Also:       egg shakers      rock shakers      tubo      

Contextual Associations

Shakers are internal-seed rattle idiophones perhaps most closely associated with popular music idioms of the Americas. The specimens pictured here are all manufactured by companies in the United States that practice widespread global marketing of their products, therefore shakers like these can be found worldwide today. They are used variously as substitutes for locally manufactured traditional rattles or as rhythmic instruments in neo-traditional and popular music idioms throughout the cosmopolitan world. They are used by professional percussionists, rock musicians, and in the rhythm sections of many Latin American dance band idioms. Shakers have also found their way into amateur music making such as drum circles and school music programs.


The shells of all three specimens seen in the gallery photos on this page are made from plastic; most manufacturers also make models with metal bodies. The internal pellets of these instruments could not be examined, but consist of numerous small beads/pellets/shot most likely of metal.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

Shakers are handheld rattles, one per hand held horizontally with the fingertips, and sounded with a shaking motion that propels the internal pellets against the shell. An indefinite-pitched sound with a soft attack is produced. The shell material and dimensions will determine the volume level of the instrument. Typically used as a background rhythmic instrument played either by the drummer or one or more singers in popular music groups.


The idea for at least the cylindrical tube shaker likely came from Latin America in general and perhaps Brazilian music practices in particular. In Brazil, rattles, including shakers, are generically called chocalho, and cylindrical tube shakers with metal bodies are called ganzá (sources do not always use these terms consistently--sometimes chocalho labels a cylindrical metal shaker, and ganzá a frame jingle). Shakers such as the one pictured in the third gallery image are sometimes marketed under one or the other of these Brazilian terms. Sources do not specify when ganzá/chocalho-like shakers started to enter the North American popular music scene.

Bibliographic Citations

Blades, James. 1970. Percussion Instruments and Their History. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers.

Holland, James. 2005. Practical Percussion. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press.

McGowan, Chris, and Ricardo Pessanha. 2009. The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: North America

Nation: United States of America

Formation: Latin American

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

112.13 idiophone--vessel rattles: rattling objects enclosed in a vessel strike against each other or against the walls of the vessel, or usually against both

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: hollow spheroid vessel - closed

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - indirect

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - pellet/s, seed/s, bead/s inside closed vessel/s

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none

Primary Materials



Toca (gallery #1 and #2) Rhythm Tech (gallery #3)


T2106 (gallery #1) T2204 and T2208 (gallery #2) RT 2019 (gallery #3)

Entry Author

Roger Vetter