Meinl Direct Drive Cajon Pedal

I am working on turning my cajon into a mini drum kit. I have a Meinl low hi-hat stand on order (it is backordered until August) but I have received a very innovative Meinl Direct Drive cajon pedal.  It doesn’t look like it would work, but it actually works very well. It came without instructions, so I had to figure some things out.


Meinl Direct Drive Cajon Pedal

First, the included drum key is handily attached to the pedal (see the red circle in the image above). You need that to make other adjustments. Install the beater by loosening the screw and sliding it in, then retightening. You will notice that the way the pedal is shipped, when you push on the bar, the beater moves away from the drum instead of toward the surface of the cajon.  To fix that, you need to take the drum key and loosen the screw in the light blue circle above.  Then rotate the cam until the beater is in the right position. Now it makes sense.

The other adjustment involves the long bar that sticks out from the pedal.


Cajon Pedal Showing Bar

The pedal is shipped with the curved part of the bar pointing toward the pedal instead of away.  You have to use the drum key to remove one of the screws (see the red circle above), move the bar forward, then reinsert the screw and tighten it.  In this position you can depress the bar with your toes.

Update: I have my cajon on a small carpet because if the feet are directly on the floor, the sound resonates throughout my condo and bothers family members. However, I found that when I push down on the the lever of the pedal with my foot, the point where the lever is attached to the L-shaped base tends to push into the carpet, absorbing some of the energy and making the beater hits less accurate. I solved this problem by going to a hardware store and buying a thin metal plate called a “strap tie” from the lumber section for $1.98. Here’s a picture:


This works very well. The wide surface keeps the pedal from depressing into the carpet.

I think that this pedal should come with instructions.  It is probably supposed to. I hope this post will help anyone who is confused.

The design looks weird, doesn’t it? There is actually no pedal! It is actually quite comfortable and responsive.  The bar is in just the right place for sitting on a cajon. Whoever designed this was thinking outside of the box. Meinl also makes a more expensive cable driven version of this pedal with an actual footplate. I haven’t tried the cable version, but considering the extra friction of the cable and the ever present danger of damage from being stepped on, I think that this direct drive version is better.

You can buy this as part of a complete Meinl cajon drum kit with a bass cajon, or as a cajon conversion kit without a cajon, or as separate pieces. I chose to buy the pedal and the hi-hat stand separately because I didn’t need more hi-hats (I have three sets: 14″ Wuhans, 13″ Zildjian New Beats, and 14″ Zildjian Armands).

This will end up being a tiny drum kit, suitable for coffeehouse gigs and house concerts. I think it will be fun!

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Funky One Chord Jam

This track was an experiment. I wanted to see if I could play cajon with my left hand while playing a ride cymbal with my right.  It turns out that I can!

This is almost 8:00 minutes long and it doesn’t go anywhere at all.  It is basically an Amin7 chord forever.  However, it is not without interest.  It might be called a “meditative shuffle.” It does sound a bit like the Dead.  That was not my intention, but I am a child of the 60’s. It turned out better than I thought it would.

The ride cymbal is a 21″ Sabian HH Raw Bell Dry Ride, a very pretty sounding cymbal, played with one Pro-Mark Broomstick, about the quietest thing you can play a cymbal with. The bass is my Douglas violin bass.  The guitar is my Tele.  That’s about it.

Update 6/25/19: After consulting with some guys on the Reaper forums I made a more natural sounding mix with a different compressor on the master channel.

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In Search of a Pickguard

My Casino came without a pickguard.  A lot of people take them off and then they get lost.  I wanted mine to have one, for two reasons.  One, when I finger pick I tend to anchor my hand on my little finger.  I am a little sloppy finger picking, and this helps tighten things up.  However, without a pickguard, the body of the guitar was a long way down.  I ended up putting my finger on the bridge pickup, which was a bit far back.

The other reason was that I thought a cherry red guitar would look awesome with black pickups, black top hat knobs, and a black 5-ply pickguard.  See what you think:


It turned out that finding a pickguard that would fit was a bit tough.  In fact, the whole process was a journey, which I will recount here for anyone else who goes down this path.

The Pickguard

Casinos have changed over the years and have been made in different factories in different countries. A lot of places that custom make pickguards want the buyer to send a tracing of the old pickguard, but I didn’t have one.  According to the serial number, my guitar is Chinese, made in 2006. I finally found an ad on Ebay for a pickguard made for a 2007 Casino, from a source recommended in internet discussions, C-Rocker Guitars.  It turned out to fit perfectly. Excellent customer service too.

The Bracket

Now I needed the mounting bracket, which was also a search.  The pickguard brackets that are generally available fall into three categories: generic Les Paul type, generic big archtop (these have a double bend), and Gibson ES-335 style, which is fancier and requires that you glue the pickguard onto a plastic block.  The Gibson style would work for a Casino, but I already had a pickguard with a screw hole in it.  The big archtop bracket would probably work if the second bend were flattened out, but these have two screw holes to attach to the body, so I would have to drill another hole in the guitar.

I ordered a Les Paul type bracket through Amazon, but it turned out to be coming from Shanghai and it got stuck in customs in L.A.  I got impatient and ordered from a different source on Amazon.  This one arrived quickly, but was too short.  I contacted Epiphone, who gave me a part number (PPB-110), but no one had it.  I went back through the available Les Paul types and looked carefully at the specs.  I found that some were about 1/4″ longer than others.  The pattern seemed to be that the ones that were rounded on the end were shorter than the ones that were square on the end.  I ordered a squared off one.  At this point I had ordered three brackets, between $5.00-$8.00 each.

Yesterday, the one that had been stuck in customs arrived.  From the specs on the listing, I had already given up on this one because it seemed to be too short, but when the actual item arrived, it turned out to be one of the squared off longer ones, and it fit.  Then I needed a screw for the end of the pickguard near the neck.  That turned out to be a #4 3/4 inch screw.  I used a couple of neoprene faucet washers as spacers under the pickguard.

Adjusting Pickguard Height

At this point, I recognized another limitation of the Casino’s 1950’s design.  Because of the design of the dogear pickups, the pickguard rests on top of the lower dogears.  That means that the height of the pickups determines the height of the pickguard.  Pickup height on a Casino is not easily adjustable because you do it with spacers, not adjustment screws.

The Lollars came with round head screws rather than flat heads and the pickguard was resting on the screws.  It was a bit too high.  The five-ply pickguard was quite thick, so I took out a drill and eroded away two plies where the screws made contact with the pickguard.  This actually helped a lot.

The end result is quite nice, but it was an adventure getting there.  On Friday, the last, now unnecessary bracket, will arrive.  Anyone need a Les Paul pickguard bracket? I have two extra ones.


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Very Superstitious

Got together today with Craig.  Here is a version of Superstition with Craig on a Tele that just got its old three barrel brass bridge back.  At some point he had had a six saddle steel bridge put on, but he was never happy with the guitar after that.  Now the old one is back on and the guitar sounds amazing.  I am playing cajon.

One channel in this mix has some crackly distortion in it.  It turned about to be because of a dirty volume pot on the mixer.  We liked this take and didn’t have time to redo it.  It makes it sound a bit like an old vinyl record.

When you listen to this, remember that it is one take, with Craig playing guitar and singing and me on cajon.  There is no second guitar, no bass player, and no overdubs.

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Fast Samba

I recorded this to test a couple of different mics for recording the cajon.  I used a Sennheiser E 602 II, which I used to mic my kick drum with, on the cajon port, and an Avantone CK-1 small capsule condenser on the face.  The mics performed well, I think, especially the Sennheiser.  The Casino is used for the sort of dreamy chords in the background and the lead is my tele on the bridge pickup.  When I do tracks like this, I am mostly going for a mood.  It is repetitive, but it is only 1:33 long.

The cajon sounds quite punchy.  I am pleased.  The lead is just sort of there to be a wandering contrast to all of the repetitious patterned stuff.  Eventually I will put all this stuff together into an actual song.

Yeah, it’s kind of Dire Straits meets “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number.” Influences show.

Update: Craig put some different lead guitar ideas on the track:

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Cajon in 6/8

In creating this track I had two purposes.   First, try out a new plugin called Bass Professor II from Sonic Anomaly.  Second, I have been practicing a cajon pattern in 6/8, so I wanted to try it out.  No amps or amp sims were used.  The bass is my Douglas Beatle-style bass direct into the UR 44 interface, with Bass Professor II giving it some dirt.  The guitar is my Casino, also direct into the interface, with a touch of Dragonfly reverb. The Casino sounds surprisingly good with no amp sim.

The bass playing is pretty lame.  Please have mercy.

Note: Remixed to emphasize the cajon more on 4/23/19.  Later that day, added the organ pad suggested by Brian.

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A Dylan Cover

I don’t do covers very often, but I felt like playing “She Belongs to Me.”

It’s the Casino, the cajon, and the solo is, surprisingly enough, my guitalele.

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More Old Recordings of Old Originals

I seem to be encountering old recordings of things from my past these days.  I have posted a new version of an old song.  Now I have some more old versions.

Back in the 1970’s my friend Craig was in a band with Maury Manseau and a bass player named Bruce Buell.  As far as I know, they were known as Maury, Craig, and Bruce.  That’s what I called them anyway.  Let’s call them “MC & B.” Maury had been in a band called “The Sunshine Company,” which had a couple of hits, one of which was “Back on the Street Again” by Steve Gillette.  You can find this on YouTube.

MC & B were being produced by Bill McEuen, brother of John McEuen, famous banjo player in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  The Dirt Band had had a big hit with their album, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”  MC & B were playing five of my songs.  At the time I thought they were going to be big and I was going to have a career as a songwriter.  They recorded a demo at United Artists studios with a drummer named Phil Valentine who I didn’t know, but who had gone to the same high school as Craig and I.  I guess he played in different bands.  I never had a copy of the demo, but Craig still had an acetate, of which he made a digital copy for me.  They played two of my songs.  The first is “Waiting,” of which I have already posted a version here recorded a couple of weeks ago with Craig playing guitar and singing and me on cajon.  The version from the UA sessions, probably 40 years ago, has Craig on vocals and Maury playing lead guitar on a Gretsch Country Gentleman through a borrowed Fender Twin Reverb on 10.  It is pretty amazing.

The UA demo also has another song of mine, “I Might Have Known.”  Here Maury sings and Craig plays flute.

Finally, Craig discovered a cassette tape of a performance he did at the Penny University Theater, a venue that existed in San Bernardino from the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s.  These days he fingerpicks, but in those days he was an accomplished flatpicker.  He is at the top of his game for the time.  And at the end of that tape, he plays a song of mine that I had forgotten I had written, “If You See My Highway.”  It has a surprisingly positive outlook.

MC & B had a falling out with Bill McEuen and the demo, other recordings, and my songs never saw the light of day.  So instead I became an English professor.  So it goes.  And the wheel turns.  It is all for the better.  I suppose.  But this is pretty good stuff that has been hidden for a long time, so I am happy to put it on the internet.

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A quick track with the Casino and the Cajon

This track is with the new Lollar pickups through the direct out of the Katana. Rhythm and lead are both the neck pickup because that was what worked for the track.  The rhythm is the clean model, the lead the super saturated “brown” model.  On the cajon I am actually playing 16th notes with the left hand but all that gets covered up by the guitars so all that you can hear is the heavier hits with the right hand.  I have to work on that.

I know the lead is excruciatingly corny.  Oh well.  I suppose it is the David Gilmore wannabe in me.  At least it is not a black strat.

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Lollar 50’s Wind Dogears Installed

I haven’t picked it up yet (will do tomorrow), but Craig and Mike the tech say that the pickup transplant was a great success.  According to Craig, “The guitar surpasses all expectations . . .ideal scenario manifested completely . . .a joy to play in all positions, keys, pickup positions, volume levels . . . tone unmasked . . . cat’s out of the bag . . . it purrs it growls it shakes it shimmies  . . . success!”

Now it looks like this:


Cherry Red Epiphone Casino with Black Pickups and Knobs

Craig sent me a clip demoing all the pickup positions with bits and pieces of various songs.  He is playing through a Magic Vibro-Prince, a boutique version of a Fender Princeton amp.

The guitar sounds glorious in all positions.  This really is a special guitar, and with these pickups (and new tone pots, capacitors, and wiring), the special character shines through.

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