are among the oldest of musical instruments, almost certainly a
found instrument in the beginning. After all, a calabash gourd,
left to dry for a month or two, will be a crude shaker when you
pick it up. Someone somewhere in the pre-dawn of
music making must surely have picked up a dry gourd, shook it, and
and went "Wow", and brought it home for later ;-) Thus
perhaps the first collection of percussion instruments began. Gourds
are always an excellent source for making shakers and shekeres,
instruments of all kinds. As a matter of fact, I planted a batch
of ipu seeds from the
Gourd Connection this week, and four have come up so far, so
next year, we may have some nice gourd shaker making articles for
As a matter of fact, though, the industrial age resources are
excellent for shakers too. Every trash can in America has a plastic,
metal or wood container in it. There are lots of tubes of various
around too, and by stopping up the ends, they make nice shakers.
The trick is to find the right sizes, shapes and materials to suit
your purposes.. it isn't always the most expensive bottle, and certainly
not usually the biggest, although I do have a few big loud ones
for those occasions..my biggest is made from 4" PVC, two feet
long and full of BB's. The smallest is a 35 mm plastic film can.
The best way to understand the variables is to EXPERIMENT. First
assemble a batch of different containers and fillers. Then use your
- The container - Plastic vitamin jars or other pill bottles are
all likely candidates
- The plastic lids that come on almost EVERYTHING in the grocery
store these days. [Glue two together, with your choice of filler
- Film cannisters
- Wooden and metal containers that designer TEAS come in..
- Smaller sized coffee cans with either a plastic lid or goatskin.
these can be used for shakers, scrapers, and drums all at once..
- Many energy drinks now come in ALUMINIUM bottles, and these
are GREAT for shakers.
- To build up a larger number of shakers for group events, etc,
consider a couple months of drinking 6 packs of Sunny D or another
juice with suitable 6 pack bottles..
- Beads vary greatly in sound according to the size and also the
hardness of the material. a good hobby store has beads of wood
and metal as well as a large variety of plastics..For an experiment,
get several sizes and types of beads. use the same type of container
to compare fillers..and notice how different they sound and feel.
- Try copper jacketed lead shot from the gun store. Finer than
BB's, it gives a great feel..(The copper reduces the risk from
working with lead..)
In general, the harder and more rigid the materials,
the brighter and louder the projection. BB's are louder
than unpopped popcorn, for example. Volume and projection are
also affected by the size and thickness of the shaker and the
amount of filler.
More is forthcoming, including a good look at the technique
of playing the Caxixi, a special type of shaker
which allows for a particular approach, and the technique's
use with homemade bottle shakers..