Care of your Bodhran

Now you have purchased your Paul McAuley Bodhrán its time to start and master the art of playing it.  Like most things in Ireland, the origins of the Bodhrán have been lost in the mists of time.  The drum was invented many years ago in Ireland and metamorphosis from a work implement to its present state of art.  It arrived in Ireland  from abroad, between one and two thousand years ago.   The name itself when translated means “that which deafens”.  It is derived from an Irish word “bodhar” which can be translated as “dull sounding” and it is natural to assume that the name was given directly to the instrument because of the sound that comes from it.   Pronouncing the name of the instrument can be quite difficult for people not familiar with the Irish language.  The two main ways of pronouncing it are: “BOUGH-RAWN” and (B) “BO-RAWN”.  To get round this problem some people simply call the instrument a drum, others refer to it incorrectly as a tambourine.  Whatever you call it, the bodhrán has a place in Irish music today which is without doubt a great one.




There are three basic drums to be found in the world: tubular, kettle and frame.  Each race and culture developed the drum according to its needs.  The drum was handed down or across from race to race, culture to culture.  The Bodhrán is made from a circle of wood (e.g ash or birch) which is easily bent and upon which is stretched a specially treated skin from the goat or sometimes deer.  At first glace, it may remind one of a skin tray or a sieve, such as is used on a building site to sift sand or gravel.  So we have a connection between
the work instrument and the musical instrument.  “What is the secret of the Bodhrán?” 
“Was it a drum first which became a useful work instrument, or was it the other way round?”

The important part of the drum is the skin.  After the skilled process of cleaning and
treating, it is stretched across the frame and affixed by tacks. 

It may have a cross-piece or single-bar inserted, depending on if its a fixed skin or a tuneable bodhran and the bar will serve the dual purpose of easy handling and an aid to tension.   The single-bars fitted to any tuneable can be made to be removed, if required by the individual player.  When ordering a tuneable please specify if you want a single-bar or not.  The other essential piece of equipment is the stick or beater.  These come in all sized and are made from a variety of woods and differ greatly in weight.  It is essential the player find a beater to suit, as there is nothing worse than a beater that is too long, too short, too heavy or too light.


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Hi Paul, Just wanted to say thank you for the bodhran which arrived safely today. It looks and sounds beautiful - even the sticks are little works of art! At our next practice night, I will definitely be voting for more traditional Irish songs to be added to our set so that I can get to play it for the maximum time possible! Thanks again and best wishes, Jane.