It may seem really simple, but playing shaker well is an art. Just like you need to have great hi-hat technique with super-solid time and feel, solid shaker technique is a critical tool in your arsenal.
While shakers come in an increasing variety of shapes and sizes, the basic form is a tube, capped at both ends, with beads, pellets or other small objects inside. The shaker makes sound as the contents come in contact with the tube. My favorite is the LP Soft Shake, filled with sand.
Here's a basic shaker technique: hold the shaker like a can of soda turned on its side, palm up. Hold the shaker up at eye or top-of-head level. Move the shaker forward and back in time - usually forward on the beat, and backward on the offbeat. Be sure to keep the shaker level - don't let it go up or down, just forward and backward. You can control the articulation and dynamic by how fast and hard you move the shaker.
Give it a go. You'll like it. When you get pretty comfortable with the basic eighth note pattern, try playing a basic rock beat with a shaker in hand. Play kick and snare as normal, but use the shaker instead of playing hat or ride with a stick. It's a cool groove/technique that can be used for ballads, bossas, or soft sections.
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