Band Director
Close this search box.

Don’t Forget the Auxiliary ! – Part 4

Don Sumwalt

Don’t Forget the Auxiliary ! – Part 4

Don Sumwalt, Woodwind & Brasswind

This is the last part in a four part series examining the importance of proper auxiliary percussion in large ensemble performance. The instruments suggested are a basic inventory recommended for all band programs. Within the world of percussion instruments, this inventory can be augmented to accommodate a wide variety of works for band.

In the final part of this series, we will take a look at the last set of basic auxiliary instruments that band director should have for their ensemble. The instruments we will look at are: Maracas, Shakers, Cabasa, and Guiro.


Maracas come in a variety of sizes ad shell materials. Once only gourds with small beads or seeds inside, maracas have evolved to synthetic shells with small beads or buckshot. Latin Percussion offers a wide variety of maracas to fit any application. Traditional wood shell, rawhide shell or even plastic shell maracas are available from Latin Percussion. If you want to customize you sound, Latin Percussion offers refillable maracas that you can remove or add material to achieve the sound you desire. Rhythm Tech, Meinl, Pearl and Ludwig also produce fine quality maracas that will give you the sound you have been looking for.


Shakers can be any type of hollow tube filled with a material that will rattle. In recent years, this has come to include egg-shaped shakers. From metal tubes, plastic tubes, or even woven baskets Latin Percussion offers a wide variety of shakers for every need. The most unique shaker available from Latin Percussion is the One Shot. This is a shaker that has only one “live” striking area to produce forward or down strokes only. With complex rhythmic patterns that would be difficult, the One Shot makes this type of playing simple. Rhythm Tech, Pearl and Meinl also offer quality shakers at an affordable price.


Also known as an afuche, the cabasa is basically a tube or cylinder with several rows of beads that move across the tube to produce a sound. Traditional cabasas are large gourds with rows of beads strung around the body of the gourd. The more modern versions offer a tube with a textured metal surface on which rows of small metal beads are rotated against. Latin Percussion and Rhythm Tech offer a variety of afuche / cabasas and holders to make the instrument easier to play if the musician is playing multiple auxiliary instruments.


Traditional guiros are hollow gourds with a serrated side. The percussionist scrapes or strikes the guiro with a small stick to produce the desired effect. These simple gourds have also evolved to include fiberglass and metal bodies. Latin Percussion and Meinl produce fine guiros for a multitude of sounds. Latin Percussion has also adapted the metal body guiro with a shaker to produce the Multi Guiro.

This series of articles has only covered a basic representation of auxiliary percussion instruments. By focusing on what sound you want to achieve, you can add a variety of auxiliary percussion to meet your needs. These instruments will not only give the characteristic sounds the composer wanted to convey, but also the sound students should be aware of for the style of music you are performing and the added enhancement to the overall sound of your ensemble.