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 Percussion Recording-Combo Wood 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 Percussion Recording-Combo Wood Tambourine
Best Tambourine for Beginners
For those new to tambourine playing or those who want something affordable, look no further than Meinl’s Recording-Combo.
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
Best For Aspiring Concert Percussionists
For any university students studying tambourine playing, look no further than Grover’s Projection-Plus. Thumb rolls are no problem.
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
Best Tambourine for Drum Kit Players
While not the only drum set tambourine available, Rhythm Tech makes a great option for those who want to add a little ching to their hats.
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
Most Affordable Drum Set Tambourine
The LP Cyclops provides a low-budget, yet great sounding solution for drum kit players looking to add a little ching to their hi-hat.
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
Best Tambourine for Worship Bands
The LP316 Worship Tambourine features a synthetic head, is 10″ in diameter, and includes 16 steel jingles.
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
Unique and Affordable Tambourine for Drum Kits
The Ching Ring plops down on to any one of your cymbals, adding a unique character similar to that of rivets, with much less decay.
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
Best Professional Concert Tambourine
For those playing in orchestras or at university, you’re probably already familiar with Black Swamp. There’s no better choice.
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
Best For Non-Percussionists
The RT1010 is the “world’s most played tambourine,” according to Rhythm Tech. For those who need a simple solution for rhythm percussion, look no further.
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
Best For Pearl Lovers
The Pearl Elite Concert Tambourine performs on a level similar to the Grover and Black Swamp, though I tend to favor Black Swamp the most. Fans of Pearl, look no further.
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
Best of Both Worlds
The TD-27KV dominates every kit on this list for the price. There’s a reason Roland is king when it comes to electronic drums.
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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