You may think of tambourines solely as instruments for children’s, religious, or folk music. It’s true that because of tambourines’ simplicity, they are excellent tools for children to learn music, especially since they don’t require tuning like many instruments. And they are quite common in folk music and many churches. However, a tambourine is actually quite a versatile percussion instrument despite its simple nature. Tambourines have been used since ancient times and can be found in just about any genre of modern music, from rock to classical to pop and beyond. Rock stars like Stevie Nicks and Mick Jagger play them. Some drummers even keep one mounted on their drum stand. A tambourine’s sound accents and blends well with many drums and other percussion instruments and with string instruments such as guitars. You can use one as a drum if you strike it or a rattle if you shake it—or even both at once. And even though tambourines are simple and straightforward instruments, they can come in a few different designs and shapes. If you want to add a tambourine to your band or instrument collection, here are a few we recommend.
What to Consider in Tambourines
Here are a few things to think about before buying a tambourine:
- Frame: Regardless of their shape and size, most tambourines will have wooden or plastic frames. Wooden frames are sturdier and more durable than plastic ones, which is an important factor to consider. You want a tambourine that holds up to constant shaking, hitting, and the occasional drop, after all. Wooden models also have a more classic look. Plastic models are the better choice if you’re looking for a tambourine with a unique shape, and they’re more lightweight in general. The latter factor, coupled with the fact that plastic is less maintenance and easier to clean than wood, makes plastic-framed tambourines a good choice for kids or elementary school classrooms. Plastic models are also often more brightly colored unless the wooden-framed tambourine is painted.
- Rows: The metal “jingles” that line tambourines are what create its sound. Classic tambourines can have either one or two rows of jingles, which can affect the instrument’s sound a bit. Two rows of jingles will create a louder sound, but they also allow for less precise control. This means that two-rowed tambourines will have a “looser” sound and reverberate more. Also keep in mind that a second row of metal jingles means the tambourine will be heavier, whether you hold it in your hand or mount it on a set of drums. Therefore if you’re a drummer who wants a more drumhead sound from your tambourine, you’ll want to opt for a single-rowed tambourine. Basically, if volume is your goal, you will benefit from a double-rowed tambourine, while a single-rowed is the better choice if you’re after precision and control.
- Design: While the size varies, traditional tambourines are perfect circles in shape. While you can’t go wrong with this classic design, there are other options if you want something more unique. Half-moon-shaped tambourines are also quite common, and there are other fun-shaped options like birds, stars, and fish, which young children will love. Also keep in mind that uniquely shaped tambourines tend to have special padded handles or grips that many classic tambourines lack. This makes the instrument easier to grasp and less likely to slip out of your hands while playing, as well as more comfortable for your fingers, hands, and wrists. Also keep in mind that, depending on the shape and the make of the frame, some tambourines don’t have the animal skin stretched across the frame. These models can’t double as a small handheld drum the way traditional tambourines can.
Top Choice: Remo Fiberskyn Tambourine
Whether you’re a professional or recreational musician, a beginner or expert, or a drum enthusiast, this high-quality, classic tambourine is suitable for all. The fiberskyn film stretched across the 10-inch acousticon frame is durable, lightweight, and creates a warm sound when struck. There are eight pairs of jingles (16 total) in double rows across the frame to create a bigger sound. This tambourine comes pre-tuned and is suitable for any genre of music you might want to play. There’s a single hole on one side of the frame that you can thread a finger or two through for a superior grip instead of holding the frame directly. The hole is reinforced with metal to prevent the frame from wearing down or tearing over time. Choose between a black, white, or deep red frame.
Remo TA-5210-00 Fiberskyn Tambourine - Quadura White, 10"
A classic round, double-row tambourine with a warm sound suitable for all genres of music.
Most Size Options: Musfunny Tambourine for Adults
If you’re looking for a particular size of tambourine, this model gives you several different options from which to choose. You can buy this tambourine with a 6-, 8-, or 10-inch diameter, and all three sizes are also available in ring form, without the skin stretched across the frame. You may prefer the 6-inch frame for a young child, while a 10-inch one is a better choice for adults. No matter which size you pick, this tambourine is a nice portable size that’s easy to hold and transport just about anywhere. The shaped grip and gently curved edges allow for a firmer grasp than many other models and are gentle on young hands. The single row of jingles creates a light, soft plinking sound. The wooden shell is made from solid birchwood in its natural color, while the drum’s skin is actually polyester leather.
Tambourine for adults 10 inch Hand Held Drum Bell Birch Metal Jingles Percussion Gift Musical Educational Instrument for Church KTV Party (10 inch)
A solid birchwood tambourine available in three different size options.
Most Unique: Meinl Percussion Dual Alloy Combo Tambourine
If you’re a fan of ring tambourines, double-row tambourines, or tambourines with a unique sound, this model checks all of those boxes and more. The synthetic frame with its white finish is weather-resistant and increases the instrument’s durability, while the ergonomic padded foam grip will fit seamlessly into your hand. This ensures the tambourine is both easier to grip and more comfortable to hold, without putting undue strain on your hand, fingers, or wrist, even during an all-day jam session. While the open, ringed shell means you can’t beat this tambourine as a makeshift drum, the frame also features a ridged surface that you can drag a stick or percussion scraper along to produce a ratchet-like sound. The double rows of jingles feature two different kinds of alloy for an entirely unique sound. Each of the seven pairs of jingles (14 total) features one made of steel and one made of brass. The steel ones create a loud, bright, cutting sound while the brass provides a warm resonating sound, and they mix together when shaken. Works great as a timekeeper as well as instrument. You have the option to buy this tambourine as a set with two different maracas as well.
Meinl Percussion Traditional Synthetic Handheld Tambourine Musical Instrument for Recording or Live — NOT Made in China — Double Row Jingles, 2-Year Warranty (TMT1M-WH)
The shape, ridged ring frame, and brass and steel jingles make this tambourine one of a kind.
Best Grip: Facmogu Half Moon Handheld Tambourine
You’ll love the shape of this open-framed tambourine. Your hand fits perfectly into the center of the half-moon shape as is, and the grooved, ergonomic rubber handle makes it even easier and more comfortable to grip. Since you receive three tambourines with your purchase, one black, one blue, and one pink, you can even hold one in each hand as you play music or dance. Each tambourine is made of heavy-duty plastic with a double row of stainless steel jingles, 40 per instrument, to create a clear, bright sound. Not only do the jingles come in a double row, but they’re paired and placed strategically around the tambourine in sets of eight to ensure maximum volume. Even a gentle shake will create a sound that can’t be missed. And at 8.7 inches tall by 7.5 inches long, these tambourines are the perfect size to be gripped by adults, children, and teens. They’re great for classical, rock, and gospel music alike.
Facmogu 3 Pack Half Moon Handheld Tambourine, Double Row Tambourine Metal Jingles Hand Held Percussion Instrument -- Black, Royal Blue, Magenta
A trio of half-moon-shaped tambourines with 40 stainless steel jingles each to ensure maximum volume.