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It's a Moon, it's a Crescent... it's a Fish? No, it's a Tambourine!

On any given spring day, you can hear the soft jingle of a local band of tambourine players as they glide through the meadows, ribbons trailing behind them, punctuating each step with joyful sounds.

Well, ok, that doesn’t really happen so much anymore, but, it is a great visual for anyone who sees the tambourine as more than just an accent percussion instrument, but, a true instrument in its own right. Tambourines have been around since ancient times, where they were mostly seen in the hands of girls and women in village celebrations, ceremonies and festivities. From that image to the more modern concept of a tambourine being played on stage by vocalists, tambourines have not only come a very long way, but, they remain an important staple of our music today.

Since tambourines are frame drums, they are universal instruments. Each culture with a type of tambourine has added its own personal touches to the instrument, of course, based upon natural resources (bells, shells, beads, etc.), the function of the tambourine and the needs of the player. In a similar sense, with each year that passes, the manufacturing of these instruments also represents the needs of the musician or percussionist. But, how much more can a circular frame drum evolve in order to serve the needs of the person who chooses to elicit the jingle-jangle-tap-thump of the instrument?

That’s a pretty easy question to answer, just take a look at this page of tambourines for sale .

  • Tambourine shells are made from wood, plastic and metal.
  • Tambourines can have animal skin heads, synthetic, or no drum head at all.
  • Tambourines can have one row of jingles/zils or more, in different layers, too.
  • Some tambourines come with lights (because, it ain’t a party without a disco tam!).
  • A few tambourines can be strapped to the foot, or attached to a drum set.
  • Tambourines can be found in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

It is the shape of a tambourine that may have a pretty interesting evolutionary history, however. As drummers, percussionists and musicians, we all look for a new sound or a better sound to fit into what we’re playing, explaining where the different materials and jingles of a tambourine have been derived. But, what about the shapes we see today? What’s up with the star, the fish and the crescent?

Well, we’re pretty sure that the star-shapes, fish and other funky renditions of the tambourine are simply to please the aesthetic demands of the musicians out there. Plus, kids like them. We like them, too… not to mention our funky tambourine with lights.

The crescent tambourine, however, is another story. Legend has it, that the RhythmTech company is responsible for that very important evolution in percussion history. The founder of RhythmTech allegedly could not hold and play his circular tambourine for a decent length of time, and determined that improvements needed to be made before his hand fell off from playing the instrument. The crescent shape actually puts the center of gravity in a better place for playing, and provides a much more balanced feel. Thus, the crescent tambourine was born, and we’ve been diggin’ them ever since.

For music and percussion nerds, there is a pretty great feeling when you realize that little tambourine you tap against your thigh is the same instrument that was used in Biblical times, and even earlier. In the world of music, there is probably not one instrument that is spotted or heard as much as a tambourine. When an instrument stands such a long test of time with very few improvements, the power you wield in your hand is one of ancient callings with just a touch of modern Screamo wailing.

26th Nov 2014 Kristin Stancato

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