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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