The Bodhran

The bodhran – a unique Irish percussion instrument – is sometimes compared to other forms of ethnic frame drums but what makes it so special is the playing technique we use in Irish traditional music sessions.

We must continue to care for the identity of this instrument as it beats alongside the chirping tin whistle, rattling banjos and rosin stained fiddles of this world. It’s hard to ignore the rhythmic beat of the bodhran in a jig or a reel or a hornpipe being played with gusto among friends and fellow traditional music lovers. There are many varieties of bodhrans available to us today ranging from ones being manufactured in the Far East to custom-made ones here in Ireland – tunable ones … even electric ones. The type of bodhran you require I guess should reflect the interest and commitment you have.

On buying your first bodhran there are a few things to look out for:

The size of the bodhran – 18” are the most common for starters for adults and easier to play on. However, a smaller bodhran may be more suitable for children to hold and control. Secondly, the skin of the bodhran should be goatskin if at all possible as it is thicker and less sensitive to room temperatures.

The wooden frame is also important, ensure it is strong and at least 1.5” wide.

The stick or ‘cipin” that is used is really a personal choice. You will see many different sticks being used as you come across different players. Most players have different sticks with them which have different effects when used.  Overall the bodhran is a low maintenance instrument – just a little care needed to keep the skin supple and the tension right.  Many Irish homes have a bodhran lying around somewhere in the house … often hanging on a wall after being received as a gift. The owners of these wonderful machines don’t realise the enjoyment that can be gained from taking it down, dusting it off and discovering the rhythm and heartbeat it can create to many, many wonderful Irish airs and ballads.

If you have an interest in traditional Irish music it is not the hardest thing in the world to learn to play the Bodhran and become part of your local seisiun. Every branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann  (CCE) have information on lessons for the bodhran – and indeed most traditional Irish instruments – for the very beginners of all ages. Navan branch of CCE currently offer access to these lessons – just visit their website

The ‘bodhran for beginners’ course in Navan currently takes place in Beaufort College on Tuesday evenings. The course is of six classes covering basic beats and has been enjoyed by many.  Contact Martin at 086 049 5673