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 with.”
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.