Courtesy of Arthur Ka Wai Jenkins

The tambourine is a very old instrument, going back as far as 3,000 B.C.

It’s a hand-held instrument – a bit like a very shallow drum without a bottom. Around the wooden side, there are small metal discs, which jangle.

Composers often use it to create the feeling of an exotic dance.

A tambourine being played, courtesy of Tony Morrell

A tambourine being played

To play it

There are many ways to play a tambourine. Three common ways are:

  1. You strike it with your fingers, hand or fist.
  2. You shake it.
  3. You wet your finger and drag it over the surface.

The sound

When it’s struck, the surface of the tambourine makes a short, dead sound. But the little discs jangle, whatever you do with it (even when you’re trying to keep it quiet!).

Do You Know?

Do You Know?

See if you can answer the questions below!

 What does a tambourine have round the edge?

a. A pattern
b. Metal discs
c. Keys

 You tap a tambourine – what else can you do with it?

a. Shake it
b. Kick it
c. Blow it

 What shape is a tambourine?

a. Square
b. Oblong
c. Circular

 What sort of age is the tambourine?

a. Ten years old
b. Thousands of years old
c. A hundred years old

 What happens when you shake the tambourine?

a. It jangles
b. It breaks
c. Nothing

Play More Music!

Play More Music!

Here is more music to listen to. Click the + to see tracks and information about each work!

Selected Tambourine Extracts

Anonymous, arranged by Tielman Susato
Den hoboecken dans (‘Hoboken Dance’)

The tambourine has been around for a long time. Here it is, jangling in an old Flemish dance.

Performers: Convivium Musicum Gothenburgense; Sven Berger

Taken from Naxos 8.554425

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908)
Scheherazade, Op. 35: IV. Festival at Baghdad – The Sea (extract)

The tambourine helps to build excitement.

Performers: Philharmonia Orchestra; Enrique Bátiz

Taken from Naxos 8.550726