One of the many perks of my job is how often I run into unique musicians and people while buying new gear. On a run to grab a four piece drum set last month I arrived on the scene and noticed some unusual instruments hanging out in a room at the seller's house. The instruments were a marimba and a cajón, and both looked like they were made from hardware materials without any of the gimmicky finishes and flourishes found on commercial versions you see in music stores. The cajón even had a checkered neon pattern on three sides and a hand-painted logo on the front. Seeing my interest the seller James Haag quickly filled me in on the story; not only does he play both of them, he made them! When he demoed them for me I quickly realized this guy was serious, the cajón had some serious punch to it.
Turns out James and his now business partner Makinsey had made the cajón and marimba themselves when James couldn't find a reasonably priced marimba anywhere in Denver. In James' words:
And so Coeur d'Alene Percussion was born out of a need for cheap instruments that sound awesome; a need I can definitely relate to.
James makes the instruments out of widely available hardware materials and builds each instrument by hand using common tools. Makinsey then adds design elements and handles the final appearance of the instruments. He does this because CDA Percussion is focused towards a customer base of music students and musicians on a budget.
That doesn't mean that the marimbas sound worse than name brand ones though. James says the marimbas feature quality hardwood pitched bars most often made out of domestic woods (for the budget oriented customer) and can also be constructed from exotic hardwoods as requested by customers looking to spend a little more. James uses PVC resonators as a way to significantly reduce cost without reducing quality in the sound of the instrument. In his own words:
James is also hard at work improving his designs and is figuring out ways to simplify the frames of his marimbas and make them more road ready by taking them apart.
If you're looking for demos of CDA's instruments check out the videos (cajón & marimba) on the front page of their site or hunt James or Makinsey down in one of their many musical projects. If you happen to be one of the many broke musicians dreaming of marimbas and cajóns make sure to get in touch with them and buy one of their instruments.