Best Cajon Drum For Beginners

If you are here then you have probably recently discovered this fantastically compact wooden box that seems to be exponentially growing in popularity. The Cajon origins are more strongly tied to Afro-Peruvian roots than African-Cuba. They were believed to first be played by slaves utilizing the tea boxes that they were packing and that characteristic snare-like rattle of the modern Cajon was possibly due to the tea crates splitting. These days this is replicated with the use of snare wires. They have since been popularised in Cuba and influenced their music such as conga and rumba and so have to have a mention alongside the bongos and congasThe cajon is a sit-on drum (or a slap-top box), so you actually sit on the box and slap it to play. Translated from Spanish cajon literally means drawer, tray, locker, coffin or crate. You may see it spelt cajun, cahon or cajone but the most common spelling is cajon.  The beauty and appeal of the cajon is due to the freedom it provides. It is supremely portable and it can be played at the same time as a shaker, cymbals or even a foot tambourine. Here’s a video to give you an idea of how.

How do you play it?

The Cajon should be tilted between the knees of the player at an angle whilst slapping the head – both side and top – with fingers and palms. Whilst primarily this percussive drum is played by slapping it, many players will use plastic and metal brushes. As well as this, a special cajon bass drum pedal can be attached enabling them to play it with their foot too. In fact, some percussionists would go as far as attaching a regular bass drum pedal, converting it to a makeshift regular pedal-bass drum, freeing up their hands.

 

What to look for

 

There are a number of different cajones that our tailored towards different purposes. There is the Peruvian, Flamenco, Cuban and Snare. So if you were to ask what the best cajon for acoustic rock is, we would say the snare. The others are more traditional – the Cuban and Peruvian boxes won’t have snare wires fitted and the sounds will be more fitting to Afro-Cuban or Afro-Peruvian music.  The flamenco has added guitar strings. As well as this there are what is known as a slap-top box. These mean you can actually slap the top of the boxes as opposed to bending over to hit the face. Whilst it is easier on the back, you won’t be able to attach a bass pedal. Even if opting for a more traditional cajon you would want a box where hitting the bass notes won’t break your back, therefore the sweet spot for sound shouldn’t be too far down. This is all taken into account in our reviews.

Every material will produce its own sounds and depending on what is used, it will have its own distinct properties. The body constructions vary and use a range of materials such as plastic, fiberglass, acrylics, eco-friendly fiber board, etc. One is not necessarily better than the other it will come down to personal preference. Some are designed with a lever switch that allows you to turn off the snare wires, whilst some even have their own microphone fitted and so are perfect for live situations or recording. All this being said, as a beginner these may not be necessary for you.

 

Top 10 Best Cajon for Beginners

So here we go, the best cajon box drum. We have our overall ranking, then we have split it up into 3 categories based on price starting with the higher end of things for those of you who have fallen in love with this box and are happy to invest in the best drum box out there.

 

ModelName/ RatingSummaryCheck Price

  Meinl Percussion SUBCAJ5WN 

Score:    (4.75 / 5)

Modern twist on the classic Cajon. Acoustic sound with tremendous bass. Higher-end model
 
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Schlagwerk CP408- Soft Touch

Score:    (4.70 / 5)

Immaculate craftsmanship. Soft Touch allows for fatigueless playing and excellent dynamics. 2-1 offers modern and Cuban sounds
AMAZON

Schlagwerk CP404 – 2in1-

   Score:    (4.70 / 5)

2-1 offers modern snare and traditional Cuban sound. High-quality construction
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND

Meinl Percussion BC1NTBR 

   Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Extremely affordable and versatilie entry-level cajon. Perfect for serious learners.
AMAZON

Meinl Percussion HCAJ1NT Headliner Series 

 Score:    (4.50 / 5)

Budget cajon. Basic finish, but great volume and range of tones.
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND

Meinl Percussion TOPCAJ2WN Slap-Top

   Score:    (4.60 / 5)

Shallower sound, punchy bass from forward projecting ports. Comfortable to play. Incredible value

 

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Meinl Percussion JC50LBNT Baltic Birch Wood 

Score:    (4.40 / 5)

Incredibly cheap. Small and lightweight. More suited for a shorter player. Warm tones and good projection
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A Tempo Percussion El Artesano

Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Authentic cajon at a premium price. The real deal. Deep tones, with huge slap, crack and bass.
AMAZON

The Collapsible Cajon

Score:    (4.35 / 5)

Supremely portable. Collapses in on itself. Perfect for travel.DISCONTINUED

Pyle String Cajon with Internal Guitar Strings (PCJD15)

Score:    (3.95 / 5)

Inexpensive, small and fun. Great cajon for beginners
AMAZON

 

Best Cajon Under 300

If you are a beginner on the drums we would strongly try to dissuade you from looking at this price point. These are higher end and are for people who may need to perform live or know that they will be using this instrument a lot. We would only recommend these for beginner Cajon players that are well-versed drummers as you will probably eventually need it for more immediate professional purposes such as a gig. There are many cajones over this price but we would highly recommend as a beginner you don’t look at these. In fact, we would suggest looking at $200 and below. If you are really intent on getting a great cajon then see our recommendations below:

 

Schlagwerk CP408- Soft Touch 2-In-1

 

Schlagwerk 2in1 Softouch

 

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Schlagwerk is known in the cajon world for making impeccable boxes and with a stunning oak surface combined with their 2-in-1 technology and Soft Touch you can play for hours without tiring. The Soft Touch damping on the playing surface allows for additional dynamics in the snare area. The 2in1 spiral technology means that the spirals vibrate in a controlled manner and produce a modern snare-cajon sound. These can then be removed in one quick movement to produce a traditional Cuban sound which is a neat feature. From the cajon you get a fantastically tight sound with bass notes that aren’t overshadowed by the snares. Incredible cajon for beginners with some drumming experience.

 

A Tempo Percussion El Artesano

 

A-tempo

 

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This is a wonderful Cajon that really looks the part, with an authentic old-school look. It is a high-quality construction with nice dovetails and a gorgeous finish. Not only does it look good but it has a fantastic high slap with lots of crack to it and a booming bass. The snare at the top is a joy and as you move down the cajon the tone gets deeper and fuller. It also comes with a padded carrying bag, backpack strap and handles so that you can have it with you on the go. At $50 cheaper than the Schlagwerk, it is a good option for a beginner looking to spend around $200.

 

Best Cajon Under 200

Let’s face it, at this price you are still going to get yourself a good piece of equipment. There’s a whole host a cajones under 200 that measure up. One person swears by their Schlagwerk CP 130 X-One Styles which comes in at a little over $120. You do not need to spend premium bucks to get a premium box. Here are the best in the bracket:

 

 

Meinl Percussion SUBCAJ5WN Subwoofer Bass

 

Best Cajon Drum For Beginners

 

 

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In at our top spot is this beautifully constructed cajon by Meinl who have been producing quality cymbals and percussion instruments since the 50s! If you have heard of them then it won’t surprise you to see them dominate the cajones. Whilst they did not appear in the best under $300, this is only because a lot of their cajones are well over that, but luckily for cajon players everywhere, they do make more affordable boxes too. Our first set comes in at just under $200 and is a modern take on the traditional cajon with a low-end punch that will send shock waves through your body and probably the body of every other person in the room. This is not your conventional Latin/Flamenco cajon but that isn’t a bad thing. It masterfully mixes the classic cajon with a modern acoustic drum. We think this is the best cajon for acoustic rock music given the range of sounds and deep bass.

 

The Meinl Jumbo Subwoofer Cajon is mammoth in size and sound. The extra wide and extra deep body allow for superb low note development. The Jumbo Bass cajon measures 13.5″ wide x 19.75″ tall x 13.75″ deep. This box is made for bigger people, whereas some of the smaller ones really aren’t suitable for people of 6ft. This beast could hold the BFG himself. So whatever height you will be able to sit comfortably and have lots of hand space to play. More importantly, the sound is incredible. Under $300 it is the best sounding cajon we have heard. The snare and kick project really well but aren’t overpowering as they remain crisp and sharp. If you are looking for more of a bongo sound then this box isn’t for you, but if you want a drum sound with a cannon of a bass, a punchy, snappy snare and bright warm rims then this one won’t disappoint.

 

 

Schlagwerk CP404-BLK 2inOne Black

 

Best Cajon Under 200

 

 

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Don’t think of this as being below the Meinl, it is more an alternative as it offers something different at the same price. Neither is better than the other – both show quality craftsmanship and are clearly high performance, quality boxes. In this cajon Shlagwerk have again deployed their 2inOne technology which uses spirals to vibrate in a controlled manner inside the box and produce a modern snare-cajon sound. These can then be removed in one quick movement to produce a traditional Cuban sound which is a really nice feature. This gives you versatility in sounds and allows you to integrate different genres into your playing. It makes this model great for Latin percussion but at the same time, because of the snares, you can try your hand at rock or pop too.

 

This box is slightly smaller than the Meinl at 11.8” wide x 11.8” deep x 19.7” inches tall, but it is still a large drum so taller players should have no problem with it. It is the same model as the Schlagwerk in our premium category (under $300), however this one does not feature the soft-touch tech. Whilst we think the soft touch is invaluable for long-term players, it is not necessary at this stage. The soft touch not only has a nice damping effect, but it means your hand won’t fatigue or feel like you have been slapping on wood for hours. The sound is fantastic with a deep, boomy bass, punchy crisp snares with wonderful lows. The only thing you could say against it is that the snares are more subdued than on more expensive models, but for under $200 you are getting a remarkably good cajon.

 

 

Meinl Percussion BC1NTBR 

Meinl -bc1ntbr

 

 

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If you are a beginner looking for the best bang for their buck and looking for good quality on a tight budget then this one is for you. Again we have Meinl quality with this cajon, but at an astonishingly affordable price. Not much over $100 and you are getting a well-constructed birch wood percussion box by Meinl. You can’t really ask for much more. It is a bit shorter than the top 2, measuring in at 17.25″ tall x 12″ wide x 12″ deep and so you lose a bit of the depth in sound, but overall they are fantastic. A lot of cajones at this price point will basically simple bongos, but this cajon is far more than that in terms of its range, depth and versatility. Of course you have multiple ways to hit it – fingers, palms, knuckles, etc, but it is more the tone range that this little box gives you. The bass is good although it is maybe slightly duller than the more expensive cajones. Higher up the drum is where it comes into its own – you get a crisp snap with a bright tone thanks to the birch. The snares are great on the high side, but on the low side they cause the sound to lose definition, so we would recommend tightening as required. You can also remove the snare wires very easily if you prefer. We would a recommend getting a mic as you progress in order to hear the fullest sound. The mic will pick up on all the nuances that can get lost otherwise.

 

Overall a this is a well constructed, durable, sturdy cajon with high performance at a low price.

 

 

Meinl Percussion TOPCAJ2WN Slap-Top

Meinl Slaptop

 

 

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Now for something a little different as you can see from the picture above this isn’t your regular box, it is more like a mini-bench. This slap-top has been produced to bring the striking surface nearer to the player for a more upright playing style, which can be more comfortable and in the long run is better for your back. The unique upright playing style of the Meinl Slap-Top Cajon is coupled with its 3 forward projecting sound ports, two at the top and one at the bottom which makes this cajon extremely comfortable and musically novel. A decent size at 18.5″ wide x 12.25″ tall x 9.5″ deep, it is shallower than the others on this list which results in a shallow bass, but more punchy sound that will cut through other notes. The forward facing ports actually give the drum wonderful projection, so the lack of boom is compensated by the punchy projection, which means it offers something quite different to other cajones. It is quite useful as a replacement acoustic drum when you don’t have one to hand.


High tones, low tones and a snare effect are built into the soundboard, all of which project forward. With two pairs of crisp snares located on each side with its own port, this drum really feels versatile and has similarities to an acoustic drum in its sound. For under $150 it represents fantastic value for money and something a little different in the cajon world.

 

The Collapsible Cajon With Traveler Backpack

 

Collapsible Cajon

 

 

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Our last cajon at under $200 is something completely unique as it is a collapsible cajon! This alone got it on to our list and for $150 you aren’t just paying for the gimmick, you are buying a  sweet-sounding cajon that is supremely portable. If you are looking to travel, especially flying with your cajon then you will understand the difficulties and impracticalities of carrying around a big box. With this model you can easily collapse the cajon so that it fits easily inside any bag as essentially a flat pack. It comes with a travellers carry bag so you can have it on your back underneath another bag. Disassembling and reassembling is simple and does not affect the tonal qualities.

 

The sound of the cajon itself is decent. At a size of 19 x 12 x 7.8 inches it is big so don’t feel you are getting a shallow size and sound. However tonally it is not as good as the others on this list, with a less boomy bass and a slightly flatter high end. Overall it will not be the best cajon under $200 but it would certainly be the most portable which may be your main objective.

 

Best Cajon Under 100

Be warned, like with any instrument, those that are finely crafted will have depth in their tone and complexity to give you a better all-round playing experience than those on the cheaper end. Perhaps there snare wires buzz a bit at first, but at this price you can compromise a little. So if you are looking to get one on a budget or just don’t really feel the need to spend more, this list is for you.

 

Meinl Percussion HCAJ1NT Headliner Series 

Best Cajon Under 100

 

 

Construction and finish:   
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In at our top place for under $100 is this wonderful cajon by Meinl. You will notice in this category that Schlagwerk are nowhere to be found. That is because they don’t produce anything this affordable, however luckily for the budget buyer Meinl do and it is anything but cheap. This is not some low-quality mini box that they have thrown together. This is their usual quality, a sturdy drum measuring in at 11.75″ wide x 12″ deep x 18″ tall. The finish is quite basic but you really can’t expect style and sound at this price. They have managed to ensure a quality and authentic finish.

 

The volume is good and has several tones from the front panel and several other tones achieved from the sides. The top seating surface is coated with a gritted non-slip sealer that adds just the right amount of non-slip without being so rough that it would damage clothing. The guitar strings that provide the snare effect are shipped loose and will need to be adjusted to each users liking, but overall both snare and bass and a pleasing tone. They aren’t going to be rich, deep sounds, but they are fairly decent. If this is just for practicing and learning then it is fine. If you want to use it to gig or record then it will sound a bit basic. Also if you are tall then this drum may feel a bit low, so anyone over 6 ft may want to look at getting a bigger model. Overall a great basic budget cajon perfect for a fledgling box percussionist. Start on this and then advance to a professional one without feeling you have thrown too much money down the drain.

 

Meinl Percussion JC50LBNT Baltic Birch Wood 

Meinl-jc50lbnt

 

 

Construction and finish:   
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In our next spot is, yes you guessed it, another Meinl. Once again they have produced an even more affordable cajon which at under $75 is nothing short of a miracle given the quality and sound. At this price you probably wouldn’t be surprised if you were getting a glorified shipping box, but Meinl has stayed true to their goal of providing quality percussion with this box. The smallest on our list at 10.25″ wide x 15″ tall x 10.25″ deep, it again is a little short for the tallest players to feel comfortable measuring in at the same height as the Pyle. In return for the small stature it weighs in at only 5 pounds which is remarkably lightweight considering the Pyle is over 8 and the others are around 11lbs. Given how light it is the bass it still wonderfully loud and boomy and you still get some nice depth to the tones. Its beautiful birch construction gives it a bright crisp sound. The only downside we would say is that you need to get used to hitting the center to get that sweet spot for the bass as it is not as easy to pinpoint nor forgiving. Overall it is fantastic value for money.

 

Pyle String Cajon with Internal Guitar Strings (PCJD15)

Pyle pcjd15

 

 

Construction and finish:   
Sound:   
Value:   

 

Check Price

 

 

In our final spot is a cajon by Pyle who featured in our best bongos, best electronic drum and best acoustic set so they clearly understand percussion and more specifically the budget end of percussion. At slightly over $50 they have produced a really fun starter box drum that is perfect to jam with and get the hang of things. It is very compact measuring only 12.0″ x 12.0″ x15.0″ which is great for portability, but not so much for any tall players out there who will find this a little low to the ground and so a bit uncomfortable to play for long times. Whilst the tonal variation is not as significant as the others we have reviewed, you can still get a range of sounds out of it. It is well constructed and solid and looks pretty decent too, albeit not the classical cajon look.

 

Overall it is a great first cajon for anyone looking for a cheap entry point into the world of box drumming.

 

Best Cajon for nothing!

 

That’s right you can just make it yourself for the cost of materials. We are not going to give you instructions  but Wikihow can more than get you on your way.

 

Best Cajon Pedal

If you want to turn your cajon into a makeshift kick-drum or even just want to have a bass option when sitting on it then you are going to need to get yourself a cajon pedal. Whilst most gigging cajon players won’t use a pedal as it is just them and their box, it is a nice option to have. You may want to wait until you have been playing for a few months before getting one of these, but if part of the reason you took up the cajon was to include a pedal then keep reading. You can try using a regular bass pedal but most would say it is not as comfortable nor effective. The best ones are not cheap, as they can cost hundreds of dollars which is why we only recommend one that is both affordable and good quality and that is the Meinl Direct Drive Cajon Pedal.

 

Meinl Direct Drive

Best Cajon Pedal

At under $100 this pedal represents affordable quality. It is sturdy and simple. WIth a padded beater it is quiet but still produces a big sound without risking it breaking the cajon. The response is incredible and there is no delay and a key tool slots in to prevent unwanted reverb. You may need to grease it if it squeaks a bit and you may find that that the arm loosens and requires occasional tightening, but at this price it is a good bit of hardware. Anything you find cheaper than this will not be good quality and will feel and sound cheap.

 

 

 

 

 

Best Cajon Brushes

Good brushes can make all the difference and there is a range to choose from. Our personal favorite as an entry-level is the Meinl Percussion CB2 13 1/4-Inch Retractable Cajon Brush Pair but just play around until for you find a pair you like. (As a side note, no, we are not endorsed by Meinl!)

 

Setting up

 

For any of those that we have reviewed, it is important to remember, just like any other instrument, straight out of the box it may not sound great. It may need tuning or other actions in order to get it sounding its best. All of these makers have videos on how to get these boxes singing so make sure you check them out before giving up on it and using it as a footrest.

 

Do you have the cajones?

 

It is clear why this little rhythmic box has fast become a worldwide favorite. It is versatile and easy to hop on and play. They can be played at parties, on the beach, at coffee houses, in small rooms, big rooms, large clubs and arenas. This mini drum is incredibly portable (after all it is just a box) and anyone can have a go without worrying about ripping the skin or breaking it.

 

We met a drummer who had been drumming for 16 years and said that in a fire he would save his cajon first and his acoustic drums second (his wife then looked at him and said that she hoped he meant after her and the kids. He had no comment).

 

It is easy to see why it is so loved and become so mainstream. The top end cajones are beautiful instruments exquisitely crafted. In fact when one of the Rookie Rhythm team passed one around it become an instant hit with everyone wanting to have a go. It also subsequently turned into an impromptu stool for meetings but we wouldn’t suggest that as an appropriate use.

 

For a drum with such humble beginnings starting off as a simple crate, the quality and range of sizes and styles we see now is remarkable and shows how impactful and infectious music is. Hopefully the breakdown above will help you make your decision as to which you want to go for.