You would be right in thinking that the tambourine has been around a while. It is one of the earliest percussion instruments. It dates back, according to actual records, to 1700BC. Although it is likely it was around way before then. And there may well have been manufacturers around at the time, all trying to make the Best Tambourine.
It was widely used in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa, and India. It arrived in Europe courtesy of traveling merchants. In the middle ages in England, it served a dual purpose. Primarily it was an instrument used for performance, but then, it was used to pass around the audience for donations.
By the 1700s, composers began to write formal parts for the tambourine in their classical works. It was a fun instrument to use that took on some important roles in the dynamics of the music.
A checkered past…
However, it was not so much fun when used by captured African slaves in the US. They were denied the use of the drums they had at home. This was in case they sent warning signals. (To whom has never been reasonably explained).
So they developed their own percussion in tambourines. Gradually it worked itself into the Gospel music traditions of the South. From there, a short step to Blues and then to Rock n Roll.
It became entrenched into ‘popular’ music by people like Bob Dylan and his “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Even though the song was about a drug dealer rather than someone playing the instrument. And just a passing thought, listen out for the tambourine in Dylan’s masterpiece. There isn’t one. Oh, the irony is so thick it could cut you.
In later years some people who fronted bands didn’t know what to do with their hands. So, they picked a tambourine up to solve the problem. Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Stevie Nicks all used one.
Roger Daltrey of The Who used two of them at different times. Smashing them together in typical ‘Who’ fashion. Bits of flying wood and jingles everywhere.
Adding to the swagger…
Mick Jagger was actually quite accomplished on the tambourine with some intricate rhythms. In fact, it was said that he was the best musician in the Rolling Stones. Not tongue in cheek either, many a true word is spoken in jest.
Today, of course, there are plenty around. They have earned their place in popular and traditional music circles and appear in just about every genre.
Are they all the same? Not Really. So, let’s take a look at the very best and find out the perfect tambourine for you…
Top 8 Best Tambourines of 2023
1 Meinl Percussion TMT1M-WH Dual Alloy Recording Combo – Most Versatile Tambourine
Most drummers will know the name Meinl. Based in Germany, they are one of the four most respected cymbal manufacturers. The others being Zildjian, Paiste, and Sabian. They use that knowledge to create the jingles on their tambourines.
This is a tambourine straight out of the modern-day with its elliptical-shaped outer and a double row of jingles. It has a white synthetic frame that increases its durability. Furthermore, it less susceptible to any inclement weather conditions. It has a padded foam grip, so clearly, it is designed and built for lengthy sessions.
Steel and brass…
On some tambourines, you can choose between steel or brass jingles. These varieties of metal jingles, or as they are more commonly known zills, will produce a different tone. The steel zill tends to have a sharper sound. Therefore, it can cut through the mix. The brass zill has a softer sound.
This instrument combines both, thus creating a sound that is suitable for a variety of uses. There are seven pairs of zills on this tambourine with brass and steel in each pair.
There are many different rhythms and applications for playing the tambourine. One such option involves dragging a drumstick across the frame to create guiro effects. This tambourine has a ridged surface that gives you a variety of sound options.
This is a tambourine that is built for studio or live work. They can add dynamics to a song or piece of music, and this instrument does just. A necessary inclusion for any drummer, but also a separate percussion instrument or even just a timekeeper. This tambourine can handle all of that.
If you are looking for a tambourine with a good sound that is not too expensive, this is a good choice.
- The nicely shaped frame allows lengthy use.
- It has both brass and steel zills at a good price point.
- Some will prefer a more traditional frame.
2 Remo Tambourine, Lotus – Best Signature Tanbourine
Layne Redmond might be better known for her work with the Frame drum, but she does have a signature tambourine. This is the version that Remo created.
Established in 1957, Remo has a good reputation for producing drum heads and associates drum hardware. As well as drum kits and other percussion instruments.
There is nothing particularly fancy about the design of this tambourine. Although, it does have some nice materials and features. But there is something quite surprising about it. More on that later.
It has a very standard, classic shape, with a width of 12.83 inches, weighs just under two pounds. This tambourine features five double rows of jingles made from German silver.
It can cut…
To our surprise, the sound it creates is unique and different from the standard tambourine. It is quite sharp. Furthermore, since this is a non-adjustable tambourine, there can be no changes to the skin tension.
You will get a very sharp attack sound from the instrument. Likewise, there is a handgrip built-in.
Good materials and well-made by a respected percussion manufacturer. But we mentioned something surprising. Before you take a look at the price, you had better sit down. That is going to give you a surprise. And it might not be a good one. Priced like it’s the Best Tambourine, but the jury is out on that.
- It is well-made with good materials.
- It delivers a crispy attack sound.
- The price will scare quite a few people.
3 Remo TA-5210-70 Fiberskyn Tambourine – Best Synthetic Tambourine
Back to Planet Earth, we come with another Remo offering for a more conventional tambourine. This instrument has a frame that is made from Acousticon. It is a material made by Remo for many of its drum products.
The frame is basically a laminate made from multiple sections of wood and other fiber materials. It is treated under pressure to form a hardened wood-like material. The head is ten inches wide, and there are eight pairs of jingles. It comes in a black finish.
A natural synthetic…
The head of this tambourine is made from Fiberskyn. This is a synthetic material made to look and feel like natural skin. It has the appearance of animal skin but without the same sound. On the plus side, it will not be affected by heat or water. So, it is durable and long-lasting.
The sound produced, though, is quite authentic, and unlike some tambourines, it doesn’t have a synthetic feel to it. It has a balanced sound and works with most types of music.
This particular instrument doesn’t have a handgrip built-in to the inner frame. Instead, it has a finger hole. This allows you to get a grip of sorts. Maybe not quite as good as a traditional handgrip but a style of holding you can get used to.
More jingle than thump…
It’s a nice tambourine, but it is not without its faults. The Fiberskyn, when struck, is not as loud as some skins. Additionally, the eight pairs of jingles are louder than the drum section. It can be a little overwhelming if care is not taken in playing style.
Nevertheless, a decent tambourine at a nice price point and lightweight at only 13.6 ounces.
- Nicely made with a black finish.
- Durable and long-lasting.
- Jingles can drown out the sound of the skin.
4 RhythmTech RT1010 Tambourine – Most Popular Tambourine
If you are looking for a very mid-range tambourine, then this might be an option for you. According to Rhythm Tech, this is the ‘most played tambourine in the world.’ Well, we don’t know about that, but it has its good points and a few not so good ones as well.
It has an elliptical shape that is popular with some people though not all.
We shall discuss the ‘why it is not so popular’ later…
It features a molded grip. As a result, it is quite comfortable when playing. There are twelve jingles. These are arranged in pairs. They are made from nickel, which offers a very bright sound. This particular model has a black plastic finish.
Room for improvement…
There are a couple of issues in the ‘why it is not so popular’ area. First, the elliptical-shaped design automatically means there are fewer zills or jingles. In this particular model, this is more obvious than some, with it only having twelve set up in pairs.
The zills are what give you three-quarters of the sound. Therefore, this tambourine generates a lot less sound than others. In turn, there is a significant loss of sound projection. The elliptical shape can have its benefits, but there are other ones with more zills than twelve.
Finally, some players prefer wood to plastic construction and also prefer the tambourine to have a skin. This is a personal preference, of course.
A bit of a hard sell…
This is a mid-range tambourine, and as such, it is not cheap. Considering it is a very basic instrument, the price doesn’t make it any more attractive.
As a tambourine, it is ok, but as we say, expensive for what it is.
- It has nickel jingles giving it a bright tone.
- A molded grip making it easy to hold.
- Some don’t like the elliptical shape.
5 Remo TA-4108-48 Radiant Tambourine, 8″ – Best Starter Tambourine
Back to Remo again for another tambourine that has to be said is a very cost-effective instrument. We were beginning to wonder how long it would take before we found an instrument with a decorated skin. Here we go; this is the first and one that is likely to catch your eye.
A nice starter…
This is a slightly different variant of the instrument in that it is slightly smaller. That means it has wider use options, and some may consider it a great little starter instrument for a child. Given the design on the drum head, they may well be right.
It is a 6-inch drum head model that has six pairs of jingles. Therefore, the sound is going to be a little bit limited and won’t project as well as larger instruments. But Remo knows a lot about drums and knows how to make them sound right.
Crisp and clear sound…
The sound on this little tambourine is quite sweet if a little bit toppy. However, given its overall size, it is bright, and it cuts through quite nicely. There is a finger hole built-in to make it quite comfortable to hold.
But of course, what sets it apart is the skin design. It is flashy and bold, and under lights, you might be forgiven for thinking Darth Vader had arrived. The design appears on both sides of the skin and isn’t overdone, in our opinion.
The kids will love it…
If this tambourine is aimed more at a child to get them interested, then this is a good design. In that scenario, it would certainly be one of the best tambourines for kids that you can buy.
Set at a very attractive price point, we like this. It offers a good sound for its size and is certainly going to attract some child’s interests.
- Very visual and well-made instrument.
- Has a reasonable sound at a very attractive price point.
- Some may want a more serious instrument.
6 Tambourine 10″ Dove Bible – Best Budget Tambourine
This is a design that will appeal to some but not others. Zebra Sound is certainly trying to appeal to what might be termed a captive audience. It is definitely not for the demanding environment of the rock music stage. Rather it is for gentle light rhythmic playing in a calm environment.
Hear our prayers…
It has a ten-inch diameter with an inscription of a bible and a dove. The frame is wood but isn’t the most durable you will come across. It can actually flex with a little pressure. There is a finger hole cut in to make it a little easier to hold. It’s very lightweight at only nine and a half ounces.
The top is synthetic. It has a double row of metal jingles, so it is going to generate a little bit of sound. Unfortunately, the quality of the jingles is not so good, and the sound is a little sharp.
Basic in every way…
But as we said, playing gently, it will work fine. A very basic and very budget range instrument. But, if you need a cheap option, this may suffice.
- Plenty of jingles built-in.
- Cost-effective budget range instrument.
- It will not take too much punishment.
7 Meinl Percussion TAH2AB Traditional 10-Inch Wood Tambourine – Most Durable Tambourine
Back to Meinl again for what is best described as a serious instrument. If you are going to use a tambourine to perform or to record in a studio, you need certain attributes.
This particular tambourine is one of those instruments that professional percussion people will be looking at. It must be considered as the Best Professional Tambourine as it possesses most of what is required.
A stand out tam…
Built with a wooden frame, it is stable and durable and can take some heavy contact. The wood has a very dark finish. This not only gives it a classic look, but it makes it stand out from the crowd with its style.
It has a double row of jingles. Sixteen pairs to be accurate, giving you 32 in total. These are made from nickel-plated steel. They have a very bright and vibrant sound that cuts through the mix.
On the other hand, being nickel-plated means the sound is quite dry and doesn’t ring. But as there are so many jingles, the sound is punchy and quite loud.
Sticking with the basics…
The head also returns to traditional roots and uses goatskin. Real skins, of course, produce a superior sound to synthetic materials. This sound has a rich, warm feel to it. It is excellent for using hand and finger techniques.
Some tambourines do not have the expressiveness of sound when they are not made from natural materials. This instrument has none of those problems. And being made by one of the big names in cymbal manufacture, they know how to get the sound just right.
Great value tambourine…
An excellent tambourine with a lot of qualities. It will fit into most environments. The price point for such a quality tambourine is set realistically.
- Well made with natural materials.
- Loud distinctive sound.
8 Remo Fiberskyn Tambourine – Quadura Black, 8″ – Best Value Tambourine
Finally, we go back to Remo to take a look at another of their range. This is a stylish black tambourine built with a traditional, classic look. It has a diameter of eight inches and is fitted with eight pairs of jingles. Sixteen in all. That is guaranteed to give you a decent volume.
The materials used are very much from Remo’s catalog with its Fiberskyn3 head. This has been pre-tuned to give you a warm sound straight out of the box.
The frame has been given a fingerhole that has been reinforced. This is to make it durable during use. But also to make it easier to hold when playing.
A synthetic with style…
Some people often complain that the use of synthetic materials in tambourines does not create a good sound. We can understand that. Synthetic materials on anything rarely do. But on this particular instrument, they work well.
The drum head has a nice warm sound to it, and the jingles ring bright and are very vibrant. All things considered, this is a good tambourine at a decent price point.
- Well made with good Remo materials.
- Eight pairs of jingles give it a bright sound.
- At only eight inches, it might be a little small for some.
Best Tambourine Buying Guide
You will need to decide a few things when looking for your ideal tambourine. They are not all the same as we’ve seen. They differ in design, use, and the volume they can generate. Therefore, selecting the right type of tambourine is important.
What will you use it for?
Some are better suited to certain environments. For example, those that are designed for church use or just to be used as a timekeeper in a quieter environment are one kind. But they will not last two minutes on a stage with, shall we say, an enthusiastic singer.
If you are that singer, then the tambourine you buy has got to be very durable. If you are the quieter type, then you don’t need so much volume and aggression. Therefore a lesser number of jingles and a smaller head will suffice.
Elliptical tambourine or traditional? There are positives and negatives. Elliptical can be convenient for the stage. They are easy to hold and throw around. But they have fewer jingles by nature of the design. The sound might, at times, be a little thin with some models.
Classic round designs are most common, but you may need a design with a fingerhole. That could be important to allow you to get a good grip.
But the most important thing to consider is the sound. You tend to get better sounds from tambourines with natural materials rather than synthetic. Having said that, there are one or two synthetic instruments that are quite nice.
Looking For Something Else?
And for the ultimate in portable music-making, take a gander at our review of the Best Harmonicas you can buy in 2023.
So, what is the Best Tambourine?
We are going to go for the tambourine that is going to work for us in a studio. That means it needs to be bright with a reasonable build quality and a decent volume.
Therefore, we would pick the …
In our opinion, a traditional-style tambourine makes for the best kind. An all-around stellar sound, durable, well made, and great in the studio or on stage.
Thanks for dropping by. Now it’s time for you to move like Jagger.