Tambourines are iconic percussion instruments that are instantly recognizable by anyone, musician, or not. Their distinct metallic ring gives a high-pitched sound that can be effective in so many different situations.
As drummers and percussionists, we don’t often have free hands to hold tambourines. So, companies have designed pedals and straps to play percussion with our feet.
Here are some of the best foot tambourines and kick pedal combos.
Best Foot Tambourines for the Money
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The LP188 is a small tambourine with 4 nickel-plated steel jingles that produce a fairly bright tone. It has an elastic band that is intended to fit around a shoe. The band fits most shoe sizes, making this tambourine usable by all shapes of people.
The LP188 is best suited for intimate environments that are indoors. It sounds great and gives a full range of use consistent with most headless tambourines. The sound is quite ‘toyish’, having short attacking jingles.
It’s great for using it as a hi-hat replacement when playing on a cajon. It’s light enough to play consistent foot taps without feeling any extra weight.
The elastic band that straps around shoes is very durable. However, if it breaks, it’s easy to replace.
The LP188 is seriously inexpensive, making it a great teaching device. You could buy a few of these and use them in your music classroom. I’ve often made my drum students strap tambourines to their feet and march around the class to internalize time. The LP188 can be used as a hand tambourine as well.
The one downside to it is its volume. It’s not the loudest tambourine around, meaning it won’t work musical environments that aren’t mellow and intimate.
The first thing you’ll notice about the LP386 is its build quality. Latin Percussion and DW have come together to produce a product that is solid and meant to last. It’s basically a kick pedal that has a tambourine instead of a beater. The tambourine hits a piece of practice pad material to get a snappy jangle sound.
The great thing about this product is how you can integrate it into a drum kit setup. The DW 2000 series pedal is built like a tank, comfortably fitting in anywhere you place it.
You’ll find that drummers usually place foot tambourines to the left of their hi-hat pedals. This makes it easy to quickly change between playing the hi-hat and playing the tambourine.
The LP386 is a better alternative to placing a tambourine on top of your hi-hat. When you have a tambourine on your hi-hat, the problem is that you’ll always have that tambourine sound. The LP386 lets you choose exactly when to have the sound.
The fact that it comes with a DW 2000 pedal makes it quite pricey. However, you can connect a standard beater to the pedal and use it for a kick drum. So, you’d be buying a pedal that has multiple uses.
Although Meinl is most well-known for their cymbals, they produce some high-quality percussion instruments that are innovative and loved by many players. The FJS2S-BK is one of their finest-quality foot tambourines.
It’s made from a hardwood frame and has 4 pairs of jingles inside. The solid frame makes it durable, allowing you to play quite aggressively without worrying about it breaking.
It has a beautiful tone when hit that is much louder than competitor foot tambourines. The tone is dark, blending into mixes rather than sitting on top of them. It’s actually too loud to be used in quiet and intimate environments. So, it’s great for outdoor gigs or loud coffee shops and jazz clubs.
The great thing about this foot tambourine is that it’s easy to take off, allowing you to quickly slide it off in the middle of a gig if you no longer want to play it.
The strap is designed in a way that makes it very hard to replace, making it quite a mission if it breaks.
The CFT5-BK was designed for cajon players. However, it works in many different musical environments and contexts. It’s one of the only foot tambourines around that sounds like a regular hand tambourine. This is thanks to the 5 pairs of stainless steel jingles that are mounted onto the rubber wood body.
It’s very responsive and is able to cut through a mix of amplified acoustic guitars, making it a great option for intimate acoustic gigs. It has an adjustable strap, enabling it to fit on all sizes of shoes. The adjustable strap also allows you to get creative and strap it onto other places.
You could strap it onto your wrist when playing drums to get a present tambourine sound with everything you play. If that is too much, you could just strap it onto a cymbal stand.
A downside to this foot tambourine is that the pins occasionally fall out, so you’ll have to periodically do a bit of repairing.
Types of Foot Tambourines
Tambourines come in all shapes and sizes. The two main types of hand tambourines are ones that have a skin to play with your hands and ones that don’t.
When it comes to foot tambourines, you get ones that strap to your foot and ones that are set up with a pedal mechanism.
The foot tambourines that attach directly to your foot are typically cheaper. They’re also not used in complex drum or percussion setups as they’re not easy to attach and detach from your shoe quickly.
Foot tambourines that have their own pedal are designed to be used in a percussion setup. They’re used as an alternative to a bass drum or hi-hat pedal.
Why Use a Foot Tambourine?
There are several great uses for foot tambourines. The ones that attach to your foot can be used for playing in small venues where you’re using a small setup. If you’re playing Cajon, you can use one of those tambourines to add a different voice to your playing.
The foot tambourines that attach to your foot are also fantastic teaching tools. When I have students that struggle with feeling rhythms and time, I’ll sometimes make them march around the room at a set pace.
Getting them to use a foot tambourine allows them to hear the pulse as well as feel it. There are many more useful applications similar to that.
The foot tambourines that have pedal mechanisms are great in drum or percussive setups. They allow you to play a tambourine sound with your foot while still playing drums with the rest of your limbs.
It’s often a great alternative to a hi-hat foot sound. It’s more aggressive and cuts through a mix easier.
Music that Uses Tambourines
The great thing about tambourines is that they fit with most music. A tambourine is one of the most versatile percussion instruments you get, making it a great tool to have no matter what you play.
When it comes to foot tambourines, Latin would arguably be the one drumming style that would utilize them the most.
Latin music puts a heavy focus on limb coordination, with many sound sources being played at the same time. A great Latin drummer would make excellent use of a foot tambourine.
Percussion vs Drums
A tambourine is a percussion instrument, but most percussion instruments can be easily integrated into a drumming setup.
Percussionists and drummers are both important to most bands, so you could benefit from having a foot tambourine if you’re either one of these.
If you have a percussion setup, the foot tambourine will allow you to play that tambourine sound while having your hands free to play other percussive instruments like congas or shakers.
The only downside is that a foot tambourine won’t allow you to play 16th notes. So, you should still keep a hand tambourine to play.
Using a foot tambourine in a drum setup is a bit less common, but it can add a great sense of variety to your drum sound.
Foot tambourines have so many uses. You could be a drummer that has to play a gig in an intimate coffee shop and the foot tambourine could work well as a replacement for a hi-hat pedal.
You could have a percussion pedal next to your hi-hat pedal to have an extra percussion sound for playing latin music. You could even be a full-time percussionist, needing different tambourine sounds.
Your creativity as a drummer will extend the use of a foot tambourine. It’s a good idea to have one, just in case you need it for a gig.