The tambourine is one of the best examples of how a percussion instrument can evolve and change with the times and the needs of the musician. This simple instrument has been a staple of music and various ceremonies in ancient Rome and Greece, as well as in the Middle East. Tambourines were not only used in a religious context, but, were also used in military bands before entering into the modern music scene.
A tambourine is essentially a frame drum that has metal jingles or small cymbals attached. Originally a circle, the tambourine has seen many evolutions of its shape and size, making it a versatile and ubiquitous instrument in all genres of music. From its circular design, a “moon-shaped” version was developed in order to help with the fatigue experienced by those who were hardcore tambourine players. This ingenuity also helped to create other versions of the tambourine that are just as essential to a percussion player’s arsenal as a drum.
For drum set drummers, there are tambourines that attach to the cymbals, particularly hi-hats, adding a rhythmic jingle to the beat. Cajon and other hand drummers use foot tambourines in order to increase the complexity of the rhythms played. These tambourines slip over the shoe, allowing the drummer to tap out the jingly beat while continuing to drive the drumming of the djembe, cajon or other hand drum. This same foot-powered jingle can be found in a jingle kick; the bass drum pedal version of the tambourine.
Aside from the standard circular or crescent-shaped frame, there are also jingle sticks and racket-shaped tambourines, which are hand-held versions featuring the jingles we all love. These are typically seen in classrooms and therapeutic environments, but, can be helpful for a professional or hobby percussionist, as well. Other adaptations include the Jingle Qube, which allows for a crisp and full-bodied sound unique to the metal jingles themselves.
Creating a multifaceted rhythm is one of the joys of percussionists, no matter the genre. With the variety of tambourines available, any drummer can easily create his or her own unique and powerful rhythm with the tingly jingle that is loved around the world.