As a percussionist, it is normal to get blisters and cracks in your skin as you develop. Once you have played for a while daily, your skin starts to get hard and makes it less prone to blisters and bleeding. However, many cajon players don’t always play full time or daily and find it hard to maintain the hard skin that forms from playing. Well, I have some useful tips to share regarding this issue.
I play everyday, sometimes a lot, sometimes not so much, but I play everyday. There are times that I break but I don’t do it often as I cannot stand it when the skin on my fingers get soft, causing me to lose a lot of my sound, not just in volume but the actual attack and crisp quality of the sound changes. I also increase the chances of getting blisters and pain in my fingers and hands when my skin gets sof, and I lose a lot of endurance because of this. Continuous playing for years is important to develop a thick layer of hard skin on your hands.
It is rather logical that the material that is used to strike a surface will determine what sound is made, For instance, a mullet does not have the same sound as a dum stick on any surface, mostly it is made of a softer material. So the same thing happens to your hands. You can hear when someone has hard skin, their attack is more precise and clean, and everything they play sounds crisp and clear. This has a lot to do with your technique of course, but it goes hand in hand with the hardness of your skin too. If your technique is good it is most probable that your skin will be hard, as it requires much constant practise to get a good technique.
The best way to keep your skin hard is to play everyday for at least 30 min. and it’s not about hitting the cajon as hard as possible, your skin will get hard even if you practise very very softly daily.
So what happens if you can’t play everyday, or you just don’t want to play everyday? Well, whether you do play each day or not, there are certain ways to help keep your skin hard to keep that crisp sound.
The worst enemy for hard skin is warm water.
Thats why everyone takes hot baths, so they can scrub off the hard skin. Well, we want the oposite when it comes to our hands. So I have adopted a very peculiar yet practical habit from a fellow flamenco guitarist who has the same issue (yes, the guitarists have to keep their skin hard too.) I use Latex gloves everytime I intend to bring my hands in contact with warm water. This includes taking showers with latex glove. At first it was strange but very soon it became the most normal thing. I tie the ends down to my wrists with elastics so none of the water comes into the gloves and unto my hands. If you ltake care of your hair, remember to be careful when washing and handling your hair with latex gloves.
When I wash my hands, I wash my them with cold water. Cold water does not nearly have the same effect as hot water.
I swim lengths in a cold pool daily (part of another habit I picked up which is good not just for my general health, but also for building a strong back and shoulders, stretching out and being very flexible so as to increase my playing skills and to reduce any injuries that could very possibly happen after a few years of practise.) It also helps my posture and strengthens my arms and fingers for playing, but this is an entirely different subject….
So, one simple step to maintianing hard sking is to use latex gloves whenever you wash dishes,whenever you shower, or wash the dog, or wash your car (if you wash it with hot water), or wash your baby, or whatever there is to do with your hands and hot water.
Another issue is moisturising hand cream. Unless you get a hand cream that actually strengthens your skin nutrietionally, I would not suggest loading your hands with hand cream. Now this is quite an issue, especially amongst girls for some reason. If you have to keep your nails and hands moisturised, simply apply handcream to the top part of your hands and not on the palm or inside of the fingers areas.
Our hands are used to touch almost anything we handle, so if you handle any products such as house cleaning products with acids, or products that are inteneded to remove dead skin, such as glycol (found in many skin products), once again, use protection and go for latex! Happy slapping!