In Part One I offered a simple idea for pairing a cajon with a microphone. Whatever cajon micing system you prefer, it’s still only half of the equation. The second half is getting the cajon sounding its best through the PA system.
Today, smaller venues often provide a limited PA and minimal help operating it, so be prepared to make the best of the situation. But at large venues and festivals, a quality PA with a knowledgeable sound crew is provided. Regardless of venue, you, as the cajon expert, are responsible for your cajon sounding great to the audience and on stage. Here’s are some quick pointers:
Use what you know. As described in Part One, I like to use a single Shure Beta 98 H/C condenser microphone placed in the back of my cajon. I prefer not adding other or different microphones just because they’re available*.
Toss aside conventional “drum kit sound check” wisdom and start instead with getting the cajon “snare pop” crisp and hot in the mix first, then work in the “bass drum” tones.
Help the sound sound crew! They often don’t know what to do with the cajon in the mix. After all, the cajon doesn’t exactly exude strength and power like a big drum kit. So, if the sound of your cajon needs to be BIG like a drum kit, let the sound crew know this. Don’t make them guess what you’re after.
Add just a touch of reverb to give your cajon’s tones the depth they deserve.
Have a dedicated monitor**. The value of having a dedicated monitor can’t be stressed enough. You’re the only person on stage slapping a piece of wood with your hands and you can’t turn your hands up to 11, at least not for very long! Though some venues may provide a monitor for you, travel with a powered monitor just in case one isn’t provided.
*Each venue presents its own sonic challenges. Be open to making changes to your microphone set-up if they are warranted, especially when a venue sound crew is helping out. Get to know the crew by name and work with them! In the end, they’re going to make or break your sound.
**A dedicated monitor is meant for your use only. You control the overall volume level as well as the mix of your cajon and that of other instruments coming through the monitor. It may not seem important, until you don’t have a dedicated monitor… and the guitars get turned up in your shared monitor… and you can no longer hear your cajon... and you desperately turn your hands up to 11!
Coming up? The THIRD AND FINAL PART of Making Your Cajon Sound BIG On Stage! – An Alternative to the Floor Monitor.