I was recording some shaker tracks a couple weeks ago. At one point, in the middle of a take, my wife walked in to ask me something. I jokingly asked her if she could hear me recording shaker, and if it was annoying to hear the same shaker rhythm for 4 minutes straight.

She asked me why I didn’t just record a small section and loop it. A. It’s really hot when your wife talks in audio terms. B. It’s a good question to ask.

I told her it’s usually faster just to record a full take and be done, since it takes a few minutes to find a good section, loop it, and make sure it works throughout the song.

I’ve done it both ways, and I’m not particularly “married” to one way of recording shaker (or any percussion track), but I decided to poll my loyal Facebook fans and see what they had to say. Here’s what I got:


As you can see, plenty of opinions out there. Here’s where I land on it:

  • If you are able, play full takes. It’s faster (requires little editing), and it prevents it from “feeling” looped.
  • If you can’t play a full take, record a minute or two of shaker, then find a section of 8 or 16 bars that sounds good, then loop that.
  • As Travis said, start playing the shaker before you want the shaker to come in, the first couple “shakes” always sound off. Then go back and just chop off the extra shakes at the beginning after you finish the take.
  • When looping a shaker, don’t loop it from downbeat to downbeat. Typically the sound of shaker spans across the beat. It comes in a little early and holds out over the beat. I tend to make my loops start one 16th note BEFORE the downbeat, and then I create one-bar loops from that (with each loop starting a 16th note before the “1” of the measure).
  • Even if you’re not great with a shaker, go out and buy one. You can get one for $10, and it will almost always sound better than any old shaker loop you find on your hard drive.

Comment Time!

How do you record shaker? Which of the above ideas best describe the way YOU handle percussion tracks in your sessions?

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8 Responses to “How to Record Shaker”

  1. Joe Gilder

    Gotcha. I don’t have anything like that right now, but I’m not sure how helpful that would be. Find a recording you like that has shaker in it, and take note of what it adds to the recording.

  2. Markwilson

    I have a cheap pair of shakers just sitting cause I’m not sure how to they should be used.  Sounded simple enough til I tried. Thanks for the tips!  Any chance you could put up a before & after track to demonstrate?  Mark

  3. Matt Howard.

     well since i use logic i do it all at once, then the little beats that need tweaking i use Flex Time. to scoot them around till they are right on the beat. super easy and quick! 

  4. kyle m. bagley

     I had a long and frustrating shaker/tambourine recording session once. My initial reaction to throw a condenser on it failed, a lot of unwanted bodily noises were audible, and the sound was inconsistent. Dynamic instrument mic was better, but not the sound i was looking for. Ended up pointing a mic right at the players knee, he banged it against his leg instead of shaking it. And yes, I looped it. Its too easy not to in this scenario, as often the ‘ideal sound’ is one that has no variety, unlike other musical performances.



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