the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

UK terminology

tabber / tabberer

[notes I have made; further research may thow up new uses for the term 'tabber'.
Please let me know if you have something to add.]

by frances

"Tabber" appears to be15th to19th century spelling/useage for drumming in general, as well an ancester to ' tabor' as a musical instrument.

1. Definition: 'Tabber' - to tap or to drum, a verb

"With Hammer on Kettle he tabbers all Day"

from the song 'Tom Tinker's my true love' (Playford 1651, Beggers Opera 1729)

I have found 'tabber' in regional glossaries of local dialects of these counties:


Tabber , v. to make a drumming noise

Hartland, Devon









Sandwich, Kent

"wee all have bin ruled by him and so will be." There were further revels,
culminating in a free banquet enlivened with a tabber and pipe-playing,
"after the manner of men- of-war."


to tap, pat or strike quickly with the feet or anything else

"Tabber, n To tap or pat, so as to make a sound"





S. E. Worcestershire
West Worcestershire
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

"tabber - to tap or drum Nahum ii.7 comp tabor"

In 1905 a number of these definitions were gathered together in one volume which also includes 'You can tabber on a drum' and 'hence Taborer - a country dancer' and a local dancing celebrity known as 'Jack the taborer'


2. tabber, a noun, played for dancing 1580,

"Dance afftter drom, let tabber goe, the musyck is nott good
thatt macks men look liek gyrlls, and mynce on carypaytts gaye"  

' A light Bondell of liuly discourses called Churchyards Charge' - presented as a Newe yeres gifte to the right honourable, the Earl of Surrie, in which Bondell of verses is sutche varietie of matter, and seuerall inuentions, that maie bee as delitefull to the Reader, as it was a Charge and labour to the writer, sette forthe for a peece of pastime, by Thomas Churchyarde (1520?-1604)


3. tabber and pipe played together 1601
Two men were excommunicated for playing the pipe and tabor at the time of church services - it is not clear whether
they played them during the church service, or instead of going to church:

10 th March Willelmus Hopkins excommunicated
"detected for playeing at tabber and pype at servis tymes"

Andreras Philpotat
"detected for playeing at tabber and pype at servis tymes"

(Gloucestershire Diocese Consistory Court Case Book GRO: GDR 90)


4. tabber pipe played to accompany maypole dancing
from a poem of the1500's:

"Of suche as could a diffrence make, of drom and trompetts sounde,  
(Fro tabber pipe & Maipole mirth,) their helpyng hands he founde:  "

A storie translated out of Frenche in: ' Bibliographical miscellanies: being a selection of curious pieces, in verse' by Philip Bliss, Thomas Churchyard (c.1520 – 1604)


5. drumstick / tabber stick 1671

 " That with her Tabber Stick strike up she may,
Tort'ring its Tabber stick that makes it Sound. "

'The poems of Edward Taylor'   by Edward Taylor, (1642? - 1729) Donald E. Stanford


"My tongue my speeches tabber stick can't dance
Unto thy prais as I would have it jump.
My Drumb stick thin of Dogtree Wood is made
And is unfit to beat thy praises Cade"

'Edward Taylor's Gods Determinations and Preparatory Meditations -
A Critical Edition' edited by Daniel Patterson 2003


"their Tongues, than to be a tabber Sticks for hell to beate up a March out against heaven withall:
Oh then What Multitudes? Multitudes of Sins come a tumbling in upon them that they use not their tongues aright. "

6. tabber 20th century, 1918

"As hard as a tabber . Northall, FPh. 9.   Tabber , tabour.
This form rec. fr. 1587 and still current in some Midi. Counties.
The pipe and tabour, for a long time very popular throughout Europe, are now obsolete in England. NED

'.Intensifying similies in English', T. Hilding Svartengren '



to research further

1880 The Complete Works of Samuel Rowlands: Doctor Merrie-man: or, .. '
Samuel Rowlands, Edmund Gosse, Sidney John Hervon Herrtage


"Terrible news for Tabber and Pipe"



" There were further revels, culminating in a free banquet
enlivened with a tabber and pipe-playing, "after the manner of men- of-war."

1954 Gardiner, Dorothy (Kempe), 1873-. - Historic haven : the story of Sandwich. - Derby (Eng.) : Pilgrim Press, 1954. - 55020986


Edward Taylor's Harmony of the Gospels
' Edward Taylor, Thomas Marion Davis, Virginia L ...  1983 '


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