Who Invented the Tambourine?

By | April 4, 2021


The tambourine is a small drum, although some do not actually have a drum head. It has attached pairs of metal jingles or bells and is usually held to the rim. The musician shakes it or hits the top with one hand to call the jingles, which are usually zillas, also used as finger cymbals.


Historical data show that tambourines were played throughout the ancient Middle East as well as in China and Rome. Archaeologists have trained small ancient figures and large Sumerian statues representing women holding tambourines, from as far back as 2000 BCE (Sumer was located in the Persian Gulf.)

Time frame

Tambourine’s predecessors that appear in the Bible include the tabret, which probably did not have jingles and timber, which was probably closer to the instrument we know today. Women played these instruments during celebratory events, and tambourine playing was associated with dance. Students appreciate the earliest name of the pre-tambourine instrument in the Bible to have occurred around 1750 BC, in Genesis 31:27 ‘Why did you flee in secret and steal from me, and I did not tell myself that I had sent you away with joy and with songs, with tablet and with harp? ‘ (King James Version).


People also played timber in religious ceremonies and in worship, as in 2 Samuel 6: 5, ‘And David and all the house of Israel played every way for the Lord of granite instruments, even on harps and on psalteries and on dental floss and on barley and on cymbals . ‘Another example appears in Psalm 68:25,’ The singers went before, the players on instruments followed, among them were the damsels playing with timbrels’ (KJV).


Musicians have included the drum in a huge range of music over the years. Traveling entertainers used them in the Middle Ages, and such European classical composers as Mozart and Stravinsky required tambourines in their music.

Bob Dylan killed the bushman of 1960s folk music in ‘Herr Tambourine Man’ and the lemon pipes had a number one hit with ‘Green Tambourine’. In Creedence Clearwater Revival’s’ Lookin ‘Out My Back Door’, the singer comes home to find a happy gala on his lawn, including tambourines and elephants playing in a band. Since the drum has existed since ancient times in different cultures, we have no record of who invented it. This percussion instrument originated in the Middle East, and its predecessor is mentioned many times in the Bible. Middle Eastern music has featured tambourines throughout recorded history.