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This man is not holding a tambourine. It's the same shape, though.
Above: The Joker livening up a prison environment with some enthusiastic tambourine playing

The tambourine is a musical instrument, typically mastered after the oboe and double baboon, and before the triangle. Part of the percussion family of instruments, the tambourine consists of a frame, often of wood or plastic, with pairs of metal jingles, called “zils”. While tambourines are sometimes used with regular percussion sets, this is unusual, as percussionists that decide to do so tend to neglect the rest of the set in favour of the tambourine, only occasionally playing something other than the tambourine as a blatant novelty.

The tambourine was the culmination of an all-night jam session between Jimi Hendrix, Flea, Ray Manzarek and Neil Peart, who created the instrument out of frustration at the limitations imposed on them by their usual instruments. However, the tambourine proved not to be the jingly saviour they anticipated: not one of them was capable of playing it.


One must first decide upon the method in which one will play the instrument. The tambourine can be played in a variety of ways. It can be held between both big toes, but this is not advisable as it renders the instrument difficult to play. Most people hold it in their dominant hand, as per common sense. Next, it must be decided which type of tambourine will be used. Most tambourinists opt for a tambourine that they deem to be operational. After this, the necessary paperwork must be completed, so that the new tambourinist’s initial playing of the instrument will be supervised by a medically-trained professional in case something goes wrong. Under their watchful eye, a tambourinist will then shake the tambourine. This particular method of playing the tambourine is called “playing the tambourine”.

Applications to music[edit]

Due to the construction of the tambourine, it can only be played in a 4/4 time signature, despite most musicians and people skilled in basic arithmetic believing otherwise. Anyone that demonstrates an ability to play the tambourine in a 3/4 or 6/8 time signature is promptly burned to the stake, as their ability is proof of competency in witchcraft.

The tambourine's sound in recorded music can best be described as barely audible. Fortunately, tambourinists can take solace in the fact that the tambourine is audible in live sets. Barely.

In popular music[edit]

In rock music, the tambourine is most often not played, with the exception of Liam Gallagher, who ruined it for everyone.

Motown, in an attempt to redefine excess, employed a tambourinist full-time in its heyday. This ended when he was found burnt to the stake in late 1969.

See also[edit]