Here is the interview with the project manager
Q: First, could you let us know of the background and process of development of the EL Cajon?
A: I have been working inmarketing and development of Electronic Drums (V-Drums) for many years. In the past twenty years, we have successfully expanded the Electronic Drums business, and V-Drums are recognized as the top brand in the worldwide market. However, even nowadays, the electronic drumkit is mainlyused as for home practice, as a replacement for acoustic drums (because of noise).I feel unsatisfied about that.
On the other hand, Roland have been developing Hybrid Drums andAcoustic Drum Triggers foracoustic drummers.After we launched the latestmodel RT-30 series (See the picture,right) in January 2015, more acoustic drummers have accepted our electronic drum products and many drummers tend to use our drum triggersto make create theirowndrumsound on the live stage-no matter how big the venue. Based on this fact, I amconsidering what concepts and products we can propose for the market, using thesensing technology of Hybrid Drums.
After globally researchingthe percussion market, we understand thatthat the peak of the ‘Cajon boom’ in the markethas already passed. However, the cajon is still well-accepted all over the world, it is sold at an average rateof 1 unit per day in music shops inTokyo or Nagoya (that means about 50,000 unit sold in Japanof the year). Also, the cajon does not require anyspecific playing technique, which means all music loverscanenjoy playing Cajon casually. Furthermore (this is very important),there is no stand-alone Cajon in the market that combinesan electronic layered sound on the acoustic sound. SoI started to think“We can make some new business with Electronic Layered Concept”
When I told this concept to one of my friendswho was working in Digital Piano R&D Department, he gave me the push I needed andsaid“Why don’t you make a sample instead of thinking”.We purchased a user-produced Cajon Kit form a well-knownEuropean cajon manufacturerandassembledthe speaker unit and piezo sensor withinthe cajon kit. We tested it byconnecting it to aV-Drums sound module. That is the start of the EL Cajon’s development.
Q：How did the first prototype of the El Cajon turn out?
A：It was terrible! It was painful to play. No acoustic resonance even when hitting so hard. We could never say that it was a Cajon (see the picture, right). However, we felt comfortable when we had anelectronic tambourine sound on the cajon. It gave me confidence and allowed me to think “We can make something better and it’s possible to create aproduct,if we develop the electronic layered sound combined with the acoustic sound”
Q：What was the most difficult aspect in the process of developing the product from the first prototype to the final version?
A：The acoustic sound (cabinet resonance) and adjustment of the triggering consistency
Q: What do you mean by difficulty of achieving a good acoustic sound? You didn’t have a good acoustic sound from the beginning?
A: No, we didn’t. It sounded so muffled,like a suitcase with many jackets inside. Since we had made a speaker hole on the playing board and installed some electronic parts, we could not get a good sound in the beginning. After we modified the position or size of speaker units within the cabinet, we finally got the standard acoustic sound that we can recognize and legitimately calla cajon.
Q：Is the EL Cajon’s sensing different from V-Drums?
A：Yes, it is. Anelectronic pad from our V-Drums has a piezo sensor under the mesh or rubber headto detect the vibration, whichsendsanelectric signal to the sound module. The EC-10 needed customized mechanics todetect the upper middle and top edge area of the cajon to make the twodifferent-positional sound. (See the picture, right) Also, it has a speaker unit inside the cabinet-we neededto make a counteraction to avoid false-triggering that camefrom the unexpected vibration of the speaker. It was
so important to develop the suitable software programwithin the EC-10’s internal electronics to solvethis issue.
A：The EC-10has three sound groupsthat include 30kinds of different sounds. Each sound group has a different concept or function;
The Cajon group has 10 kits, which utilize the acoustic sound of the EC-10 Cajon as the main ingredient, while we use the electronic layered sound to add alittle spice and make the EC-10 Cajon sound more dynamic. There are some sounds that, when you add to the acoustic sound,you cannot tell the difference. But it is our aim to make one sound with acoustic and electronicelements. After playing the ‘hybrid’ sound with the acoustic and electronic elements together and thenmute the electronic layered sound, you can tell the difference very clearly
The Percussion grouphas 10 kitswhich can layer some typical percussion instruments overthe acoustic sound of thecajon, such as a Tambourine, Shaker and Djembe. Normally, it’s not possible to play both instruments at the same time with only two hands. With the EC-10, you can easily play many percussion soundswithout bringing those all instruments together with a cajon –this is anew proposal from Roland to the cajon player.
The SFX group also has 10 kits which basically includes many electronic sounds. Together with the acoustic sound of the EC-10, it’s possible to create a new style of
cajon performance or sound that we have never seen before.
In a big concert hall, you can get a more powerful sound by connecting the line out (Electronic Sound Out) to the PA system. In that case, it would be more effective touse amicrophone to capturethe EC-10 acoustic sound and balance theacoustic and electronic sounds through the desk.
Q:Can I ask you about the graphic onthe playing plate on the front of the cajon?
A：It’sa good question. This graphic design includes several meanings. The most important point is designed to show a guide-line,so that the user can unconsciously placetheir hands in the proper position to play theEC-10(See the picture above). When you place thehands above thiseclipse line, you get the proper triggering to play the EC-10.
Q：You mentioned the graphics have several meanings?
A：We triedto show this design as “moon and sun”. It’san idea to give make the speaker hole some kind of natural ormeaningful design, rather than just being a hole for a speaker. “Moon and sun” also means “male and female” and musicallyit’srelated with a minor chord and a major chord. We thought it would makesense to indicate that the EC-10 isa real musical instrument.
Q: Lastly, is there anything that you would like to tell the EC-10 customer as the producer/leader of R&D of the EC-10 product?
A: Well, I wantto simply say “thank you” to the customer who purchasesan EC-10. Hopefully, they can show this EC-10 to their surrounding neighbors, families, friends,musicians-to make people smile withtheir EC-10 performance.I hope they will have a lot of fun while playing it.I’m personally looking forward to seeinguploadedvideos from real customerson YouTube, Facebook and other social mediafrom people all over the world.