This week we’ll take a look at the most underrated instrument in music production – the tambourine. Since Fresh Produce is all about listening to music from a producer’s perspective, we challenge you to start listening to how effective this little instrument really is.
Unfortunately for some reason, the tambourine has been given a bad rap – often considered cheesy, lame, worthless, and girly, among other things. But you’d be extremely surprised to find just how many popular songs feature a tambourine at some point. It really is one of the best ways to add energy, emphasize a snare beat, offset lower, harsher rhythms, or add a touch of brightness to a mix.
For this week, our “Top Ten” is really just a variety of ways to use it – not necessarily the greatest songs ever to have a tambourine in them (which is kinda hard to judge – it’s a pretty limited instrumental effect). Enjoy…
10) Beatles – Got to Get You Into My Life
The Beatles were one of the best bands to use this little production secret, and they always do it well.
9) Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground
Classic swing feel that has the tambo accenting the drum backbeats.
8) Ben Folds Five – Brick
So subtle you’ll probably miss it, but listen to spots like :57 and 2:36. Putting the tambourine on the snare backbeat gives a little touch of something new. Also, the final chorus has it the whole time (but depending on your computer speakers, you might not even hear it). Goes to show just how subtly you can use it in a mix.
7) The Cure – Pictures of You
Classic 80’s snare with extra reverb on the tambourine. Gives it some added punch.
6) Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give it Away
Yes, modern rock songs can use it too – it’s not just a grandma instrument.
5) Sade – The Sweetest Taboo
Just a little touch of tambourine with some reverb around 2:43 – makes that section feel a little different. We have nothing to say about the horse and motorcycle scene.
4) U2 – With or Without You
Listen to 3:06 and hear how much the tambourine adds to that next section. Super-effective.
3) Fleet Foxes – Your Protector
Nothing helps folk (especially modern indie folk) like a good tambourine.
2) Laura Marling – Night Terror
I’d argue this is one of the most important sounds in this song – wouldn’t be the same without it. (:45)
1) Third Eye Blind – Jumper
Listen to how they bring it in at the bridge (2:22), and the subconscious “lift” it brings to the song’s energy.