The Difference Between a Tambourine & a Pandeiro

Updated March 23, 2017

A tambourine and a pandeiro are both hand-held musical instruments in the percussion family. They have a very similar appearance and both often feature frames and bell discs, taut drum-like skins, and make a jingling sound when played. Both instruments are used for various types of music and can be played in several ways.


A pandeiro is a Brazilian instrument that resembles a tambourine. The primary difference is that a pandeiro contains an adjustable head and the jingles are crisper in sound, more staccato. Many pandeiros have a drum-like head on them made of plastic, or goat or calf skin. Common sizes of this circular instrument are 10 to 12-inches across. A tambourine generally contains a wood or plastic frame ringed with pairs of metal jingles. Both the pandeiro and the tambourine are circular shaped.


When a person plays a pandeiro, he holds it in his hand near the frame and strikes it with the other hand with either his palm, finger tips, heel or thumb. To play a tambourine, it is either held in a person's hand or placed on a stand. The player shakes it or hits it with his hand. Another way to play a tambourine is to rotate it back and forth while moving the risk. This is known as a tambourine roll. Normally, a person playing either instrument holds it in her weaker hand and strikes it with her stronger hand.


The tambourine instrument comes from the Middle Persian word "tambur" and is currently used for many types of music including classical, Roma, Persian, gospel and rock. The Brazilian pandeiro is primarily used for Brazilian music, including Samba, Choro and Brazilian funk.

Thumb Roll

One advanced technique used with the tambourine or pandeiro is called the thumb roll. It occurs when a person moves his finger, primarily his thumb, over the jingles on the instrument very rapidly. When done properly, the thumb produces a rolling sound over the jingles. This technique requires a lot of practice to learn the correct amount of pressure.

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About the Author

Jennifer VanBaren started her professional online writing career in 2010. She taught college-level accounting, math and business classes for five years. Her writing highlights include publishing articles about music, business, gardening and home organization. She holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting and finance from St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind.