Sorry for the lengthy delay between updates! I’ve been busily working on making some big changes to the site. DGR should have a new and expanded design in the coming months, and it’s just been more work than I’d initially imagined.
In the meantime, however, I’m ready to give some incredible gear away! I’ve got a couple of big giveaways coming, and I’m starting with a full set of the Shakerstix up for review today. If you want to win ALL four models shown below, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know how Shakerstix can help you. Contest open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. Ends 9/10/2012.
A Little History
I’ve been waiting for this for a long time – a shaker and stick combination that sounds natural, feels great in hand, and doesn’t get in the way. I can’t believe it took sooo long for someone to really hit this one out of the park, but finally – nay, fantastically, Shakerstix made it happen.
Robbie Destocki needed shaker accompaniment for a series of worship tunes, but the group’s regular percussionist couldn’t make the hit. After a harrowing rehearsal where he was fighting with too many egg shakers and too few hands, Destocki realized he had some work to do. It took some tinkering, but Robbie eventually landed on a design that would allow him to carry a groove on kick, snare and hat, while adding a shaker at the same time. In doing so, he gave us Shakerstix, and we thank him for it.
Before I dive into the full review, let me share with you why I was so excited about this product. I, having found myself in the same jam, but lacking the design and engineering expertise of Mr. Destocki, created the monstrosity pictured below. It was completely inaudible during the gig, and quite frankly, it looks a little schlong-y. Pretty brutal. For whatever reason, I’ve kept that thing around for years in case some studio emergency presented itself or something, but just look at it – it has no business being in a stick bag. Awful.
That said, I couldn’t wait to check out Shakerstix after seeing their ad a few months ago.
Rather than go model by model, I’m going to address all four Shakerstix as a set to save time. Of course, each model has its own particular advantages. I’ll make sure to touch on all of them, but let’s go big picture first.
Each of the Shakerstix use a hard-shelled, plastic egg shaker with what sounds like fairly small beads to create a very even and somewhat dark sound. The eggs are molded with a cylinder cut through the middle allowing them to slide over the stick (where they are then glued in place). With the maple stick so close by, the shakers produce a sound somewhere between a classic egg and something like an LP One Shot. The result is mild, but plenty audible, and great for microphones.
Regarding design, three of the four Shakerstix feature a 5A type maple body with a classic rounded acorn tip. All three sticks – the SSRT1, SSBE1 and SSMT1 – are finished in a sleek black lacquer that affords a little extra grip, and adds a nice visual touch. I hate to mention this so early, but that lacquer was the source of one of only two problems I had with the Shakerstix line. After some modest playing time, the black coating on the tip began to fade. This was totally expected – colored finishes erode over time – but the lacquer did leave a few marks on my heads and cymbals. The marks were easily removed, but I’d almost prefer a naturally finished stick to avoid this minor issue.
Shakerstix’s flagship model, the SSRT1, is the most straightforward of the four. With the shaker mounted just below the stick’s short taper, the SSRT1 offers easy playability with the addition of a clean, dynamic shaker sound. Simple and very effective.
Similarly, the SSBE1 features the same stick, but with the shaker mounted on the butt-end. I found this design really effective for getting a nice, muted shake by gripping the egg tightly in my palm. That way, I could very easily manage the dynamics, and hit accents by opening my fingers. The SSBE1 can also be played backwards, with the shaker end creating a big, round boom on toms. Really nice.
Shakerstix sent one of their SSDR1 Rods over as well. With 19 wood dowels and a shaft-mounted shaker, this was a great sounding bundle that should be essential for any coffee shop or low-volume gig. The dowels were cut a bit unevenly, but that didn’t affect playability at all.
One thing that did affect playability, however, was the egg’s position on the rods. Unfortunately, the SSDR1’s dowels just didn’t offer enough surface area to hold the shaker’s glue, and it eventually began to slide a bit with playing. This would be very easily remedied with the addition of a slim nylon sleeve between shaker and rods, or perhaps a super tight gasket up top. Thankfully, this issue was limited to the SSDR1 alone, and truthfully, it never really got out of hand. Just made me reel in my playing a bit.
Finally, the SSMT1 proved the most versatile of the Shakerstix line. Using the same design as the SSRT1, but with an added small, firm mallet head on the butt end, the SSMT1 was just awesome. Combined with the shaker sound, the mallet head was perfectly suited for big, tom-driven grooves. I loved this one so much that I opted to purchase it from Shakerstix directly, and it definitely won’t be leaving my bag anytime soon.
They may not be perfect, but the four Shakerstix models are such an effective answer to an old problem that it’s hard to be disappointed with the results. If you’ve ever wished you could easily add shaker accompaniment to a performance, but couldn’t nail the logistics, Shakerstix are a fantastic solution. Clean, clear and wonderfully dynamic, these are perfect tools for both studio and stage.