The paradiddle is a drum rudiment that is really useful for Cajon players of all levels. It is the first pattern I ever learnt on a hand drum, and it kept me busy for a long time, trying out lots of different combinations. It also forms the basis of the composition I wrote last year for one of my Cajon Ensembles to perform (you can find the musical notation for this composition here)
Basically, in drum terminology, a single stroke is a single hit on a drum, and a double stroke is two strokes played with the same hand (for example your right hand). A paradiddle is a combination of single and double strokes, consisting of two single strokes, followed by a double stroke. So let’s look at how we can play this on a Cajon, and some simple but effective variations.
Here is a key to the notation. Even if you are not familiar with reading music, you will probably find this pretty easy to follow.
Cajon Notation Key
First, we will learn how to play a paradiddle with all the beats as tone notes. Starting with your right hand, strike the Cajon once. Then strike the Cajon once with your left hand. And finally strike the Cajon two times with your right hand. Play each beat evenly and smoothly, so that it sounds like four even beats: 1, 2, 3, 4.
Now try the same exercise, but starting with your left hand.
One of the uses of the paradiddle is that it allows us to smoothly change hands from right to left in our playing. So if you do the first paradiddle leading with your right hand you will naturally start the second paradiddle leading with your left hand. Try alternating from side to side. as follows:
Remember all of the beats are even and smooth, so someone listening should just hear eight even strikes, and should not be able to tell that you are changing hands at all.
Next, practice the same basic paradiddle, but with all the beats as bass notes, as follows:
Again, work on getting all of the strokes sounding as even as possible. As always, practise slowly first, and build up speed over time. It is more important to get the paradiddles smooth and even than fast. If you have a metronome, practise with the metronome at various speeds, spending at least five minutes on each speed variation.
Now let’s go back to the tone paradiddles. This time, try accenting (playing louder) the first of each of the single strokes, as follows:
Now try the same exercise with bass paradiddles, as follows:
In this next exercise, accent all of the right hand beats and make all of the left hand beats ghost notes, or tips. Start with the tones as follows:
As you do this, you will hear a new rhythm start to emerge.
Next try the same pattern with the right hand on the bass, and all accented, and all of the left hand beats as tips.
This is the way the Learn Cajon Launch Cajon Composition begins with this groove. (You can view the composition here)
Once you have mastered the above exercises, redo them all leading with the left hand. Practise at various speeds, and remember to work on evenness and control over speed.
Experiment with different combinations and ways of using the paradiddle. For example, try playing the left hand on the side of the Cajon to get a different sound texture as follows:
Thanks for checking the exercises out, and I’d love to hear your ideas and comments below!