4 Basic Recording Techniques for Hand Percussion Instruments

Hand percussion can provide just the accent you need to fill out and drive your song. It provides spice and momentum.

In many of the greatest rock songs, a good piece of hand percussion provides the perfect addition (look no further than “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones to see what we’re talking about). Here are four basic tips for recording hand percussion properly, so it sits just right in your mix, regardless of the effect you’re looking for.

1.         Position Head-On

We’ll start with a shaker and an ATM450 cardioid condenser microphone. Placing the mic directly in front of the shaker will emphasize the accents and capture a full and defined sound. The closer the shaker is to the mic, the louder the accents will be relative to the rest of the sound.



2.         Position Across the Element

Recording a shaker across the element will cause the accents to flatten out and create an undefined sound with less body. This is ideal for a shaker that sits back in the mix.




3.         Use a Pair of Microphones

A pair of AT4080 active ribbon microphones in a Blumlein array adds extra dimension and realism to a dynamic instrument, like a tambourine. Gently panning these microphones to either side of the desired position in the stereo field can provide a sense of space that a mono mic can’t provide.


4.         Capture Room Ambience

For a more vintage sound, back the percussionist off the mic and capture some of the room ambience. Try an AT4060 cardioid tube condenser mic about four feet away from the instrument to capture a balance of space and direct sound.

With these four methods, you’re ready to record your hand percussion. Experiment with distances and positions to find the perfect sound and stereo image for your mix. Check out the full video below:

Keep checking the A-T blog for more recording tips!




  1. Thanks so much for the invaluable information.Any sugegstions for selecting a portable or low cost recording devices for a mini studio?think congas,bongos,etc.I have presonus,focusrite,tascam,zoom in mind.What do you suggest?Thanks so much.

    • Hi Gary, thanks so much for your comment! Please reach out to our Audio Solutions Team, they will be able to help you out with that. You can reach them at audio-solutions@atus.com. Thanks again for reading the A-T Blog!

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