Description of the Bodhran
The bodhran is the traditional Celtic frame drum. The cross braces and laminated rosewood strengthen the shell of this goatskin-covered drum. With a rich deep sound, these drums are great fun even if you have not mastered the traditional playing.
Playing the Bodhran
To begin, hold the drum by the cross bracing. This is a nice secure grip. When you become familiar with playing the drum and your arms strengthen you can advance to a more sophisticated grip. At that time you can try sliding your hand between the cross bracing and the drum head. This allows you to press your fingertips against the inner rim of the drum head. Doing this lets you alter the sounds that the drum makes while being played. The traditional method of playing the bodhran is a fast back and forth swinging of the beater over the face of the drum. Hold the beater in your dominant hand. Hold it with a grip similar to holding a pencil. When you hold a pencil you hold it near the end with most of the pencil sticking out above your fingers. When holding a beater, most of the beater hangs down from your fingers. The grip is very similar to holding a thermometer. The motion you want to achieve is the same motion as shaking a thermometer before using it. The swing is in the wrist. The beater has a pendulum-like swing up and down across the head of the drum. The beater makes contact at the top and bottom of the swing. Practice! As you get better you will find that you can add a third beat from the TOP of the beater, but that takes some time. Have fun.
There are a number of styles of Bodhran, but basically two types. There are the tacked or fixed-head Bodhrans, and then there are the Bodhrans with tunable heads. The natural skin heads of the Bodhran will react to changes in temperature and humidity. Tunable Bodhrans are best when you will be playing in uncontrolled climatic conditions. You can adjust the tension easily for hot dry days or humid days.
We offer three different sizes and three different styles of Bodhran. There are the tacked heads, inside tunable and outside tunable. The diameter sizes are 14 inch, 18 inch, and 26 inch. All our Bodhrans have rosewood or mulberry frames and cross braces, and are shipped with a double headed and a slim beater. We sell the accessories separately.
Care and Reheading of Bodhrans
The natural skin drum heads should be treated with care. The head can be punctured or scarred by improper handling. Do not expose them to extremes in temperature or humidity. Too much moisture will make the drum head loosen, but then as it dries it may over tighten and damage the frame. If your drum’s sound seems too dull because of the humidity you may wish to apply some heat. Some professional drummers keep a heating pad on stage to adjust their drum heads. The best thing is to treat all musical instruments with care.
In time, your drum head may need to be replaced. If you have the time and a little patience you can replace your own head. We sell the modified Fiberskyn heads pre-mounted for easy replacement. The tacked and natural skin heads will require more work, but, with a little guidance you can do it. Contact a drum circle in your area for friendly helpful advice.