This article is about the musical form and the old French drum, both called the tambourin. For the percussion instrument with a similar name in English, see Tambourine.

The tambourin is a Provençal dance accompanied by lively duple meter music.[1] It is so named because the music imitates a drum (tambour being a generic French term for "drum"), usually as a repetitive not-very-melodic figure in the bass. A small, two-headed drum of Arabic origin is also called the tambourin [de Provence] or tambour de Basque; it is mentioned as early as the 1080s and noted as the "tabor" in the Chanson de Roland). This was played together with a small flute known as the galoubet or flaviol.

Jean-Philippe Rameau included tambourins in many of his operas, such as Platée, Les Indes galantes, and Les fêtes d'Hébé. The last gained more fame in a keyboard arrangement from the E minor suite of his pièces de clavecin.[1] The left-hand part, representing the drum-beat, is difficult to play, particularly in the measures in which it must span an interval of a 10th (E-B-G): It should not be arpeggiated, nor should the G be played an octave lower (E-G-B-E) because the G, the third of the triad, will generally sound "muddy" this low. The piece also contains many ornamental trills. French Baroque music may be ornamented as the performer chooses. Accordingly, additional trills and other ornaments may be added "as taste dictates."

The tambourin was popular throughout the 18th century and can be found in Handel's Alcina and Gluck's Iphigénie en Aulide, among others.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 Ewen, David (1959). "Tambourin". Encyclopedia of Concerto Music. New York: Hill and Wang. p. 505.

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