Well, most of you would like to record the Columbian percussion Instrument known as the Cajon at your home studio setup. While it is a very interesting instrument to record, it is essential that you first understand the character and the natural sound of the instrument. Given that your room is acoustically treated or semi-tested, you can get great amazing results. The player sits on the Cajon like a stool, and with bare hands, plays the instrument on the front of the panel. It produces a wide range of sounds based on where it is struck. At the back, there is a bass port or an air hole for the low-end sound, just like a speaker. When played by an artist, it produces a great tone and often sounds like an entire drum kit.
Microphone placement for Cajon:
There are many ways to mic the instrument and this method will help you achieve a good natural tone from it. I use two mics to record the Cajon, one I place at the center of the panel where it is played and the other around 5 inches away from the bass port or air hole to capture the low end of the instrument. A pair of dynamic or condenser mics will do. Set the gain level to less than -10db in order to have more headroom for mixing. I use the Shure SM57 on the front since it has a snare-like texture and at the back, a Sennheiser MD421 to capture the low kick-like character.
Setting the EQ on the Front panel mic:
First, set the High pass filter to remove the bottom end rumble in your room, around 100Hz – 120Hz, so that it cuts through ther mix in your song. Add a slight boost around 5Khz-7Khz to give you a nice high crisp tone.
Setting the EQ on the bass port mic:
Now, set the High pass filter around 70Hz- 90Hz to remove the unwanted rumble and then boost around 2-3 dB at around 100Hz or 110Hz. This will give you a large bottom end and will sound solid in your mix.
Setting the Compression on the Front panel mic:
Set the threshold depending on your source material and have a gentle compression with a 2:1 ratio. Make sure that you have a gain reduction of not more than -3db and do not squash too much of it. Leave the attack and release at a medium setting so that it sounds natural. Do not use heavy compression on this as it can sound very flat and mechanical.
Setting the Compression on the bass port mic:
Set the Threshold depending on your source with 2:1 or 3:1 ratio. Adjust the threshold so that your gain reduction will be around -3 to -6dB. Get a blend of both, the front and back mics and balance according to your source sound.
Remember to always tweak and make adjustments to your mix with all your tracks enabled in order to get a more detailed context of the sound. To add a little ambience to your Cajon, just add a little plate reverb to the front microphone. I hope these tips help you in your home studio recordings.