry when using public transportation. Nonetheless, it opened me up to the world slap-top cajons.
Features and Price
- Comfortable and unique X-design
- Forward sound projection
- Internal snare wires for a snare cajon sound on one side
- Bongo cajon sound on the opposite side
- Baltic Birch (Betula pendula)
- W: 14 1/2″, H:10″, D:5 3/4″
- 2 Kilos
- Baltic Birch or Tobacco Brown
- As of writing, price is at USD 69 plus tax, shipping fee and other charges that may apply.
Demo of the Meinl Hybrid Slap-Top Cajon
I created a simple split-video demo for the Hybrid Slap-Top Cajon together with some of my usual accessories (Finger Jingle, Motion Shaker, and Foot Tambourine). For this recording, I used the audio from the video that I recorded using my phone.This goes to show the rich sound this cajon produces especially the bass and bongo sounds.
Pros and Cons
- It’s really lightweight and weighs around 2 kilos. This is very good for commuting musicians who use public transportation.
- It’s small and will fit in a medium sized backpack.
- Since it’s a slap-top cajon, the playing position is not awkward compared to normal cajons where you have to bend over and open your legs wide to play (I feel this position is a little bit awkward. Haha)
- It has a surface solely for bongos and bass and snare
- Price is really affordable
- Very good for small, enclosed rooms and venues
- Since it’s small, you have to exert extra effort to play louder
- Might be missing a little bit of the bass intensity due to limited size of the cajon
- It can get tiring on the inner thigh if you play it between your legs
- It’s hard to put a microphone unless you’ll be putting it on top of a stationary platform
- You have to literally turn it upside down for you to switch from bongos to bass and snare
- Not suitable for bars and large venues unless you put a microphone on it
In my personal opinion, sound is 70% the instrument and 30% the player. You can buy all of the expensive instruments in the market but without the skill and creativity from the player, it’s just an “instrument” and nothing more.
Whether you play using a normal cajon, a slap-top cajon or any other playing surface that mimics the sound of any percussion instrument or any instrument for that matter, the important thing is to be creative. Don’t let the instrument be the limitation of your creativity.