The Bodhran
Bodhranii - Irish Drum

The Bodhran

The Bodhran is a framed drum that originates from Ireland. It is hallow one side and has a cover the other side (traditionally this was goatskin although more recently it is likely to be made from synthetic materials or possibly Kangaroo skin) the player puts his hand inside the drum against the skin cover and this is how the pitch and timbre is controlled.

The Bodhran was used in the early part of the 15th century to announce the coming of war or to keep the pace for an army out fighting. Its use in modern Irish music is relatively new but it has all but replaced the tambourine for this purpose now.

It has been said that the Bodhran resembles the skin drums that are seen in native America and a Spanish link has been suggested to explain their use in Ireland.

There was a time however, where their use was slightly unusual for a musical instrument. It would seem that around the time of the mid 20th century the drum was more likely to be found in the kitchen than anywhere else! It was used for separating chaff, baking and storing utensils.

The drum is most usually played in a seated position with the player resting the drum on his or her thigh and holding its vertically using the arm. It is then played by either using the other hand or with a special wooden stick called a tipper or with a brush ended tipper. There are different ways and styles of playing the drum and they are named after the part of Ireland that they originated from. The most usual form of playing is the Kerry style and this involves using both ends of a tipper. However, in the West Limerick style only one end of the tipper is used.

A lot of very good Bodhran players like to use a tipper that is made from either violin or cello bows. The tipper needs to be both thin and dense to get the best sound and the material of choice is rosewood. The ideal length for the tipper is between 6 and 9 inches long.