When it comes to a natural sound, nothing beats the vibe of an acoustic drum. While electronic drums certainly have their own benefits and range of use in performance and recording, the sound of a drum set or hand drums like a djembe, congas or a cajon can bring the beat to life in a more personal manner. Acoustic, hand percussion instruments may be commonly seen in drum circles and drum jams, but, these drums are a staple in Latin and all other genres of music. These instruments add depth and complexity to the rhythm and can be fun for drummers of every age and skill level.
The cajon, or box drum, is one of the most versatile acoustic drums available. Artists are incorporating the cajon into more “unplugged” and acoustic sets as a replacement for a regular drum set. While the cajon is thought to have originated in Peru, it is becoming more popular in mainstream music and has been used by such music artists as Fleetwood Mac, Los Lobos, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Harper, and Destiny’s Child.
Another great acoustic drum option is the djembe. Djembes are a tried and true favorite of drum circle musicians, but, there is a definite role for these drums in all types of music. The range of tones a musician can create with a djembe is truly impressive. Djembes respond well to a drummer’s hands, creating sounds and tones that cannot be matched with an electronic instrument. Djembes are highly expressive drums and have been linked to a history of communication for hundreds of years.
There is a pop and a snap to bongos and congas that punctuates the beat, naturally. These acoustic drums may be the defining sound in much of Latin music, whether jazz, salsa or tejano, and for good reason. The vast umbrella of “Latin Music” encompasses cultures that have blended and created not only hundreds of genres and sub-genres of music, but, also have been at the forefront of the development and use of hand drums throughout history.
Electronic drums are not as sensitive to the hand of the musician handling them, although technology continues to improve what electronic drums lack in terms of expression. Acoustic drums are highly emotive and expressive in a way in which electronic drums are not, and create a warm connection between the musician and audience, as well as the cultures that helped bring these drums center stage.