This article discusses the best tambourine, shaker, and other percussive instruments’ plugins & Kontakt libraries of 2023.
It’s quite a challenge to program percussions in a way that sounds played and not programmed. One could use various one-shot sample libraries and loop packs for this purpose. However, loops and samples are constricted to their playing styles, velocity, tempo, pitch, and other parameters, due to which they may not exactly fit the track without creating artifacts.
On the other hand, samples may sound too robotic and may not have the feeling and bounce you look for as a producer or composer.
The below-mentioned list offers a solution to realistic-sounding shakers and other percussive sounds, which are better alternatives than rigid, pre-recorded samples/loops.
We have included percussion libraries and instruments of different types, styles, genres, prices, and compatibility, creating a comprehensive list that hopefully meets your requirements. So let’s dive right into it.
Top 10 Tambourine & Shaker Plugins & Kontakt Libraries
1. Klevgrand Skaka (Ultimate Percussion Machine)
Skaka is a sample-based virtual instrument perfect for programming realistic and exotic percussions in your songs.
It’s a drum machine for shaker-type sounds, including eighteen international sounds like egg, ghungroos, tambourine, caxixi, etc., laid out in a 3×4 matrix, giving a total of twelve slots for the sounds.
For each slot, we can select the type of percussion, edit different parameters like gain & pan, set their notes per the scale of the song, and program a pattern.
For each pattern, there is an event for which we can adjust the pitch, speed (called “velocity” on this instrument), and amplitude envelopes. In addition, the plugin comes with 200 readymade patterns, which you can adjust per your tempo and use.
- Expansive Editor View
The Editor window allows you to customize your sounds as per your needs. You can set a grid value and different values for parameters like velocity, duration, pitch, and gain on each grid. You can change the pitch and duration, delay the sample, and add humanization (swing) and shuffle to the sound. Further, you can also pan and filter the sounds and quantize the notes.
- Customizable Humanizer Function
There’s a “humanize” knob by which you can add swing to the sound, and on top of that, you can also edit what this knob does. You can set the values of time, velocity, gain, pitch, duration, and smartness, to set the exact kind of swing you want in your percussion. The unique “smartness” parameter makes the higher velocity events less affected by the humanized.
- Fugue Machine for Endless Possibilities
Fugue Machine is an arpeggiator and a MIDI generator, which could be routed into an instance of sound, which is an advanced feature, as it is a sequencer with different playheads, with each playhead having different ways to trigger the sample, wherein the samples can be reversed, played back and forth, inverted, pitched up a few semitones and octaves, and more.
- High-Quality Effects
You can add reverb effects of different types, rooms, and decay settings. There’s also a filer and a high-shelf EQ that you can add to the sounds.
The Skaka by Klevgrand is available in AU/VST/AAX versions on Windows, iPad (AUv3), and Mac OS.
Skaka has some high-resolution sounds/samples, with endless options to program and edit without compromising their quality, timbre, and texture. It has ways to inspire new grooves that could take your productions up a notch. It’s a great way to make your percussions sound more human without spending much money on recording session percussionists.
2. Shimmer Shake Strike 2 (Kontakt Library)
Shimmer Shake Strike 2 is a Kontakt-based sampler instrument for programming shakers, tambourines, small hand percussions, and more.
The instrument is named after the interface’s three main tabs: shimmer, strike, and shake. Each category is named so because of the transient quality and texture that each tab represents.
For example, shimmer is a category of samples with more high-end frequency coverage and slightly sharper attack, whereas shake may have a slower attack and more calming sound.
The plugin has about 101 new instrument options, MIDI drag-and-drop options, and tools to add more human characteristics to the performance.
- The Pattern Tab
Here, you can produce your grooves. You can program up to three sounds per page, and for each sound, you can set the volume, pan, and humanize parameters. In addition, you can set a common grid value, for which the velocities of the sample on each grid can be adjusted.
- Good-quality and high range of samples
In-Session audio has recorded superior and high-grade samples for this instrument. As a result, you get off-beat choices, like a pill bottle sound, a hippy shaker, a mic shaker, a studio shaker, etc., that will fulfill your needs and allow you to choose a sample that best suits your production, no matter what the genre.
- Comprehensive Mix Window
Under this window, you can shape the overall tone of the sounds, and add effects like EQ, reverb, delay, etc. There are also master effects like saturation, stereo delay, convolution reverb, etc.
The instrument requires Kontakt or the free Kontakt Player 6.3 or higher and demands Windows 7 (or later versions) or a minimum of Mac OS 10.13.
Shimmer Shake Strike 2 is a great upgrade to the previous version of the plugin that offers new instruments, more programming capabilities, a better interface, and higher quality.
It sounds realistic and is a great tool to add complementary grooves, which come with rhythms in 3/4, 4/4, 4/4 triplet, 5/4, 6/8, and high-end variations to your primary drum beats.
3. ujam Groovemate ONE (Tambs, Shakers & More)
Groovemate One is one of the most versatile percussion instruments, which can fit almost every genre, ranging from pop to contemporary music.
Easy-to-use and accessible, the instrument comes with a 30-days free trial and is not that expensive otherwise either. It has many presets with different time signatures like 4/4, 3/4, 5/4, 6/8, and more.
In addition, global parameters like Swing, Latch, and sync increase the overall programming capacity of this percussion instrument.
- Streamlined GUI
The plugin appears simple in its operation and functionality but has many capabilities packed into it, starting from the preset selection, metronome button, keyboard octave divided into instruments and phases, and more.
- MIDI Drag and Drop
Groovemate allows you to drag and drop its midi data from itself to another virtual instrument or sampler in your DAW, which we could convert into MIDI notes. Using this, you can change note positions and velocities and add other sounds or instruments.
- Ambiance Section
The Reverb section allows you to add different effects styles and mix the wet sounds (with effects) with the original or dry sounds. You can add sonic characteristics like equalization, compression, panning, saturation, transients, and much more using this single knob. However, the effects are named otherwise as standard, sweetening, phattening, vintage, etc., which are present under the “Mix” section. The “Reverb” section has four different room algorithms.
It’s compatible with Windows 7 or later and OS X 10.11 / macOS 10.12 or later and has a minimum requirement of 4 GB of RAM and 90 MB of disk space. It’s available in VST 2, AU, and AAX, and can work with almost every mainstream DAW.
UJAM has created a great tool for a good price. However, I wish the instrument had more flexibility and the ability to manipulate grooves and get into the nitty-gritty of the grooves.
Further, we cannot adjust the individual elements in volume and pan. Despite that, it has a user-friendly interface and feeds on MIDI data, with a versatile set of sounds, making it a good choice overall.
4. Wavesfactory Sharine (Kontakt Library)
Sharine is a Kontakt percussive instrument that retains the sample’s pre-roll but doesn’t let it lose its timings, keeping it in sync while keeping it real.
The library is recorded using three mic positions (close, mid and far) and has eight shakers and four tambourine sounds. It includes sounds from materials like plastic, metal, wood, skin, etc.
The percussions sound super realistic and human-played because of their adjusted pre-roll timings.
- Incredible Interface
The plugin has a beautiful interface, wherein we can turn a sound on or off by clicking on it. For example, the percussion with a spotlight on it is on. Otherwise, it’s purged. By alt+clicking on the percussion sound, you get the option to adjust its volume, pitch, and pan.
- Customizable Mixer
The three mics used to record these sounds can be accessed using the Mixer channel, on which we can adjust the volume and pan/width of close (mono), mid (stereo), and far (stereo) mics. So using this feature, one can adjust the room and overall stereo imaging of the percussion sounds.
- Split keyboard
The green-colored keys (C2-C3) play patterns that are pre-mapped to each of these keys. The purple-colored keys trigger certain articulations for these sounds. Similarly, rolls are mapped to the red keys, and tambourines hit with the drumstick are mapped to the yellow keys.
- Sequencer with expression
Sharine has a bipolar sequencer, in which a positive value means that the percussion goes forward (or the hand goes left on the tambourine), the negative value means the percussion goes backward (or the tambourine hand goes to the right), and a full bar to the top is the accent articulation. So we can program the expressions on the sequencer accordingly.
This instrument requires a fuller version of Kontakt 5.7.3 or newer, works only with 64-bit systems, and can work with both Windows 7+ & and Mac OS 10.11+.
The plugin can work with individual instruments or percussions and as a collective. You can also add great effects like Reverb, saturator, Lo-fi, envelope, compressor, etc. Overall, the Sharine by Wavesfactor sounds authentic due to its unique pre-roll time adjustment feature and ease of use and program.
5. Splash Sound Kid’s Percussion (Free Kontakt Library)
Kid’s percussions is a Kontakt library modeled on children’s instruments & percussions.
It includes five instruments: single octave steel xylophone, tambourine, wooden shaker, castanets, and maracas, which sound optimistic, bright, reminiscent of childhood, and are perfect for scoring kids’ shows and cartoons.
It has a simple interface with an adjustable pan, reverb knobs, and volume sliders.
- Uncomplicated and Straightforward
You can get bright, poppy toy sounds for your music without much hassle, as the interface is user-friendly and easy to use.
- High-grade samples
The samples used in this library were recorded using a triple condenser stereo mic connected to a high-class preamp and display great sonic characteristics.
It requires a Full Retail version of Kontakt 5.8.0 or higher, an Intel Core i3 or equivalent CPU, and 2+ GB RAM.
The light-hearted, joyful, and sunny toy instruments can easily become the main point of any children’s songs and can also be used in simple acoustic arrangements to introduce playfulness and youthfulness.
That is especially useful for concept music like Melanie Martinez’s Cry Baby album, as it is based on many nostalgic childhood songs that sound fun and refreshing.
6. Easy Tambourine (Kontakt Library)
The Kontakt instrument Easy Tambourine is a six-in-one instrument plugin.
It packs 12 built-in rhythms, 132 samples (24 bit-48 kHz), and three main articulations: right swing, accented hit, and tempo-synced grooves. Using the mod wheel, you can also play shake rolls and play around with its intensities.
Hence, it’s a great instrument for performing and playing percussions in the studio and live settings.
It has some good built-in effects like a low pass and a high pass filter and focus, tone, tape, and comp effects to set tonal characteristics to the sound.
- Fine grade samples
On top of it, the samples are of high standards and were recorded using a binaural pair of AT4022.
The instrument works on a Kontakt 5.3+ full version only.
It would have been great to have a built-in sequencer in the Easy Tambourine. But, apart from that, the instrument is good enough to program good quality and realistic percussive sounds in your tracks with variations and rolls, using MIDI input, which is still a better alternative to samples.
7. Klevgrand Borsta (Tambourine & Other Instruments)
Borsta is a percussion plugin that emulates brushes and strokes on drums and percussions.
It’s made up of three parts, one of which is a stroke section, and the other two are one-shot sections.
It’s great for programming organic brushed, rubbed, and scraped instruments. It also has a huge preset menu organized by categories, with 60 global presets, 400 samples, and 230 different sequences.
Apart from that, there is a 9-room stimulator ambiance control, with customizable reverb units and virtual spaces that can further add a natural aesthetic to your sounds.
Lastly, the plugin is divided into two main tabs: sequencer and global, which we will explore in the following sections.
- Powerful Audio Engine
The sound engine of this plugin is designed to stimulate natural-sounding brush playing and proposes 18 separate drums/percussion sounds, including the snare drum, Cajon, djembe, and more, including poly-sampled one-shots and round-robins, for which we could select different pattern types.
- Dual Sequencer
There are two sequencers to program sounds. One is the event sequencer, which determines which samples trigger at what time, and the other is the envelope sequencer, which determines the brush intensity.
- Tools to humanize the sounds
You are given tools like shuffle, delay, time randomize, and velocity randomizes, along with a grid system on which you can program notes and set their velocities. Further, in the Global tab, you can set the curves and levels of brushed (like brush, brush on, and brush off) and one-shot sounds, and also set effects like reverb, room, eq, and harmonics.
Borsta is available as an AAX, AU, and VST instrument and is compatible with both Windows and macOS. It’s also accessible as a standalone instrument and in the AUv3 version too, making it compatible with iOS.
Klevgrand has created an offbeat instrument that allows us to create authentic and practical rhythm patterns that sound real and ethnic.
Brushed sounds are rare, and even sampling them is not easy. Hence the instrument offers something unique and is worth adding to your arsenal.
8. Heritage Percussion (Best Free Shakers)
Heritage percussion is a library of 13 ethnic and global hand percussions, ranging from djembe, shakers, claves, and more.
It is packed with high-resolution samples with up to five velocity layers, with each drum having a 10-fold round robin with varying patterns and an organic feel to the overall tonality of this instrument.
Several samples and their different articulations are mapped to various keys on the keyboard, such that each drum is assigned to a key. You can change and edit this assignment by going to the keyboard icon.
- Mic Settings
There are two mics that you could set the level for; you can mute and solo each of them. These mics are closed and room mics. The closed mic captures the direct sound of the instrument, and the room mic gives an illusion of space and ambiance to the sound.
- Easy drum edits
Each drum has its velocity, pan, tune, and pitch parameters, along with a volume and pitch envelope, a filter, and velocity curves, that we can tweak to shape the overall tonality of the sound.
- Huge range of effects
Heritage offers many effects we can add from the console tab, including transient designer, Analog EQ, Chorus, Supercharger GT, and many more.
This tool requires a Kontakt 6.5 or higher full version, which means that it demands Intel Macs (i5 or higher): macOS 10.14+ and Apple Silicon Maps: macOS 1o or 11 (latest update) for Mac OSX, and Windows 7 (or higher) (32- and 64-bit), and Intel i5 (or higher) for Windows.
The Heritage percussion has a lot of utility for a free plugin, given its expansive editing options, a wide number of effects that you can add to your sounds, and easy-to-understand and execute interface and programming. It’s especially great for programming traditional Latin American percussion.
9. Splash Sound Percussion Elements 2 (Free Kontakt Library)
Image: Splash Sound
Percussion Elements is a free Kontakt instrument for programming realistic and authentic cinematic and war drums.
It has four mics: close, overhead, room, and hall, with adjustable levels and switches. The room and hall sliders will increase the reverberated element in the instrument.
This series has fourteen instruments, each assigned to certain keys on the keyboard, along with 21 different playing patterns mapped to some other keys.
The interface also has an “epicness” knob, which makes some timbral, harmonic, and dynamic changes to the sound.
Further, the instrument’s tone can be shaped by the EQ, reverb, compressor, and other effects present in this instrument.
- Epic Samples
Splash sounds have set a high standard for free Kontakt libraries by including some great quality, precisely recorded samples, covering up to 860 samples (44.1 kHz, 24-bit WAV).
- Versatile for scoring films
The instrument is perfect for scoring dynamic film trailers and soundtracks with heavy impacts, quieter interludes, and heavy buildups. The 14 solo instruments include tambourines, war ensemble, ethnic ensemble, etc. Also, using the “Epicness” knob will give you different tonal qualities at different values and is used to add more synthetic characteristics and thickness to the sounds.
The library is available for the complete version of Kontakt 5.6.8+, which works on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. Kontakt comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Percussion Elements 2 does not have much variety in the range of sounds, but it’s a great beginner plugin for someone who wants to try their hands on virtual percussion instruments. In addition, it can be a decent and free cinematic percussive tool to add to your production arsenal.
10. Auditory Lab Latin Percussion
Latin Percussions by Auditory Lab will spice up your productions with its authentic Cuban, Brazilian, and Puerto Rican sounds.
The percussions included in this instrument are Conga, Timbale, Cabasa, Claves, Cowbell, Guiro, and Tambourine, each of which can be adjusted in terms of volume and pan. Its single-tab interface is straightforward and can be used to create salsa, Latin jazz, samba, and many more genres of music.
- Create tonal colors with different effects
The effects section allows you to adjust the sonic characteristics of the percussion sounds using the equalizer, reverb, and delay effects.
- Realistic percussions
The library has some great samples that are velocity sensitive and easily programmable as it takes MIDI data as its input. In addition, it allows you to play one-shot sounds and pre-programmed drum patterns that sync to tempo and can also be played live.
Latin Percussions requires the full Kontakt 5.03 or higher version but also comes as a standalone VST/AU plugin version. The minimum system requirements of the instrument are 1 GB of RAM, and 1 GB of Hard Disk space.
The instrument is perfect for creating groovy and human-played sounding Latin American percussion sounds, which can add a beautiful and exotic feel to your tracks.
My favorites from the list are Klevgrand’s Skaka for its expansive audio engine, functionality, and limitless scope of programming, and Wavesfactory Sharine for its high-quality sounds and eye-pleasing interface.
Splash Sound Kid’s Percussions and Klevgrand Brosta are instruments that I’d include in my toolkit for their unique sonic characteristics.
If I were a beginner producer looking for humanized shakers and tambourine instruments, I would go for the free Heritage Percussion and Easy Tambourines. However, as seen in the list, each plugin and library serves its purpose. For example, Percussion Elements is best suited for film scoring. Hence, knowing your needs and genre is always a good idea.
The variety of these virtual instruments could be fascinating, and it’s easy to get lost. I hope this article helped you to simplify your choices and will make your decision-making easier.
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Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.