The original "modular" score, published by Associated Music Publisher, has since been withdrawn and replaced by the 1983 "string orchestra" version. The "string orchestra" version can be played either by a septet of soloists or by a string orchestra of any size.
Shaker Loops began as a piece called 'Wavemaker' in which Adams tried to emulate the ripple effect of bodies of water in his music. The piece was a commercial failure, but Adams kept the idea of repeating loops of oscillations on string instruments. He retitled the piece 'Shaker Loops,' both because of the 'shaking' of the strings as they oscillate between notes and the idea Adams had of Shakers dancing to repetitive, energetic music.