As many directors have experienced, ringers often find it difficult to maintain a consistent, steady beat. Add to that the demands of shaping a phrase, observing tempo changes, meter changes, and dynamics. Over the years I have used a variety of metronomes amplified for all to hear, drum sticks, counting out loud, and when they are playing a hymn tune, singing the hymn. Singing a line is a great way for the ringers to experience the desired sound, but it still falls short of developing a common sense of musicality throughout the entire ensemble.
Then Malmark introduced their line of Cajons. This was a new instrument to me and I had no idea how it could fit into my rehearsals. I did learn some basics about the Cajon but it was desperation that finally taught me the real utility of this instrument. While working on a fast, syncopated composition the choir was struggling with holding a steady beat. I started giving the beat on a Cajon and immediately everything fell into place. I quickly learned that I could shape a phrase, change dynamics, and enhance pulse just by how I played the Cajon. I was impressed with how fast the music came together, and even more pleased by the response of the ringers. The Cajon is clearly more musical than a metronome, saves time in rehearsals and has become a favorite learning tool of the ensemble.
This experience was reinforced when I took a Cajon to a coaching session. The choir I was coaching was struggling to achieve level 2 music, and had no concept of a common beat. Through specific technique drills and keeping a steady beat with the Cajon, this choir achieved more music than they ever expected was possible. They too now use a Cajon in their rehearsals.
To get you started with your new Malmark Cajon we offer some basic tips and rhythm exercises from James Mobley, Educator, Musician, Consultant and Clinician who teaches and directs music at Woodhaven-Brownstown School District and is an alumnus of Eastern Michigan University. James is a colleague and customer of Jan's and both have enjoyed collaborating on the use of the Cajon.
CAJON 101: "DRUMSET IN A BOX"
Prepared by Jim Mobley
If you are ready to continue, see the practice exercises from Jim Mobley here:
Jim Mobley has been an educator and professional musician for nearly 25 years. He currently teaches instrumental music at Brownstown Middle School, in Brownstown, Michigan. He is also the Associate Director of the Saline Big Band, where he has been the drummer for 20 years. In addition, he is currently the drummer for St. Luke Lutheran Ann Arbor, and the Depot Town Big Band. He also performs with various acts in the Ann Arbor area, and is an active clinician. Mr. Mobley is a member of the Vic Firth education team.