#11 Choosing Your Instrument: Bodhran drum

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Too many people pick up the bodhrán with the laudable desire to join in the music, but without the dedication necessary to learn to play any instrument properly. If you work at it, you can make beautiful music with a bodhrán.

The Rhythm is Critical
You really can’t stress enough that getting the rhythm is critical. However, unlike rock and a lot of other styles, the rhythm instruments,  are not there to create the rhythm, but to draw it out, to accent and highlight it. With a bodhran, the rhythm itself comes from the tune,  how it is structured and phrased, and how it is played by the melody players. The bodhrán shouldn’t try to drive the beat like a rock drummer, and should rarely jump out front to solo. It should match the beat, ornament the rhythm, and follow the music.

Buying your first bodhrán
I bought my bodhran to record a folk album with my good friend Colin Douglas a great folk singer and guitarist and we had such a good time recording the album, but I’ll give you the story of my albums in another blog. I paid £150 for a goatskin version, but I wouldn’t recommend it, because the skin slackens in heat or damp, and just wont play. Don’t disdain plastic drumheads; they are impervious to weather, will hold up to almost any abuse, and on a well-made drum produce a sound well within the range of natural-skin bodhráns

Beaters
I found it helpful to start with a very heavy stick with a large lump in the center. The central bump makes it easier to keep a grip on the beater, and the extra mass makes it easier to learn the basic techniques, especially the double-down stroke.

Video Lessons
I started to learn on my own without any lessons, after about a week of practice I started to loose some skin on my right hand middle finger, so I bought a video. You’ve guessed it!! I was holding the beater the wrong way, so always get some lessons.

Playing the Bodhran Live
Colin and I didn’t do many gigs, but when I picked up the  bodhran up an put it close to the microphone, the audience loved it, and seemed bring out the Celtic spirit lying dormant in our heart’s, that I can only compare to the bagpipes which seem to do the same thing.

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