How to tune a flamenco cajon

flamenco cajon

The flamenco cajon is a beautiful and versatile percussion instrument, so it should be treated with care. For this reason, it is advisable to always have it tuned to get the most out of its sound. But how do you tune a flamenco cajon? If you want to know, then read on!

The cajon player’s choice

The first thing to bear in mind is that the tuning of a cajon depends on the tastes of each cajon player. In other words, every adjustment will give us a different sound, depending on what we are looking for. For instance, we can modify the sound to make the treble or bass more gritty or dry.

Something that is very common among percussionists is to change the tuning of your cajon depending on the rhythm, style or setting of the music you are playing. For example, to accompany dancing many choose a dry sound (without so much grit), while to play sevillanas or rumbas some prefer a grittier sound. Others might want bright treble and powerful bass. There is no right or wrong tuning – each player has their own unique tastes. There are myriad possible combinations and to master this art we must consider several factors.

1. Adjusting the screws on the faceplate

On the faceplate of the flamenco cajon we find screws distributed in different areas of the wood (there are usually seventeen in total). Each area represents a different sound, with certain screws having a greater impact on the bass sounds, and others having a greater impact on the treble. To adjust them we will need an Allen key or screwdriver that fits just right. With any adjustment it is sufficient to apply only a quarter turn, or half a turn at the most.

On the top of the cajon, flush with the seat, there are five screws which are used to adjust the treble. The most influential are the two at the ends, and just loosening them or adjusting them a quarter turn will make a difference.

On the upper half of the cajon on the sides, just below the screws mentioned above, there are two more screws. By adjusting them, you work on both the bass and the treble to find powerful and dry, or more harmonious sounds.

On the lower part of the cajon there are ten screws that only tune the bass. In this case, moving the two that are right in the centre will be enough to successfully change the sound according to your preference.

2. Adjusting the internal strings

There are many string systems that can be found in a flamenco cajon. They are normally found on the lower part, although they can also be found on the back or even inside the instrument.

In any case, string adjustment is based on two steps: tensioning and listening, in that order. If unwanted vibrations are detected during this process, it is best to place felt or tape on the strings to ensure that they always remain in contact with the faceplate. The amount used will depend on the desired sound and should ideally be applied after the strings have been tensioned. These sound variations occur because wood naturally has irregularities on its surface, which affects the melodies.

3. String tension

We have talked about the different nuances in sound that can be achieved after adjusting different areas of the cajon. But in order to achieve this, it is essential to know how to identify the type of tension that needs to be applied. Broadly speaking, there are two variables to take into account:

The higher the tension (tightening the strings), the drier the sound and the lower the harmonics.

The lower the tension (loosening of the strings), the more open and grittier the sound.

For example, if you prefer gritty highs and dry lows, you should apply medium tension, loosening the screws in the middle part of the cajon. Like everything else, the more time you spend on this practice, the better your understanding will be. It may seem complicated at first, but with time you will be able to do it naturally.

Now that you know how to tune your flamenco cajon, the only thing left to do is to put this new knowledge into practice and start experimenting. If you are looking to get started or improve your skills in this wonderful art, don’t hesitate to visit our online shop, where you will find the only flamenco cajons in the world with interchangeable drum heads, so that you can enjoy a brand new kind of percussive experience.

Now let’s get playing cajon!

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