Let’s be honest here. Not all instruments are born equal. Some are put up on pedestals to the rock gods, like guitars and drums. Some are respected for their elegance and beauty, like violins and pianos. And some are laughed at.
But the truth is, it’s not the instrument; it’s how you use it. There’s a reason why the much-mocked triangle is still around for us to poke fun of – because it plays its part.
The tambourine is no different. This simple frame drum with jingles and maybe a skin can do a lot more than heat up a drunken karaoke party. It’s a great time-keeper, and it can add body to snare hits or replace them all together. So, if you’re a producer, don’t skimp on this instrument. Looking for a way to make the second verse more interesting than the first, add a tambourine, simple!
So, I decided to take an in-depth look at the best tambourine VSTs currently on the market to help make your tracks shine.
Vintage Toy Tambourine (SampleHero) – Best Free Tambourine VST
SampleHero produces some great VSTs and sample packs, ranging from standard instruments to horror sounds, to some quirky instruments. The Vintage Toy Tambourine VST is one such unusual instrument that gives you a unique sound that most other producers aren’t using. And it’s FREE!
This is a slightly rusted, real vintage toy tambourine with only three sets of jingles on it. It has been deeply sampled with a pair of quality mics to bring out the strange, trashy sound of this instrument. You can get single hits, mod wheel shakes, loops, and special hits out of this VST, so there’s a lot to play with here.
Well, it is a toy, after all!
I like how easily it locks to the beat and can be adjusted to add accents however you like. And I like that it’s free, for now at least. You do, however, need the full version of Native Instruments Kontakt to make use of it.
Sharine (Waves Factory) – Most Versatile Tambourine VST
My next recommendation, Sharine by Waves Factory, is not just a stand-alone tambourine VST. Instead, it’s a full library of 12 instruments. These include eight shakers and four different tambourines sampled from three different mic positions, which you can control individually. These are pretty realistic sounds, and you certainly get enough of them.
If you are going to be composing lots of tracks using these sorts of instruments, then the roughly $70 price tag is going to be worth it for you. It’s a bit much, however, if you’re just looking for a single great tambourine VST.
The best feature here is something unique
Sharine has created a proprietary “pre-roll script,” which allows for realistic sound blending. Rolls or shakes are still accentuated on the beat you prescribe; however, you can set the roll to start early. This provides an excellent simulation of a live musician playing each instrument. Once again, you’ll need a full version of Kontakt to use this library.
Shimmer Shake Strike (In Session Audio) – Most Realistic Tambourine VST
With Shimmer Shake Strike, In Session Audio has created one of the most accurate-sounding shakers VST libraries I’ve heard. This is another paid VST library that requires Kontakt to run. It normally costs around $100 for the regular library of 50 percussion instruments.
But recently, I’ve seen a deal where you can get that library plus the expansion pack for even less – only $60. That gives you ten tambourines, 24 shakers, and 33 struck percussion instruments, all with 184 presets ready for action. As a contender for the Best Tambourine VST, it’s pretty tough to beat.
The sounds here are lush. They’ve been sampled from combinations of actual recorded performances rather than being recorded individually in a more artificial way. This ends up giving you an impressive 13 articulation types for each instrument. This VST library sounds great and doesn’t cost too much considering what you can get out of it.
Miscellania II (Versilian Studios) – Best Free Percussion Library VST
Here’s another FREE product, although this time it’s a whole percussion library rather than a standalone tambourine. You can find two different tambourines in Miscellania II as well as a good range of bells, chimes, glockenspiel, and, yes, triangles. There are 130 samples here, and it’s only 150MB in size, so you’re not going to get too jammed up for space.
The sounds here are okay. They’re not the clearest, highest quality samples, but layered into compositions; they sound just fine. Additionally, they lend themselves well to cinematic compositions very nicely. And you’ll be happy to know you can download a raw.wave version of this library for Windows or iOS.
Complete Shaker & Tambourine (Noisefirm) – Best Cinematic Tambourine VST
You guessed right. Noisefirm’s Complete Shaker & Tambourine is one more virtual instrument library rather than simply a tambourine VST. But the five different tambourines here sound tight and realistic, as do most of the other sounds.
You get 33 articulations, including those five tambourines, three egg shakers, three maracas, and a whole lot more. These are expressed in an impressive 95 velocity layers so that you can get the precise levels and sounds you need. You also get patterns that are realistic and sound like they’re being played by human hands.
The sounds here are deep, stable, and pure – really cinematic quality. The library does cost $59, but it’s a quality product for compositions that have to sound perfect. You also need Kontakt or EXS to run this library.
What to Look for in a Tambourine VST
The tambourine is a pretty simple instrument, and the VST you use should reflect that. You should look for something with lots of velocity layers to reflect the different voicings a single tambourine can create. But it should also should bright, full, and stable. Some tambourine sounds will get overly crunchy or even sound like static at different levels.
Finally, you’ll need to consider what you can afford. A free tambourine VST can be a great tool to download and use in a hurry. However, with so many great VST libraries out there, a set of instruments might be well worth paying for.
You’ll get better quality and a host of instruments at your fingertips. Shaker and tambourine sets can open up a wealth of sounds for your production needs – even before you know you need them.
Looking to Make Some Beats?
Or check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Hardware Sequencers, the Best Beat Machines for Hip Hop, the Best Electronic Drum Pads, the Best Keyboard Synthesizer, the Best Percussion Stomp Boxes, and the Best Tambourines.
And don’t miss our comprehensive Denon DJ Prime Go Review, our Arturia MicroFreak Review, our Pioneer PLX-500-K Review, and our Roland Aira TR-8 Rhythm Performer Review for more awesome items on the market.
Getting the Best Tambourine VST
It all comes down to what you need that tambourine sound for. Are you looking for a classic ‘ching’ for simple time-keeping in a rock track? Do you need dynamic expression, like different shakes and strikes, for cinematic works? Or do you just want something cheap and unusual?
Whatever your goals are, there is a tambourine VST on this list that’s right for you. But take my advice and don’t skimp on the quality if you can afford it. A tambourine may just be the final piece of the puzzle to make your track gel.
Until next time, may the beat go on.