A Thought for Thursday: Talking About Tambourines


Talking About Tambourines

This week I’ve been using tambourines in my music 
enrichment classes (I rotate among several different
rhythm instruments) and my experiences in the 
various classes have reminded me of why I both
love and hate tambourines. Okay, I don’t like to
use the word “hate” – let’s say “Have problems

Tambourines sound wonderful – happy, jingly,
festive – except when they don’t. They can sound
thumpy, crashy and just plain way too loud. I try to
head off the ear-splitting tendency by advising my
students to use their “tapping fingers” – index fingers –
to tap, instead of their flat palm. When they listen
to this direction, great. Fives do. Fours do, most of
the time. Younger than that, you’re taking a chance.

Something I really love about tambourines is how 
well they lend themselves to pretend play. Upside-
down tambourines make very amusing hats, as
every child I’ve known has discovered. They can
be wheels to roll back and forth on the floor, or
steering wheels to drive wherever you want to go.
They can be bowls to eat out of or (as I heard just
this morning) trick-or-treat bags (of course, I put
pretend candy in everyone’s pretend bag).

Something I really have a problem with is the
loudness, and I’m not kidding. After an hour and a
half of on-and-off tambourine-banging with young
children, believe me – you will get a headache.
Count on it. But it’s not really the children’s
fault, even the overzealous hitters. Even “children’s
tambourines” are made much too big and with too
thick plastic heads that grate on the ears. I don’t
like to use tambourines with heads made of 
animal skins, but there must be a way to create
a small tambourine for children, without using 
animal  products, that has a pleasing sound.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep using the tambourines I have.
Because young children LOVE tambourines. 


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