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The Many Faces of the Tambourine

28th Oct 2014

There are many ways to play tambourines and many types of tambourines available these days. Gone are the days of street musicians finagling ways to strap a full-sized tambourine onto their feet; now there are tambourines made specifically for that purpose. And, while many Americans may be most familiar with the gospel music background of the instrument, tambourines are also popular in the classical, rock, and Persian genres of music. From a simple round piece of wood with mini-cymbals attached, we find many faces of the tambourine.


Foot tambourines are a great way to become a one-person band. They are an easy way for cajon drummers and guitar players to fill out their sound, as the jingly tone compliments the sound of those instruments well. For drummers who prefer a regular drum kit, there are jingle kicks. These tambourines are a bass drum pedal accessory that replaces the regular pedal beater. Every downbeat results in a bright and crisp tambourine jingle with jingle kicks, giving the drummer a more distinctive sound. Of course, the many faces of the tambourine also include the more traditional drum kit add-ons that are mounted to the kit, often placed near the cymbals.

Jingle sticks are another popular way to get the tambourine sound without the need to understand the mechanics of playing traditional tambourines. Made of wood or plastic, they come in many colors and sizes for a wide range of users. Similarly, racket tambourines are a handled tambourine that may be easier for young people to use. Made of rattan bent into the shape of a racket, these tambourines are usually a delight for young children and are manufactured to meet the playing needs of even a three year old.

Finally, there are the basic, traditional versions that has inspired new models. Traditional tambourines come with or without heads and are now available in a variety of colors, as well. Tech tambourines are like traditional models, only they have a crescent shape, allowing enthusiasts an easier grip. While many tambourines come with steel jingles, brass jingles are used on some and give a crisp, warm sound.

Tambourines date back to the days of Mesopotamia and have been popular in music and religious ceremonies around the world. The fact that there are so many styles of this ancient instrument speaks volumes about the pleasure percussionists get from playing it. The many faces of the tambourine show us that the instrument, though small and simple, is just as popular now as it has always been. Whether a beginner or a more skilled player, the tambourine is an instrument that anyone can enjoy.