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Tambourines are an essential percussion instrument in almost every musical setting. The sound of jingles rattling is so iconic, and it goes back decades in popular music.
If you’re looking to buy a new tambourine, you should check out all the different options available. Some are good as standalone instruments, while others are designed to be integrated within your drum set.
Here’s a list of some of the best tambourines.
Meinl Percussion Hand Held Recording-Combo ABS Tambourine – Best Overall
The Meinl Percussion Hand Held Recording Combo ABS Tambourine (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the most popular hand tambourines on the market. It’s almost become an industry-standard option, as you’ll see this specific tambourine being used in so many different music venues.
It has an incredibly hardy design that makes it feel almost unbreakable. The durability makes it an amazing option to take with you to live gigs. You won’t need to worry about dropping it or having other gear fall on it, as these tambourines tend to last through anything.
The padded grip is an excellent feature that makes it feel very comfortable to play. Anyone who’s played constant 16th notes with a tambourine for multiple songs at a gig will know just how much grip like this helps. The lightweight feel of this tambourine also helps in that area.
One of its unique design aspects is that it has a combination of steel and brass jingles. The steel jingles give sharp and bright tones, while the brass jingles give lower tones. The combination of these jingles gives you a sound that you won’t find in many other tambourines.
It’s an amazing tambourine to consider, and it’s one of the best if you need something with a great tone that is relatively affordable. However, the mixture of steel and brass jingles isn’t something that everyone will love. They cause it to have a middle-ground volume level, and sometimes you’ll need a soft or loud tambourine.
Type: No drum skin
Material: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and steel/brass jingles
Black Swamp Percussion TD4 SoundArt Double Row Tambourine – Premium Option
The Black Swamp Percussion TD4 SoundArt Double Row Tambourine (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the highest-tier hand tambourines on the market. It has impeccable build quality, and it’s a true work of art compared to standard hand tambourines that are a fraction of the price.
It has a calfskin drumhead that gives a seriously rich tone when struck. It’s impressively dynamic, as it gives you varying sounds depending on where you strike it. The genuine calfskin feels a lot better than the synthetic skin that you get on more affordable tambourines.
The jingles are made from beryllium copper. They have a complex dark tone, and they ring for a bit longer than many other jingles. The extended sustain is a big contributor to what makes this tambourine sound so musical.
The handle of the tambourine is made from steam-bent ash. It’s a luxury wood, giving the shell a premium feel. While it doesn’t contribute to the sound of the tambourine, it also looks incredible.
The TD4 tambourine is a true piece of art. However, it’s something that only experienced percussionists will appreciate. If you’re just looking for a simple tambourine to use every now and then, the price tag will seem way too high, and you’d find what you’re looking for in something a lot cheaper.
Type: Drum skin
Material: Beryllium copper jingles
Cardinal Percussion Double-Row Tambourine – Best Budget Option
The Cardinal Percussion Double-Row Tambourine (Sweetwater) is my top suggestion if you’re looking for the most affordable tambourine possible. There are cheaper tambourines available, but all of those have very weak tones with poor build quality. This Cardinal Percussion tambourine is just as durable as higher-priced ones, and it has decent sound quality as well.
The big difference between this tambourine and higher-quality ones is that it has nickel jingles. It’s a weaker metal that doesn’t give you as much tone. When comparing them to brass and steel jingles, the sound is softer and not as aggressive. It tends to blend into songs a bit better, which is ideal for what many people are looking for.
You get a cushioned grip on the handle, but I found it to be quite hard. It feels fine if you use the tambourine for one or two songs, but your hand will start feeling strained after anything longer than that.
I’d say that this is the perfect tambourine to get if you’re just looking for something simple and inexpensive. You could get a bunch of these for your percussion classroom or church choir members, and it won’t cost too much.
If you’re a percussionist who plays tambourines very regularly, then I’d suggest getting something a bit higher-quality than this one from Cardinal Percussion.
Type: Moon-shaped with no drum skin
Material: Hard plastic
Latin Percussion LP193 Click Hi-Hat Tambourine
It’s designed to be fastened to the rod of your hi-hat stand so that you can get jingle sounds when playing the hi-hat. The issue with hi-hat tambourines is that you’re not always going to want those jingle sounds, so you need to pull them off. With this tambourine, you get a button to click that mutes the jingles, stopping you from having to pull it off every time you don’t want them. It’s genius.
The jingles are made from steel, and they have very bright tones when they rattle. You can close your hi-hats to get the rattling sound, or you can strike the edge of the tambourine with your sticks to get a slightly shorter sound. I also found that you can get a unique tone when striking the tambourine with the jingles muted.
It’s made from ABS plastic, which is very durable. However, it’s not durable enough to survive countless shows where your sticks bash it hard. So, I’d suggest hitting it as gently as you can if you plan on striking it with your sticks.
The usefulness of being able to turn the jingles on and off can’t be understated. If you want a tambourine for your hi-hat stand, this is the one to get.
Type: Hi-Hat Tambourine
Latin Percussion LP160 Cyclops Mountable Tambourine
Apart from the mount, the biggest defining feature of this tambourine is its durability. It’s incredibly hardy, and it’s designed to take the hardest hits from sticks and still last a long time. The edges of the tambourine are slightly rounded to enable it to take more force.
It has steel jingles that are nickel-plated. They’re incredibly bright, cutting through a mix quite easily. Whether you’re playing on a drum kit or a percussion rig, the jingles will also be heard very clearly over all the other drums and percussion instruments.
Another thing that I like about this tambourine is that the eye-bolt to mount it is positioned on the inside of the structure. This allows you to position it a bit further back in your setup than if that eye-bolt was on the outside. It makes it feel more comfortable to play.
You can also mount this tambourine to a hi-hat, but it will feel quite large compared to any smaller dedicated hi-hat tambourine.
Type: Mountable tambourine with no drum skin
Material: Hard plastic with brass and steel jingles
Meinl Percussion FJS2S-BK Foot Tambourine
The Meinl Percussion FJS2S-BK Foot Tambourine (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) has a very simple design behind a very clever idea. It’s a small tambourine with an elastic strap that you can attach to your foot. The plastic frame and jingles will rest on top of your foot, and then you can stomp your foot to get the jingle sound.
While Meinl advertises this tambourine to be used when playing cajon, I think you could easily use it in multiple different areas. You could attach two of them to your feet if you were in some sort of dance group.
You could also attach them to your feet while playing drums. Having one on your left leg would give you the same effect that having a hi-hat tambourine would. It may just be a little harder to hear.
This tambourine only has four jingles, which is why it’s a lot softer than all the other options on this list. However, you can easily stomp your foot quite hard to get a louder tone if needed. The stainless steel jingles have a fairly bright tone, which contrasts quite well with the low tones of a cajon.
I know some people who find these foot tambourines to be a bit gimmicky. If you feel the same way, there are other options to consider. If you love the sound of it, it’s very affordable to get.
Type: Foot tambourine
Material: Rubber wood with stainless steel jingles
Meinl Percussion Recording-Combo Wood Tambourine
The Meinl Percussion Recording Combo Wood Tambourine (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another good tambourine with a head that costs significantly less than the Black Swamp Percussion option.
It has a goat-skin head that sounds quite warm when you hit it. The dynamic range isn’t as good as the Black Swamp TD4, but you still get good playability from it.
Like the first Meinl tambourine on this list, this one also has a mixture of brass and steel jingles. The warm tone from the skin mixed with the mixed jingles creates an interesting combination of musical textures. The overall sound is very pleasing to listen to.
The frame is made from laminate wood. It feels fairly solid, but it doesn’t have the same premium feel as the Black Swamp tambourine.
However, this tambourine is excellent on its own. If you don’t compare it to the high-end Black Swamp tambourines, it’s one of the best tambourines with a drum skin that you can get, especially considering its price.
It won’t last as long as any of the skinless tambourines, but that’s the sacrifice you make when getting a wooden option.
Type: Tambourine with drum skin
Material: Wood tambourine with steel and brass jingles
DW 2000 Series Tambourine Foot Pedal
The DW 2000 Series Tambourine Foot Pedal (Sweetwater) is one of the more unique options for this list. It’s essentially the same concept as a strap-on foot tambourine, but it’s a lot more involved in its design. You get a proper bass drum pedal with a tambourine attached, and that tambourine hits a practice pad to make a sound.
This is the ideal option for drummers who find the strap-on foot tambourines to be a bit gimmicky. This feels the same as a standard bass drum pedal, catering more to drummers than anyone else.
The cool thing is that it even comes with a beater that you can attach to it to make it become a full-on bass drum pedal. So, when you’re not using the tambourine, you can use it to play a bass drum.
The practice pad is designed to react to the tambourine the same way that the palm of your hand would, giving you a natural sound. You can also pick the tambourine up and play it with your hands, separately from the pedal.
It’s a fantastic piece of gear to consider getting. Just note that it’s quite expensive. It’s highly worth it, though, especially when taking into account that you can use it as a bass drum pedal too.
Type: Tambourine connected to a foot pedal
Material: Hard plastic with steel jingles
Latin Percussion Tambo Ring
The Latin Percussion Tambo Ring (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another unique tambourine-inspired design. You place it on your snare drum to get the combined sounds of tambourine jingles and snare drum notes.
It dries your snare drum tone out a bit, and the jingles add a bit of liveliness. It has 15 pairs of steel jingles, and they pop whenever you strike the snare drum.
This is an excellent tambourine tool to use for electronic music, funk, and other styles where bouncy snare tones are needed. It’s purely intended for drum kits, so you won’t benefit from using it if you don’t have one.
It’s essentially a large version of a tambourine ring that you would otherwise place on a pair of hi-hats. You can also place it on crash and ride cymbals if you want to. The jingles will extend the sustain. It’s not your conventional tambourine, so you’ll still need to get one of those to shake if you need one.
Type: Tambourine to place on a snare drum
Material: Steel jingles
What To Look For In a Tambourine
Tambourines with Heads
Tambourines with heads are a type of tambourine that you can both shake and bang like a drum. They’re typically made from wood, and they have a drum skin stretched over the surface that you strike with your hand while holding the tambourine in your other hand.
These tambourines are often considered more traditional, but they can work well in any musical setting you put them in.
They’re typically more expensive than tambourines without heads, especially if they’re ones with heads that produce good tones. You’ll find ones with heads that produce flat and dead tones, but you should stay away from those.
Most tambourines with heads are 10”. That’s the standard size that percussion companies go for, as it’s the size that just seems to fit very well in your hands.
Playing a tambourine with a drumhead requires a bit more skill than playing one that doesn’t have one, as you need to know how to strike the head to get good tones. You can also learn to play more intricate rhythms that interplay with the jingles.
Tambourines without Heads
Tambourines without heads are a lot more commonly seen these days. That could be due to the fact that pop singers often use them when playing live, and they’re easier to play than tambourines that have drumheads.
They’re more affordable, so they’re a better option to go with if you’re simply looking for the jingle sound. The tones they produce will depend on what material the jingles are made from.
Tambourines without heads are also 10” most of the time, but you can find some that are a bit smaller than that.
If you want a tambourine to keep with you in a drum or percussion setup, I’d suggest getting one that doesn’t have a drumhead. It’ll be easier to play, and the hole through the middle makes it easy to latch the tambourine onto different metal rods in your setup.
Tambourines with heads work better when they’re the focal point of a performance.
If you want a tambourine to set in a fixed position in your drum or percussion rig, you’ll need to get one that has a built-in mount. Hand tambourines don’t have mounts, so you won’t be able to hold them tightly in one place without holding them.
Companies make tambourines specifically for mounting, and they have a hole that a metal rod can stick through, then the tambourine can be tightened.
While you can hold these tambourines in your hand to get a jingle shaking sound, their main purpose is to be struck with a stick. You get a shorter jingle sound from this, which is what many drummers and percussionists need.
When buying a mountable tambourine, check to see what it comes with. Some of them don’t come with anything, while others come with a rod and clamp so that you can mount them straight away without buying extra hardware.
Hi-hat tambourines are designed to be attached to the rod of your hi-hat stand. You can do this with mountable tambourines if the thread is small enough, but you also get unique hi-hat tambourines that look a bit different. They’re a lot smaller, and they often have smaller jingles.
The idea behind hi-hat tambourines is that whenever you close your hi-hats together with your foot, you get a jingle sound. This adds more depth and resonance to your hi-hat sound, and many drummers feel that it makes things a bit groovier.
They also make a jingle sound when you play the hi-hats with your sticks. That sound will be a bit lighter compared to when you play them heavily with your foot.
You can hit these smaller hi-hat tambourines with sticks if you want to, but many of them aren’t designed for that and may break if you do.
Foot tambourines utilize the same idea as hi-hat tambourines, but they take away the hi-hat. They allow you to play jingle sounds with only your foot. The two types of foot tambourines are ones that strap around your foot and pedals that are attached to tambourines.
Foot strap tambourines are a lot cheaper, often costing even less than inexpensive hand tambourines. They’re very commonly used by cajon players, giving them an extra instrument to play with their left foot that otherwise wouldn’t be used.
Pedals with tambourines attached are more expensive, considering that they come with a drum pedal. These are a lot more rigid, and you can get more volume from them due to the design of the pedal.
They’re most commonly used in drum sets. They’ll be placed next to the hi-hat so that a drummer can move their left foot over to the tambourine whenever they want to get the jingle sound.
Every tambourine has a specific jingle design that gives it its sound. Some tambourines only have four jingles, while others have as many as twenty.
The more jingles there are, the livelier the sound will be of the tambourine. You won’t always want a very lively tambourine sound. Sometimes, a subtle sound will fit better, and that’s when you should get one with fewer jingles.
The material of the jingles also affects the tone of the tambourine. Most entry-level and mid-level tambourines have brass or steel jingles. Brass jingles have dark tones, and they’re quite loud. Steel jingles have higher-pitched sounds, and they’re slightly softer.
Premium tambourines use unique metals for their jingles, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why they’re so expensive. You’ll often see top-tier tambourines having jingles that are made from special copper, silver, and bronze alloys.
The best way to hear what each jingle sounds like is to do a listening test. When thinking about buying a particular tambourine, try your best to hear a demo of it.
Snare Drum Tambourines
If you love the idea of a hi-hat tambourine, you may also love the idea of tambourine devices that are designed to fit on snare drums. These are sort of like muffling rings, but they have jingles built into them so that those jingles rattle every time you hit the snare drum.
They give your snare drum a sound that is very popular in electronic music. The muffling ring part also dampens your snare tone a bit, giving it a warmer tone.
You can also place these snare drum tambourines on floor toms. The combination of low tones and bright jingles sounds quite cool.
Some hi-hat tambourines have flat designs, so you can choose to either place them on your hi-hats or on your snare drum. However, I’ve found that 14-inch snare drum tambourine rings work the best, as they don’t move around when you play the snare.
Tambourines have a very broad range of prices. Thankfully, the most affordable ones have very low price tags. If you need to get a large number of tambourines for a school percussion class, it won’t set you back by much.
Just know that the more you spend, the better the tone quality of the jingles. Higher-priced tambourines also have better build quality.
As I said earlier, I’d suggest sticking to tambourines with no drumhead if you’re not willing to pay a high price. The cheap ones with drumheads don’t have any depth to their tones, giving you only a flat drum sound when you hit them.
The most expensive tambourines are ones with drumheads and specialty jingles that are made from rare metals.
Best Tambourine Brands
While tambourines are small instruments that dozens of brands offer, there are a few good tambourine brands to take note of that make ones with excellent build quality and tones. Getting a tambourine from one of these brands will arguably be a better option than getting one from other brands.
Meinl Percussion is the Percussion division of Meinl’s big enterprise. They make some amazing percussion instruments, including a long list of different tambourines. The brand offers almost 100 tambourines, so you’re very spoiled for choice if you decide to get one of their products.
They offer a unique mix of hand, foot, and drum kit tambourines.
Latin Percussion is arguably the top percussion brand in the world. They sell some of the most premium percussion products, and you can get some fantastic LP tambourines.
Many of the best performing percussionists use LP products, and that shows you that LP tambourines can be trusted. They’re made incredibly well, and many of them are highly innovative.
Black Swamp Percussion
Black Swamp Percussion is a luxury percussion brand. They only offer premium tambourines that are used by industry professionals. All their tambourines have drum skins that are full of rich tones, and they all have very high price tags.
Black Swamp Percussion tambourines are what you should consider getting if you’re looking for very musical tambourines that are the focal point of certain performances.
Top Tambourines, Final Thoughts
It’s ideal to have more than one tambourine in your arsenal of percussion instruments. If you do decide to have two, make sure to get ones with varying jingle tones.
If you want a tambourine for your drum set, you’ll need to decide between getting a hi-hat or a foot tambourine. I also suggest you look into getting a snare drum tambourine ring, as those add epic tones to your rig.