It’s not every day you find yourself looking to buy a tambourine, but when that time comes, you want to make sure you have something worthy of your musical needs!
Perhaps you are a serious percussionist or just a composer who finds it necessary to record their own rhythms when samples just won’t cut it. Or you might even be a weekend musician just looking for a new instrument to add to the collection.
To be honest, a tambourine is one of those musical items that belong in almost every home, as they are pretty accessible to nearly every age and player.
And while it may be tempting to buy a toy instrument, it is best to purchase something that will last and sound great in any jam or musical situation.
Table of Contents
- Tambourine Basics
- The 10 Best Tambourines at a Glance
- 1) Meinl 10″ Tambourine
- 2) Grover Pro Projection-Plus
- 3) Rhythm Tech Drum Set Tambourine
- 4) Latin Percussion Cyclops
- 5) Latin Percussion Worship Tambourine
- 6) Meinl Percussion China Ring
- 7) Black Swamp 10″ Sound Art Tambourine
- 8) Rhythm Tech RT1010
- 9) Pearl Elite Concert 10″ Tambourine
- 10) Pearl TomBourine
Of course, anytime you are making a new purchase, it is smart to do even the tiniest bit of research, that way you can do your best to make an educated purchase.
Tambourines are a fundamental percussion instrument, but some slight variations may make all the difference in the sound you are looking for.
The tambourine originated in Egypt as a percussion instrument with a wood frame housing small metal jingles or cymbals and often a skin drawn over as a drumhead.
That way, you could bang on the drum while making the metal jingles ring. In plenty of historical mosaics and art pieces, the tambourine is often seen in a few different forms.
There is not always a drumhead on a tambourine. In fact, some styles are just an open circular frame with metal jingles.
The common aspect of all tambourine styles is the small metal cymbals that are known as zills. These little zills are also used as finger cymbals in certain styles of music like belly-dancing. Modern tambourines have frames of wood or plastic and can use skin or synthetics as drumheads.
Remember, with any instrument, what you spend will determine the quality of what you get. There is usually a price point for most instruments that is the cut between playable items or glorified toys.
Below we will share the best tambourines for low and high budgets, going any lower might result in a poor sounding tambourine.
The style you will be playing will affect how you approach your tambourine playing. Those tambourines with drumheads can be performed a different way than the open-framed builds—they can have more finger movement.
And they also make some tambourines that can be mounted right onto a drumkit or percussion table, so those, of course, will be played with sticks or other percussion accessories.
Regardless of the type you choose, it is good advice to actually study some advanced playing methods. Yeah, it isn’t that difficult to grab a tambourine and jump into a rock or pop tune and provide some backup.
That’s fine, but take it to a higher level and research some polyrhythms and learn a variety of Afro Cuban and Latin percussion grooves. In the right hands, a tambourine can really bring some exciting feel to a rhythm section.
The 10 Best Tambourines at a Glance
Of course, music is subjective, and the “best” might not always be agreed upon, but below we have a selection of the most recent tambourines, some with great reviews.
Pay attention to the reviews when choosing an instrument, especially to the ones that give solid reasons for pros and cons.
1) Meinl 10″ Tambourine
- The double row of zills make for a great chime
- It is suitable for both the stage and studio
- Solid grip for easy handling and playing
- It is on the lower end of costs, depending on your needs you may have to spend more
- It is made of laminate wood, and generally solid wood is much better
- If you need something to attach to a drum kit, this is only for hand use
A great beginner tambourine at an affordable price, this Meinl is made of laminate wood with nickel-plated solid brass zills.
And the cymbals are placed in double rows for a whole range of effects. This model is also a classic tambourine with a drumhead, which is made of pre-tuned goatskin.
2) Grover Pro Projection-Plus
- Exceptional quality and craftsmanship mean you will have a great tambourine
- Grover has excellent customer service and return policies
- Cymbals in double rows for a better sound
- Definitely for a very high budget
- Not many reviews
- Extra care needs to be taken on stage for such a pricey item
Now this one is an expensive and professional tambourine. The Grover Pro is a mixture of old-world craftsmanship and modern tech. It is a classic tambourine with a drumhead made of real skin, and the zills are hand-hammered alloys of silver, copper, and bronze.
With a solid wood shell and excellent metal alloy, this instrument is pretty much guaranteed to sound great!
3) Rhythm Tech Drum Set Tambourine
- Very affordable and low budget model
- Double row brass jingles for better sound
- Durable and sturdy for playing with sticks
- The polymer and brass alloy may not project as much as wood and better metals
- It only comes on the color black
- Not really a hand tambourine, mostly for attaching to a kit
This tambourine attaches to the hi-hat of your kit; however, it also is made so it can potentially be played by hand. The polymer frame is perfect for reducing stick noise, and the zills are brass.
If you want something basic and pretty cheap to attach to your drums, this is the tambourine for you.
4) Latin Percussion Cyclops
- Light enough to not affect pedal response
- At such a low cost you save money
- Easy to attach and start playing immediately
- Only one row of cymbals means less sound
- It only comes in red
- Quite possibly so low budget you may have issues
This is another model that attaches to your hi-hat stand. This Cyclops is the cheapest model on the list and very basic. The frame and zills are made of steel, it has no other frills or features.
If you need something quick and jangly to add to your drums, this basic tambourine should work temporarily.
5) Latin Percussion Worship Tambourine
- Lightweight but with a full tone
- Reinforced grip for better playing
- Synthetic heads will not shrink and expand
- Steel isn’t the best sound projector
- Many players prefer real skin over synthetic heads
- Laminate wood doesn’t sound as great as solid
This tambourine has a religious motif for those who play in worship bands. It is more than twice the price of the Cyclops, but still affordable.
It is a classic handheld tambourine with a synthetic head and a double row of steel jingles. Unless you prefer the design, it may likely be wiser to get a similarly priced model made with better materials.
6) Meinl Percussion China Ring
- Being played on cymbals gives it some unique sound potential
- It also adds new and great accents to your playing
- Very affordable for creative ideas
- Again steel is not always the best resonating metal
- You still may need a “regular” tambourine
- Depending on what cymbals you use perhaps the accents and sounds are not to your liking
Now, this is one of the more unique tambourines on the list. It isn’t played by hand or attached to your hi-hat. Instead, it is placed on top of a large cymbal for added effects. In fact, its design makes it so it can be placed on most cymbals, including hi-hats.
It is made from stainless steel, and that is all, making it a straightforward design. To be honest, it is so affordable it is wise to grab one of these along with a regular tambourine.
7) Black Swamp 10″ Sound Art Tambourine
- Solid wood and real calfskin
- Great for studio and the stage
- A perfect instrument for an advanced player
- Expensive instruments mean more long term care
- Too pricey for most beginners
- The zills are a little dull and rustic looking
This is one of the best tambourines for stage use and concert percussion. This handheld tambourine is made with solid ash wood and a double row of chromium zills.
The drumhead is made of clear calfskin, it is incredibly expensive as it is made for professional use. If you have the budget, this will make a fantastic and amazing sounding tambourine!
8) Rhythm Tech RT1010
- Straightforward handheld grip to play
- Comes in multiple colors
- If you need the most basic model of tambourine with no frills, this is the one to buy
- The elliptical shape means fewer zills so less projection
- Some players prefer wood to plastic as it sounds better
- Low budget models will never sound as great as you hope
This handheld tambourine has an elliptical shape instead of the usual round styles. The body is made of molded polymers, and the zills are in double rows and made of nickel.
It is very low budget and has a ton of great reviews, it is clearly one of the most popular models of tambourine to buy.
9) Pearl Elite Concert 10″ Tambourine
- A great brand usually makes great products
- Made for orchestra playing in mind
- Quality craftsmanship and a professional instrument
- A little high budget for some
- Not many reviews
- A more expensive instrument means more care involved
With such a well-known brand name, you can be sure many musicians look into this model of handheld tambourines.
The price is about midway between the super pricey models and the lower end. It is made with solid wood, steel zills, and a goatskin head. The cymbals are in a double row, just not lined up like other models.
10) Pearl TomBourine
- Handheld and mountable makes for the best of both worlds
- High-quality products from a well-known company
- The head is key tunable
- You may like the sound of only a regular handheld tambourine
- The cymbals are made of steel
- You may not need a mountable instrument
This is another unique tambourine, meant to be a hybrid crossed with a tom. It can be played as a handheld model or quickly mounted on a drumkit.
The zills are made with steel, and it is durable enough to be hit with sticks or mallets once mounted.
Clearly, depending on your needs, any one of these tambourines may work for you. If I was looking for a great starter handheld tambourine, I would probably gravitate towards the very popular Rhythm Tech 1010.
Otherwise, the Pearl TomBourine is an excellent buy as it is not too expensive, and it is both handheld and drumkit mountable. You will get the best of both worlds from a reliable and famous company.
And finally, while you are deciding, we will end with an inspirational song that may already be playing in your head! And the true irony of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” is that we don’t ever hear a tambourine in the whole song! Ha!
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