The Bodhran again………

The Bodhran again………

Its a while since there has been a good discussion about the drum.So I just felt like expressing an opinion……..I feel that the biggest problem with the bodhran is that it must be your main if not only Instrument to reach the standard of the great players . I know that there are a few players like Brian Morrisey and others who have mastered other instruments but to get up there with the McDonaghs the Murphys and the Kellys Its Impossible to have time for anything else when you look at the time they have put into the drum .I’m playing a bit of bouzouki at the momment and even though it has helped my druming in some ways I just wonder is it slowing down my progress on the drum and stopping me from reaching the level i want to get to………………And just a reminder to those of you who think they acheive success on the drum in a short period of time .ye are fooling yourselves……..
Regards
eddie

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that last sentence rings very true…I have kids coming to my classroom every day to "play the drums" and I always tell them, it’s the easiest instrument to play poorly, and one of the most difficult to play well.

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And I think there is a big learning curve to go through just to get back to playing simple.

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I heartily and emphatically disagree with both of you. The bodhran is NOT a difficult instrument to play well. That doesn’t mean that everyone who thinks they can play are good. There is very little to master on bodhran compared to a melody instrument. That’s a simple fact. However, having taste and discretion may be something some will never have.

If you can’t get really good on bodhran within three months, I suggest you find another instrument.

Regarding being some kind of virtuoso, I would respectfully submit that not only is this not necessary, but also not desirable. The things a bodhran should do are not virtuosic. That doesn’t mean you can’t develop some fantastic techniques, if that’s your bag. I just wouldn’t recommend it, because frankly, with the exception of the occasional solo, no one wants to hear it.

I am a bodhran player, so I am not slamming the instrument. To me, a good band should always have one. But it should NEVER be the only instrument someone can play, IMO.

Cheers.

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Give me Conneff/Moore/Murphy/McDonagh any day over Kelly, Higgins and all those other trendy, modern bodhran tune-players. What next? Tuneful bloody bones?

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Unleashing the hoards ~ they’re coming ~ I just did an introductory class in banging the drum, basic beats, with around 16 others…all amateurs more familiar with a dance figure than a note of music… What is the sound of 17 non-drummers drumming? ~ 8-)

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Ailin …….."There is very little to master on bodhran compared to a melody instrument." Ok give the people on this site some credit I think most of us know the differences……so just two questions for you .
1.If Its so easy why are there so few great players?
2.Is it just a coincidence that two of the greatest players of all time had the bodhran as thier only instrument? e.g. McDonagh and Murphy.

Steve I agree I love the old styles but I did play in a session with kelly and I have to give credit where its due he has great drive to his playing..

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Saint,

I don’t agree that there are few great players. There are likely proportionately more good bodhran players than possibly anything else. I really don’t know, but it seems reasonable to me.

I guess if bodhran is your only instrument, you will develop some abilities others do not possess. But really, and I mean this in all sincerity, with all due respect, and as an accomplished player myself - who cares?

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Ailin…..I Care for what its worth………………."I guess if bodhran is your only instrument, you will develop some abilities others do not possess".This is my point why be a jack of all trades and a master of none.

"There are likely proportionately more good bodhran players than possibly anything else."
I don’t know where you get this from.

And the fact you could not ans. the two questions says it all for me.

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Speaking from the point of view of someone who plays tunes (flute and whistle) and backing (bodhran and a little bit of zouk) I have to say that it has been my experience that one informs the other in a very beneficial way. That is to say that a lot of the best melody players i’ve played with all have some degree of competency on a backing instrument and vice versa. I get what you’re saying saint about not wanting to negelct putting time into your drumming, but putting some of that time into learning tunes or learning how other backing instruments (guitars etc) approach them will go a long way to making you a more well rounded accompanist.
I think everyone here would agree that most sessions/players will be far more accomodating to a drummer who can deomonstrate that a great deal of time has been invested in learning to understand how the melodies of this music operate, rather than spending countless hours honing technique alone.

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What’s the problem, Saint? Of course I answered your questions; you simply don’t agree, which is your privilege. One can become a master of anything, even licking postage stamps - but to what purpose? I think you understand my point.

You ask where I get my assumption that there are plenty of good bodhran players. I get the assumption from simple experience and listening to recordings. And exactly where do you get the notion that there are few good players?

So before you get all glib about how my answers say it all to you, take a look at your attitudes and assumptions and ask yourself who declared you an expert.

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To be honest Ailin I find it very annoying when someone makes little of an Instrument I have spent alot of time on. I never said I was an expert looking back you are the one who said "as an accomplished player myself " well good for you .

And comments Like "If you can’t get really good on bodhran within three months, I suggest you find another instrument" are so naive and probably the reason why people turning up to sessions with bodhrans with little practice behind them.

To Finish Ailin I expressed an opinion and you heartily and emphatically disagreed so that started this harmless arguement,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,But If you can name ten other great bodhran players I ll appoligise whole heartily……………..Licking postage stamps and playing the drum are different in my opinion .But then again I would never knock someone who licks stamps……………………

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Now, as an acknowledged "maestro" of the drum, I agree, and disagree with Ailin. My favourite expression at many sessions has always been "I am the only one who can join De Danaan/ Flook, /Bothies/Chieftains" in the morning, albeit on a "HUMBLE" bodhran.

So yes, it is just a drum, but over 40 years I have met very few good players. It really does suffer from the old "that looks easy" syndrome, and to say if it cannot be mastered in three months, try another instrument, is crass. Perhaps that applied to Ailin, but everyone is different. I think I learnt the harmonica in a short period of time, but couldn’t get a rhythm on a drum after three months. I was way ahead playing slow airs on the mandolin after three months. As I say, everyone is different.

But where I really disagree, is when Ailin states "with the exception of the occasional solo, no one wants to hear it."

Now I cannot imagine anyone wanting to hear a bodhran solo, but at most sessions the uneducated punter (most of them) want to hear the drum above all else.

Perhaps if President Cheney declared them to be WMDs, he would do the world, and certainly this site, a favour.

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If the hoards are being unleashed, where can I get some? A bit of coin would come in handy.

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Nobody learns the harmonica in a short period of time, Bliss. Even the little 10-hole harp is more complex than a Steinway grand and you know it. As for the humble bodhran, it is so complex that no-one in the history of humanity has ever learned to play it properly. Yourself possibly excepted, natch.

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I think the hoards were tamed a few weeks back………….bodhran solo was that the fella in star wars

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I disagree

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The bodhran can be a great instrument. But, because of the bad players, it has become by and large the butt of a lot of jokes and, as a result has lost some credibility. This is unfortunate because it may now be the case that anyone with the musical mind and temperament to make a good job of studying and playing the bodhran, will be reluctant to take it up because to do so lays them open to the charge of being nothing more than a thick-headed, arhythmic drongo beating a dead goat. Hahaha! Learn a proper instrument why doncha?

One of the problems is that a bad melody player is unlikely to know all the tunes and has to be quiet from time to time. A bad bodhran player knows all the tunes. A really good bodhran player is a great asset.

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Saint,

Without getting angry, let’s take a look at where we differ.

I am going to state what I consider to be facts. If we cannot agree on these points, we probably will need to simply agree to disagree. Here goes:

1. When it comes to the pure physical ability to play the drum, one does not need to develop something analagous to an embouchure or finger dexterity. In other words, if you haven’t played in a year, your physical ability to play will not be impaired.

2. All bodhran technique is a variation on two basic rhythms: jig time and reel time. Once you have mastered the difference between the two, everything else is a matter of accents and embellishments played within those rhythms.

3. Except for solos, the bodhran should support the melody instruments, and its voice should not call attention to itself. This is a primary difference between what a bodhran adds to a band and what a melody instrument adds.

4. Unlike a melody instrument, the bodhran player need not do anything specific within a tune other than keep the beat. Therefore, the player need not learn each note of the tune the way a melody player must.

Now, I will readily admit that some people simply have no talent for hearing the beat. I have many times asked a bodhran player to start a jig or reel that I would then layer a tune on with my flute, and they couldn’t do it. Whalloping away on the bodhran does not a musican make, and I acknowledge that. However, if you have any gift for time and rhythm, you can master jigs and reels in short order. After that, it’s pretty much a matter of how you tastefully add your accents and embellishments. This is not a lengthy process if you have any gift for it at all.

I don’t memorize band lineups so that I can name all the good players that don’t specialize on bodhran, but I consider Ian MacDonald, formerly the piper, flute, and whistle player for the Battlefield Band as being as good as one gets. The bodhran Triona played with the Bothy Band was certainly fine, and both members of the Corries were multi-instrumentalists who certainly knew their way around a bodhran. So that’s four - not the ten you asked for, so you don’t need to apologize.

I hope I’m being clear when I say that after a certain point, trying to be a yet better bodhran player is above and beyond the call of duty. You can only serve the music so well when you are not actually playing the melody.

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I would just like to post the first again so we don’t loose track of my point .I never wanted to get into a discussion about the differences between the drum and a melody instrument.

Its a while since there has been a good discussion about the drum.So I just felt like expressing an opinion……..I feel that the biggest problem with the bodhran is that it must be your main if not only Instrument to reach the standard of the great players . I know that there are a few players like Brian Morrisey and others who have mastered other instruments but to get up there with the McDonaghs the Murphys and the Kellys Its Impossible to have time for anything else when you look at the time they have put into the drum .I’m playing a bit of bouzouki at the momment and even though it has helped my druming in some ways I just wonder is it slowing down my progress on the drum and stopping me from reaching the level i want to get to………………And just a reminder to those of you who think they acheive success on the drum in a short period of time .ye are fooling yourselves……..
Regards
eddie

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Yes you should know each note of the tune. I’m not saying that you should be able to play it on another instrument, but you should know it. It’s always been my contention that the bodhran has got such a bad name precisely because nearly everyone who "plays" it thinks they just need to bang out a generic rhythm regardless of the nuances of the tune. It’s not good enough. If you don’t know the tune you’re accompanying intimately you are just going to round off all the corners and blunt the edges. And at the end of the day a bodhran is never needed, and that’s worth remembering by any aspiring bodhran player too.

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Thinking that being able to thump in 6/8 and 4/4 (or 2/4) is all you need to know is precisely what’s so desperately bad about so many goat beaters (and other backers, and even none too few melody players).

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Ailin I respect your opinion but I do disagree .
so to show you where I differ Im going to mark your ans. (for the fun of it"

. When it comes to the pure physical ability to play the drum, one does not need to develop something analagous to an embouchure or finger dexterity. In other words, if you haven’t played in a year, your physical ability to play will not be impaired.Wrong If I put the drum down for a few days I suffer when I get back to it.

2. All bodhran technique is a variation on two basic rhythms: jig time and reel time. Once you have mastered the difference between the two, everything else is a matter of accents and embellishments played within those rhythms.Wrong There is a big difference when It comes to Polkas ,Hornpipes,Slides they are all different.

3.Except for solos, the bodhran should support the melody instruments, and its voice should not call attention to itself. This is a primary difference between what a bodhran adds to a band and what a melody instrument adds. correct

.4. Unlike a melody instrument, the bodhran player need not do anything specific within a tune other than keep the beat. Therefore, the player need not learn each note of the tune the way a melody player must.wrong There is alot more to playing the tune than keeping the beat and the more familiar the player is with the tune the better.And everyone knows the difference between the difficulities of both.

Ailin that a fail sorry

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Saint, I don’t play bodhran, but I faced a similar concern when I decided to start learning tenor banjo and flute, on top of playing fiddle for many years.

No doubt, I’d be technically better now on fiddle if I weren’t spending time on banjo and flute. And I’ll likely never get very good on either banjo or flute.

But I can say that learning these other instruments has given me shedloads of insight about playing with banjo and flute players. I understand their tune choices, and I can better anticipate their general approach to a tune, phrasing, and all the twiddly bits. So it’s made me a better fiddle player, and certainly a better session participant.

In the end, there’s only so many hours in a day I can stand to play one instrument anyway. It’s nice to have some variety. Over the course of 30 years, I’ve lost count of how often I’ve played fiddle to the point of risking repetitive stress injury. Now I can mix it up and avoid most joint and tendon problems.

Hope this helps.

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just for the record I have an A note in my head that I can produce any time I don t need it for playing the bodhran but I know alot of melody players who would love to be able to do this..

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Steve, I bought a HERO harmonica, seven bob it cost, in 1966. Learnt to play "Pretty Flamingo" the first day. The 10 hole things baffled me because they don’t have all the notes.

When people ask me for bodhran lessons I always tell them there is only one. Show them how to position the playing hand, simple jig and reel rhythm, and tell them all the rest is a matter of playing along with CDs and practice, and if you have a feel for it, even better.

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cheshire

Excellent points but I don’t know If ringo or murphy would have been better players if they played other instruments……

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Outside of actually playing the drum the most important thing is listening . So would one be better off working on his/her listening skills than learning another instrument to improve my bodhran playing because as we all know alot of melody players are not good listeners ……………..

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Yep, any person’s mileage may vary from mine.

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Bliss, you paid seven bob in ‘66 for a Hero? You were ripped off. Next thing, you’ll be telling me you paid over fifty quid for a bodhran. Smell that hide. If you can’t smell goat farts, it’s calf and you should take it back to Hobgoblin immediately! :-D

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Lads anyone know anywhere in liverpool where i can get a tune

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Assuming this is a hobby and not a career, shouldn’t the goal be to enjoy yourself instead of obsessing over technical mastery? And, if you’ve already got one instrument up to a good playing level, wouldn’t it be a hoot to pick up another completely alien device and decide to make music with it?

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I’m with you Silver Bow. Its all about making music isn’t it??

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obsessing over technical mastery is my hobbie

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Its all about making music isn’t it…………………….thats what good players say..ha

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Ailin,

I think you’ve summed up about every feature of a certain genre of bodhran players that makes me cringe.

All tunes are either jig time or reel time with varied ornaments?

If you haven’t mastered it in three months, give up? (By which I sort of assume you mean there’s nothing more to learn after those initial three months)

You don’t need to actually know the tunes, just the rhythms?

You only have a limited repertoire after playing ITM for 25 years because you "only like tunes that stand out, and if they don’t you can’t be bothered memorising them"?

The bodhran shouldn’t be heard - it’s only to support the melody instruments?

In these statements I can see the seeds of many mediocre (at best) players I have had the misfortune to sit next to over the years.

Good bodhran players are like gold dust, and for exactly the same reason. You have to sift through an awful lot of dirt to find them.

Eno :-(

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just listened to a bit of de danan I say it took more than 3 months for ringo to play the way hes playing for johhnny o learys polka………….super stuff

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I agree with steve. The bodhran is never needed. Much unlike that sturdy reliable cornerstone of traditional music, without which any attempt at a session or any other musical undertaking is doomed to failure. I speak of course dear friends, of THE HARMONICA!!!

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The bodhran is never needed. say that to De Danan,Flook,Teada,The Chieftans,Stocton Wing,Christy Moore,Jackie Daly and Seamus Creaghs cd (where the drum was the only acc.)Conal O Grada,Arcady(they are based on the drum)Martin O Conners award winning CD(Alot of bodhran on that)Mary Bergin two CDS(The bodhran is a big part of these class cds)Pagraig Rynne(a nice bit of drumming on that on) just to name a very few situations in Irish Music where the bodhran was needed .

So maybe the drum is needed sometimes and If there were more good bodhran players at sessions there would be more NEED for the drum.

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What you don’t know about silver bow is that he’s a fiddler who’s just recently taken up the….












….button box.

Yikes!


Just kidding. He’s made amazing progress on it, like he was born to the thing, and is already threatening our session with the Belfast Hornpipe. :o)


If making music was about technical perfection, I’d have packed it in decades ago…..

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I think Steve has a point. The tune is central to ITM - it is the very essence of the music. Anything accompaniment is, in a way, superflous to requirements. If you don’t believe me, then listen to Tony MacMahon and Noel Hill on I gCnoc Na Grai - end of argument.

But … accompaniment can be fantastic. I agree with Saint’s list of bands (wot no Planxty?) but this list proves to be a good accompanist you need to have the technical ability, passion and understanding that a melody player has.

In our local session, we’re plagued by bodhranists who simply don’t listen to ITM (when one was asked if they listened to any Irish music he said "sure, Clannad …"). These chaps are nice blokes, but they are not passionate about the music - they just want to join in, and they got shirty when the good player we have in the session suggested they could improve … they’re not really speaking to us now which is a shame, because the more you listen, understand and get better at your chosen instrument, the more you get out of it.

But the tune’s the key.

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The harmonica is a melody instrument in my hands, Mr Evening, played with single notes without all that bluesy wailing. I assume that your prejudice is a result of lack of exposure. For $15 (Oz) I’ll post you a copy of my CD. Or get in touch with Michael who provided me with an excellent and full review based just on my soundclips. Or, slightly more expensive, get along to The Tree Inn in Cornwall one Friday. There’s even a bodhranista there you can compare me with.

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I must confess I took up the drum to appear "traditional", because no-one, and I mean no-one, played a mouth organ at a session. You would have been laughed out of the place.

The above is not a "dig" at Steve, just the truth when applied to Ireland circa the late 1960s.

By the way Steve, you can tell my bodhran maker that he is a rip off merchant. Depending on your size, I imagine Eamon could make two or three drums out of your skin. He is a bit sensitive. He once bit part of Mike Tyson’s ear off.

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A bit sensitive? You’d have thought that bodhran makers of all people would have learned how to develop thick skins… :-D

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Did you ever peel a calf for one of those skins? They don’t like it, so you’d better honour the poor creature and play it well.

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I’m going to have to disagree. I don’t think it is possible to play the Goat well unless you play another instrument well.

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47 Posts and no comments from dow or llig .If this is the only thing in life i’ve acheived its enough…………

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A good percussionist can get a rhythm going on just about anything and I don’t see why a fancy drum is necessary, except, as bliss said, for the look.

I worked offshore with a Limerick man who was a great man on the bodhran , his father made them, but seldom carried one as he turned anything he could "bate" into a percussion piece. He was always welcome at sessions and didn’t worry about the look as he was confident of his ability and knew that less is more

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I have come to realise that there are people out there that will never give the bobhran credit.The type of people who could sit in a session with the greatest bodhran player in the world and have no respect for him/her just because they are playing the drum . ye sad people i feel so sorry for ye…………..

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I have no issue with the drum, because as I said, the drum isn’t the issue.

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By the way, I feel I am entitled to say this, as a famed bodhran exponent.

If you could play another instrument really well, especially a "melody" instrument, what the hell would you want to play the drum for?

Apart from the adoration afforded by punters.

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I think those of you who have responded to my posts are guilty of selective reading and oversimplifying my points. I never said that everything revolves around jig and reel time; I said that was the bedrock of bodhran playing, and it is. Give me some credit. I play slip jigs, polkas, slides, and all the rest. But they are simply variations on the basic rhythms.

I also never said that you would learn everything you need to know in three months. I said that if you aren’t good within three months, you probably never will be. That is a true and fair statement. If you can’t master the basics and be able to hold your own within that time, continued practice probably won’t help.

If you’re going to repond specifically to me, please try understand my points rather than be snarky about it.

Regarding the comments (and I’ve heard this before) that you need to know a tune before you can drum to it, I can’t imagine where THAT notion came from. Most recordings with bodhran that don’t feature a very specific arrangement feature a very steady beat with embellishments thrown in at the player’s discretion. There are exceptions, but not very many. I really don’t know where this one comes from. I’ve been listening to this stuff for over 25 years, and I rarely hear a bodhran player do something in a tune that has more to do with the melody than it does with the beat.

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I hope I never miss another bodhran thread.

Could someone archive all the bodhran threads from over the years? That would be truly awesome. The Session’s Master Bodhran Link Archive.

That would be, dare I say, bodhranlicious?

I love me a good thumper while I’m fiddlin’, but if any of you turkeys start speeding up on me, so help me…

Q. How do you tell when a bodhran player is at the door?
A. The knocks keep getting faster and faster and faster…

Man walks into a pub in Tyrone with a box under his arm.
"Hey lad" the publican says, "What’s that under yer arm?"
"Just a bit a Semtex."
"Well thank feck fer that, I thought it was a bodhran."

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Ailin, I am now beginning to seriously disagree. I have met thousands of bodhran who unfortunately went to bodhran classes and workshops. At these they are taught basic rhythms, and that’s great if people play basic rhythms all night, but that is highly unlikely. There are nuances in many tunes, and the bodhran player needs these nuances too.

And these taught players, when the music suddenly changes and doesn’t conform to the basic rhythms, they are lost, and succeed in getting bodhran players a bad name.

So knowing the tunes helps one to embellish, otherwise you might as well have one of those things that sits on top of a piano, a metronome or whatever they are called.

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Well said, bliss.

Of course, it’s not just bodhran players who don’t hear the nuances in tunes. Plenty of melody players are guilty too of forcing all jigs into the same feel, or all reels ditto.

Each tune has it’s own personality—you can’t do it justice, on any instrument, unless you know the tune inside and out.

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Bliss, I don’t disagree with you. The problem is, you are taking what I say far too literally. As Cheshire noted, melody players can be as guilty as bodhran players of insensitive and pedestrian playing. Taste, nuance, call it what you will, there is talent involved in playing whatever you play, not just technical expertise. What I’m trying to convey is that the demands of bodhran playing are such that it can be learned far more quickly than most other instruments if one has the knack for it technically, and the talent for it artistically. And to get back to Saint’s point in starting this thread, I disagree that one should focus strictly on bodhran in order to be good or great at it.

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I started playing the bodhran several months ago, and I think that I am doing pretty well. I can maintain a steady rhythm and follow the melody player’s lead. If I wait for at least once through the tune, I can anticipate what the melody is going to do, and can reinforce the melody line. I decided to learn to play the bodhran to improve my understanding of Celtic rythyms, now, I find that it is fun to play the drum! I have also learned that the most important thing about Celtic music is the "Groove", and you don’t need a drum go get it. You can wander off the melody, but you can’t wander from the "Groove" without crashing the session.

{Just my uninformed opinion}

GoatBasher

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The late Johnny Claydon of Whitley Bay was a superb bodhran player, so much so that everyone was delighted when he came to a session, and we all waited eagerly for him to play. The great thing was, he would sit through set after set with the bodhrans on his knee, not playing anything. And then, when the time was right, he would come in with the bodhrans (he often played two or three smallish ones at the same time, clamped together in the one hand) using a single-ended stick, and well he just gave the most magnificent boost to the music. And he did not hold back at all, the drum took pride of place for a few tunes, and then he would be quiet again for another half hour or an hour. What a well-loved bodhran player he was.

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I remember him. Nice bloke and bloody good on the bodhrans and bones as well.

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Ailin, part of the glitch here may be that you outlined 4 points in fairly black and white terms. We don’t have much choice but to take you at your word. And many of us here strongly disagree with you on at leat three of the four points.

I don’t have much vested interest in this because I’ve never once tried to play a bodhran, but maybe I can help clarify one side of the discussion here.

1. In 48 years, I haven’t yet found a physical or mental activity that doesn’t get rusty—especially when attempted at a high level of execution—when I don’t do it for a while. Drumming is no different.

2. Every tune has its own personality, regardless of the meter. Bodhran players (and everyone else) need to know the tune to play it. Also, hornpipes and polkas are not merely "variations" on reel rhythm. Nor are slip jigs and slides "variations" on jig rhythm.

3. This one I can almost agree with, but I listen to *all* of the sounds we make when we play. The bodhran usually supports the melody, but if it’s not adding something, then why play it at all?

4. Each of the bodhran players I regularly play with does indeed play specifically with the tune, rather than simply addressing the beat. A good drummer varies the tone to match the high and low pitched parts of a tune. A good drummer is playful with the timing and phrasing, just as a melody player is. To do this, you must know the tune.

Taken as a whole, your four points do a good job of outlining precisely the qualities many of us find abhorrent in so many mediocre bodhran players.

If this isn’t what you meant, then say what you mean. Of course, it’s possible (likely even) that none of us mean the same thing when we say "good" or "great" drumming. One person’s "good" may be another’s sh*te.

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Re: The Bodhran again………

Bless you Mr Llig. Always there with the vital contribution when needed.

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Actually, Mr Bliss, I respect your contributions on this thread the most, I’m not being sarcastic. What was it you said? "If you could play another instrument really well, especially a "melody" instrument, what the hell would you want to play the drum for?"

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Re: The Bodhran again………

And I wasn’t being sarcastic either. Indeed I was nearly going to quote you when I said it. I have often told flute players, fiddlers, even a piper once, "What the hell are you beating a drum for as well?"

The drum obviously attracts many who see it as an easy way into a session. However some of those people turn out to be very good on the drum, and deserve credit, rather than being condemned as lazy. I mean all of us are guilty of laziness somewhere in life.

But if a leprechaun offered me the choice of being proficient on any ITM instrument, well I for one would not be choosing the bodhran. Probably the pipes, then I could really become elitist.

Re: The Bodhran again………

Yeah, there’s something about the psyche of a tune player that carries a bloody drum round with them. What is it? They play the tunes they know? They bang to those they don’t?

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" Give me some credit. I play slip jigs, polkas, slides, and all the rest. But they are simply variations on the basic rhythms."

Oh dear. If ever a statement summed up everything that’s wrong with bodhran-playing, this is it. Anyone who plays all these kinds of tunes on a melody instrument knows that instantly. I give you no credit. Learn a melody instrument before you beat that poor goat ever again. Save yourself now.

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Steve, the weird thing is that Ailin does play melody—on flute and whistle.

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It’s even weirder then that he thinks that slip jigs, slides, polkas "and all the rest" are simply variants on the rhythms of jigs and reels. It would be just as sensible for me to say that all jigs and slides are simply variants of slip jigs, or that reels are just variants of polkas or polonaises. I find it very worrying that a bodhranist can lump things together like that whilst the rest of us celebrate the wonderful diversity of rhythms in ITM. Worrying, but (going from my experiences with almost all the bodhran players I’ve had the misfortune to play with) not surprising.

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Steve, with all due respect, get a book on music theory. I’m not making this stuff up. If you don’t know anything about meter, best not to enter the discussion. Jigs are in 6/8, slip jigs are in 9/8 - both are variations of counting in three. The same applies to variations of counting in four. If you can distinguish between counting in three and counting in four (many cannot), the rest is easy. I can’t believe it’s taking so much to get this across.

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Yeah, well the last thing that goes on in my mind when I’m playing all those tune types (and I don’t need a book on music theory thank you very much, certainly not as much as you apparently do!) is "counting." I’m rather occupied with melody, lyricism, ornamentation, phrasing and nuance, actually. The very things that very few bodhran "players" I’ve come across appear to concern themselves with in the slightest. We really do have to ask ourselves what ITM is all about.

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Still don’t understand that 4/6 or 9/8 or 4/4 nonsense. That’s what wrong, we are turning out robotic bodhran players.

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You’re not the only one who doesn’t understand that 4/6 nonsense. :-D

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‘A bad bodhran player knows all the tunes’ was quoted some way back. I think - and hope - what was meant was ‘A bad bodhran player "knows" all the tunes’.
A bodhran player who occasionally turns up at one of our sessions has a tipper action that I swear does not vary one iota from the beginning to the end of the session. Fortunately, he’s not particularly loud, and the result is that, as long as you’re not too close to him, is of faint continuous thunder coming from afar. It’s not difficult to learn to block it out.
On the other hand, one of the best bodhran players I know in Bristol won’t play if she doesn’t know the tune. She is also one of the select few who can start off a tune well enough for everyone else to recognise it and join in.

Re: The Bodhran again………

Interesting, Steve. You really don’t know anything about music, do you? Amazing. How can you even begin to talk about something when you have no idea what you’re saying? I can’t possibly continue on with something when you have no vocabulary upon which common ground can be established. I never sought to argue, but only debate. You are getting nasty simply because you can’t keep up. I’m wasting my time.

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lazyhound,
I was listening to a group (cringe) of bodhran players using just that repetitive tipper action last night. The combined effect sounded exactly like a group of five year olds dancing on a wooden floor. And it was the same sound no matter what tunes were being played.

Ailin,
If you still believe that polkas are merely a 2/4 representation of a reel, please never, ever play bodhran when someone is playing a polka. I experienced that last week, and it is truly atrocious.

Luckily we have at least two really accomplished goat beaters in my neck of the woods. Their playing more than makes up for the thumpers. :-)

Re: The Bodhran again………

There is no need for the argument of whether polkas are in 4/4 of or 9/8 is an extension of 6/8 or 2/4 is half of 4/4 etc to get so polarised. You could argue that they are all extensions of 1/1. Ailin is correct to point out the similarities, And others are also correct to point out the differences.

Mr Bliss explained it best above, the only lesson you need is "hold the stick like a pen’, or better still, forget the stick and hold your finger like a pen. Everything else is merely about learning the tunes.

(except with the bodhran, you replace the notes with a thud … If someone could explain the point of that I’m all ears)

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Re: Pass it on ………

I was in a sesh in Huddersfield and someone brought a goat in. One of the musos borrowed it to have a go during a set and the goat was passed around the room, with all musos having a bash on it during the set (having already spent a lifetime playing the devil’s instruments - pa and ac, I declined).
They were all better bashers than the goat owner.

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***gulp…***

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Aha, but 12/8 is the same as triplets in 4/4. I think. Or is it the other way around?

So, if you can count play in reel time you’re sorted because then it’s simply a matter of playing triplets, or triplets in half time in order to get double and single jigs…… :-/

Re: The Bodhran again………

Spoons can be worse than bodhrans….

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Sorry, that was a bit of a wind-up. I don’t really want to bring spoons into it.

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Whilst we’re not talking about spoons, they are my pet hate in any session.

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Maybe you just haven’t heard them played well.

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I keep coming back to this and I make no apology for such reiteration …

IIt simply doesn’t matter how well it’s played, even in the most capable hands, it’s pointless. The only reason it could possibly have any significance whatsoever would be because the punters like it. Even the mostest very bestest of all bodhran players to ever walk this earth, Mr Bodhran Bliss himself, knows this.

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The original post was based around three ideas: great bodhran players; playing the drum only; playing the drum and another instrument; and the question was as to whether or not playing another instrument hampered the bodhranist on his road to greatness: "it must be your main if not only instrument to reach the standard of the great players".

To settle the argument, all we need is one example of a great bodhran player who also plays another instrument to a high standard. If we find such a creature then the hypothesis is disproved. If however we find that the great bodhran players play only the bodhran and nothing else to any significant degree, then the hypothesis is upheld.

I don’t know enough about bodhran players to make any nominations, except that McDonagh is sublime, and I don’t think he has a reputation for playing anything other than the drum.

Nominations anyone for either category? ie: A) great bodhranists playing other instruments very well; B) great bodhranists playing no other instrument to any significant degree.

Re: The Bodhran again………

Silly Silly Silly statement……………………..Donal Lunney and Christy Moore on "The Clare Jig" recording, Or on "The Queen of the rushes/Paddy Fays Jig"……..You on drugs?

Re: The Bodhran again………

That last one was to llig, and Donnacha Gough is the answer to Nick!

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"It simply doesn’t matter how well it’s played, even in the most capable hands, it’s pointless."

The truth is worse: the drum is often really annoying. And those who have spent a lot of time getting really good at it are often the most annoying of all.

At one of the concerts in the Catskills last week, two successive ensembles invited a (different) fancy sensitive trendy top-end-style bodhranista to join them, and every time they chimed in, I really wished they hadn’t. Who needs all this random clicking and (carefully tuned) syncopated bonking? One of them sounded like a dressage horse trotting (oh so delicately) all over the melody - not a complement to the music but a total distraction. If I want horse noises, I’d rather have good old honest coconut shells :)

Re: The Bodhran again………

the idea of percussion being ‘pointless’ is hilarious.

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Hurrahh Mr Jeeves, thankyou.

And Paviv, I never said the idea of percussion is pointless. The point is, that melodies that are this music are very densly crowded with percusion within themselves. It’s what the music is. To repeat it on a percussion instrument is at best pointless,

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Michael is absolutely right, as is Mr Jeeves. The very worst, most annoying bodhran-playing is that which makes a "tune" up and down a scale that sounds not unlike water glugging from a bottle, or like that noise I used to amuse my kids with when I tapped my (facial) cheek rapidly whilst opening and closing my mouth. Such bodhran players have become virtuosi in the production of sh1te. A fellow named Kelly is the foremost exponent of this extremely irritating style, and it’s spreading. Even Altan have some of it on recent recordings. But what would I know anyhow. I really have no idea about what I’m saying and I know nothing about music, amazingly. I really can’t imagine what’s ailin’ me. :-D

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IIt simply doesn’t matter how well it’s played, even in the most capable hands, it’s pointless. The only reason it could possibly have any significance whatsoever would be because the punters like it. Even the mostest very bestest of all bodhran players to ever walk this earth, Mr Bodhran Bliss himself, knows this.

# Posted on July 26th 2007 by llig leahcim

Now the only thing about the above post that any sane person could disagree with is the "pointless" bit. I never said that. Some people like percussion. Jazz drummers, or a God Awful pop song "Lady in Red" with an interesting percussion finish. And some people have other interests.

I was too busy being a great hurler/footballer/raconteur/witty bast~rd/ thespian to really devote the necessary time to music, it was another hobby.

But I like different types of music. When the mates sat about as students doing singer/songwriter stuff, I can play along on blues harp or mandolin. When I went to sessions, bodhran and slow airs on the mandolin. As a "folk group" songs and tunes, well I could combine both, and as all those other things (raconteur/thespian/witty bast#rd, I could "entertain", on stage.

Certainly if I had been going to devote my musical interest to ITM, well I would probably have taken the time to learn a "melody" instrument, like whistle or banjo. That is why I have trouble understanding good melody players wanting to play a bodhran, apart from getting some recognition from punters.

I think most people should specialise on one instrument, uif you want to play bodhran, make that your specialist instrument. If you want to play pipes, guitar, fiddle etc, do the same.

And Ailin is right in one respect. Comments like "never play a bodhran again" and such, do not contribute to the debate. Which is what this is supposed to be.

Saint, stick to the ‘zook if you want to get good at it. Melody and backing.

Re: The Bodhran again………

I just bought the newest June Tabor album, "Apples." Fine album, instantly my favorite album by her. One thing I like about it is the percussiveness brought to the accompaniment of many of the songs by…..(wait for it)……accordionist Andy Cutting. You don’t need drums to be percussive and rhythmic.

Re: The Bodhran again………

I have to agree with Bliss here. I used to play bodhran, but when I started playing the bouzouki a whole new world opened up to me.

Now, I’m probably the sort of player that draws huge amounts of flak on this site but I’m trying my best. I am passionate about the music and only want to do it some justice when I play, and the tunes are the key, and when I realised this I stopped playing the drum and started the zook, and I find it far more satisfying.

But, although you don’t need a bodhran, they can be nice to have in some sessions. Not the tippy-tappy tabla-wannabes but the old school rhythm experts. But you don’t need one.

As for bands they often have percussion and if it wasn’t a bodhran it’d be something else. Perhaps even a shakey bloody egg.

I’ll get me zook.

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In the documentary film Rocky Road to Dublin there’s a session in a Dublin pub with some spectacular spoon playing accompanying a young Tommy Peoples off-camera, who comes into shot holding his fiddle a few moments after the tune has finished. Unfortunately, you don’t actually see Tommy playing, although you hear him well enough - the camera is concentrating on the spoons.

Re: The Bodhran again………

I wouldn’t presume to argue Irish music with Mr. Gill, who knows more about it than I do. But his observation of pointlessness puzzles me. I’m not a drummer, but I’d have to say there’s something seminal, primal — thrilling, even — about a drum. True, The Music carries its own rhythm within the tune, but it ain’t a drum. Yes, it’s seminal, primal — thrilling, even — without a drum. But people who like bodhrans apparently find the music more thrilling with it. What’s pointless about that? It’s like arguing about whether a droplet of water improves great scotch. One might say "if it’s great scotch, why do you need it?," but there’s plenty enough people who also think it makes great scotch greater. Each to his own taste, no?

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don’t bring ‘taste’ into it! He gets very annoyed ;-)

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Maybe the people who don’t like the drum should leave the sessions……………I have got so much happiness from playing the drum. I’m going to stick at both but the bodhran will always be my number one "Bodhran abú" ……………………………But llig do you know that there are very good melody players out there that like playing with bodhran players.

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Re: The Bodhran again………

I had been playing flute for years before I ever even saw a bodhran. Despite my devotion to flute, I feel head-over-heart-over-heels in love with the bodhran. I couldn’t get my hands on one fast enough. Eventually, I had one custom made (back in the day, before there were too many tuneable ones). It has a deeper shell, and the skin is suede. It has a wonderful sublte and deep sound that everyone loves as soon as they hear it. Being suede, it does not tighten as much in warm weather or loosen as much in damp weather as does goatskin.

That said, the fact remains that the effort to be good at bodhran profoundly pales compared to what it takes to get good on a melody instrument. I doubt that anyone who plays both would disagree with that.

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Nope, I think it’s much harder to get good on a bodhran. Just because it’s a sheet of skin and has no moving parts doesn’t mean it’s easy to play. The evidence, if you’re dispassionate, is out there. Thousands of fiddles are out there and there are thousands of good fiddlers. Thousands of bodhrans are out there but good bodhran players are like rocking-horse sh1t.

Re: The Bodhran again………

Steve, if you want to be dispassionate, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that bodhrans are relatively cheap, and many will buy one on impulse with the casual intent of learning, but never do. I actually had a friend of mine give me not one, but two fine bodhrans complete with cases that he had bought for himself and his wife. They were untouched and he just gave them to me. In fact, I seem to be the Southern Califirornian respository for the Unwanted Bodhran.

The point is, very few bodhran owners are truly bodhran players, so comparing them to fiddle players is kind of invalid. I have met very few that are devoted to the instrument.

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"The point is, very few bodhran owners are truly bodhran players, so comparing them to fiddle players is kind of invalid. I have met very few that are devoted to the instrument."

Ailin your the one who started comparing the two and now you say its invalid you also you complained about nasty comments and looking back one of the nastiest comments came from you

" So before you get all glib about how my answers say it all to you, take a look at your attitudes and assumptions and ask yourself who declared you an expert"

And the comment about 3 months playing is crazy, Colm Murphy took a very long time to get the basics of the bodhran and he turned out to be one of the greatest Imagine if he took your advice and packed in after 3 months.

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Fair play to you Saint if you want to play both, but it will hold back your ‘zook playing. Being a Corkman, think about the duel player, one game usually suffers, usually hurling as it is more skillful. So is melody playing.

And Ailin, Llig, Saint and myself are not that far apart in what we are saying, we are just saying it in different ways. It doesn’t matter if you are wonderful, good or reasonable player, it is still a humble bodhran.

But, a big but, it is designed to provide a beat, never forget that. The dedicated player can do more than that and add to the overall effect, and at times it sounds great.

But it is still a humble bodhran, and a musical instrument.

And just to mess up your head, Saint, Mr Llig used to play a bodhran, or tried to.

Re: The Bodhran again………

Saint, PLEASE try and read what I said and not what you think. I never compared bodhran and fiddle, so I don’t know what your’re talking about there.

My comment about "who made you an expert" stemmed from Steve’s assertion that I had not answered his questions, when in fact, I had. The glib comment that my lack of answers told him all he needed to know was insulting.

The "three-month" comment I think is clearer to you than you would care to admit. What I meant and what I stand by is that you should have the basics down and be competent in three months. If you cannot do that, it is probably because hearing the beat and the rhythm does not come naturally to you, and I think good rhythm is something you either have or you don’t. You might disagree, and that’s fine, but that’s my experience. But to try and turn my comment into some idiotic statement about learning all there is to learn in three months is disingenuous, and you know it.

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If I pack in this site I’d have enough time to learn the fiddle.

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Ailin I mean this in the nicest possible way your as mad as a box of frogs. After three months I was still confused about the drum as alot of people will be.And you might learn a bit If you listen to some of the people on this site instead of trying to back up your errors . Also If you could try to cool down a bit and stop insulting people we might be able to have a proper debate.Here are in your own words some of your "idiotic statements"

"I said that if you aren’t good within three months, you probably never will be."
To me this sound like pack it in after three months if you haven’t got it by then.

"There is very little to master on bodhran compared to a melody instrument."
And to me this sounds like a comparising but I’m probably wrong.

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Three months? three hours more like. If you can’t do it in three hours then you …….. hang on … just give up anyway.

Yeah I tried the bodhran when I was a kid. Also tried the banjo, melodeon, washboard, bass guitar, double bass, guitar, mandolin, bazouki, zither, etc etc. I came late to the fiddle, I think I was about 20. It was a good feeling selling my musical menagerie to buy a fiddle.

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And I’m bloody fed up with this whole "such and such is easier than such and such" rubbish. When will you lot get it into your heads that it’s all a piece of cake. The skill level required on any instrument in this tradition is very slight. The artistry, of course, is up there with the best of the world’s musics, but the skill level? Pathetic. And this is a good thing for christ sake.

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Re: The Bodhran again………

llig you dark horse I never knew you packed in the bodhran because you could n’t play it…………

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Well, I think melody instruments are more challenging, although as I said earlier I learnt a harmonica by just playing it, and found it a lot easier than the bodhran. And after 41 years, I still do not know any notes on a harmonica, I just play it. But that is me, people are different.

It took my son three months to master the blues harp, three days to master the bodhran. As I said, people are different.

Re: The Bodhran again………

I never said I couldn’t play it. I never said I couldn’t play any of those things

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At last I’ve realised what’s wrong with you, Gill. You’ve never tried the harmonica! :-D

This reminds me a bit of Jasper Carrott’s sketch (admittedly one which hasn’t dated well!) on what to do if the four-minute warning finally arrives. "Buy a new Toyota and watch it rust," "learn to play any musical instrument at least as well as Linda McCartney…"

Re: The Bodhran again………

I can read between the lines llig …………only joking. your right the whats harder than what is a pathetic topic but the one thing a bodhran can do is produce entertaining threads

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Come off it, Michael. What about the pipes? To play a full set properly you need to be able to do the equivalent of walking, chewing gum, patting your head, rubbing your tummy and juggling three oranges, all at the same time. It might be just a matter of good co-ordination but I suspect that more than a modicum of skill is needed as well.

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Rubbish, I’m gonna learn the pipes when my kids have grown up

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I’m going to learn the pipes next tuesday it should only take a few hours……..

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I’ve learned ‘em to perfection since Michael’s last post but one. Utter beginner I was too.

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I can already play ‘em. .. in my head … which is very much more than half the battle

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Re: The Bodhran again………

To play a full set properly you need to be able to do the equivalent of walking, chewing gum, patting your head, rubbing your tummy and juggling three oranges, all at the same time. It might be just a matter of good co-ordination but I suspect that more than a modicum of skill is needed as well.

Posted by Steve.

Would that be a full drum kit, Steve?

Re: The Bodhran again………

Saint, Why are you on the net when you’re supposed to be practicing the bouzouki? There’ll be slaps!

Ailin… "All bodhran technique is a variation on two basic rhythms: jig time and reel time"!!!!!!!! WHAT A LOAD OF crap, I’d love to know what people in Cork/Kerry/Limerick (Polkas, Slides, Barndances etc) or the people of Donegal (Highlands, Mazurkas etc) would think of your rather stupid comment. There are many, many wonderful types of tune out there, not just Jigs & Reels, perhaps it’s time that you tried to learn a few of them!

Re: The Bodhran again………

Sorry coach I must take out for a few pints soon ,Im loving the bouzouki bud it won t be long now before world domanation ……………nice rant.

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Re: The Bodhran again………

I think it’s time I back out of this rather contentious thread. Eoinbouzouki, like Steve, does not seem to understand the rudiments of music. That is not an insult, just plain fact. If you don’t understand the theory behind meter, my comment about the rhythms being variations of counting in either 3 or 4 absolutely will not make sense to you, and we can’t have a discussion about it.

Saint, if you remained confused about the bodhran after three months of work on it, I guess I shouldn’t wonder that you don’t folllow what I’m talking about. I have taught bodhran workshops for the California Traditional Music Society, and never found a student who couldn’t pick up the basics in the sessions I taught. That’s not to say they were anything close to being a player, but they got the concepts. The rest is about practice, learning the music, and most of all - Listening.

If you want to call me crazy and eoinbouzouki wants to call me stupid, have at it. But you might remember there are many, many others reading this thread besides the three or four of us. They will make their own assessment, whatever that might be.

Cheers.

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Re: The Bodhran again………

Ailin, I’m well grounded in music theory, and your assertion that the meters common to Irish trad are just variations of counting in 3 or 4 is as sensible as saying they are variations of counting "one" for every down beat. So what? It has nothing at all to do with getting the feel of the ***rhythm*** right when playing polkas versus reels versus hornpipes versus flings versus barndances, or double jigs versus single jigs versus slides versus slip jigs, etc.

You’ve confused meter with rhythm. The time signature doesn’t tell us anything about lilt, lift, swing, dotted rhythms, etc. And this being dance music, that rhythmic feel is what’s most important, not knowing whether the tune is in simple or compound time. Especially for a drummer.

In short, the way you’re choosing to talk about playing the bodhran doesn’t jibe with how most Irish trad musicians think about and feel the beat. Shouldn’t be a surprise when they take exception to your insistence on talking about meter. It makes you sound "book learned," and without a soundclip to go on, that’s a red flag to most aural players.

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Re: The Bodhran again………

Ailin not once have you took anyone elses opinion on board just .If had something valid to say I would take it on board but ever time I point out where you are WRONG YOU JUST CHOOSE TO IGNORE IT .SO PLEASE STOP TEACHING PEOPLE THE BODHRAN BECAUSE TO ME IT SEEMS LIKE YOU ARE ONE OF THE MAIN PROBLEMS WITH THIS BEAUTIFUL DRUM.OPEN YOUR EYES THERE IS SO MUCH TO IT.

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Re: The Bodhran again………

One of the many, many, many, many problems.

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(did he hit the caps lock key by mistake there, or was he really angry?)( who gives a feck)

I can’t be arsed rereading all this twaddle, but I seem to remember someone complaining about how it just goes on and on. Do I enjoy moaning about bodhrans? Of course not, I am deeply weary of it. However, I realise that the specifics of any of these postings are, in time, always lost in the sludge of the general anti bodhran sentiment. And the reason I perceiver is because I realise the power of the drip drip drip. I realise that the volume of all this will (should) put people off the thing. So on and on I go

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Ailin, you need to pull your head in!!! You don’t sound lie a very nice person!! I have played the bodhran for many years and yes, more than 1 drum at a session is a nightmare (generally). I agree with old mate Saint, if you don’t like it then stop teaching it, how can you teach someone an instrument if you don’t rate it yourself. Music is and should be enjoyed by all. If you don’t like it, leave or perhaps politely inform one on areas they may improve. Don’t belittle people and don’t be condescending. If the punters at the sessions like and enjoy the bodhran, then deal with it. After all, it’s the punters you are trying to entertain, or is it ALL ABOUT YOU!!!. Be nice brother.

Re: The Bodhran again………

Sorry llig. I’ve got terribly bad news for you. That bodhran player (oo, you know the one) probably doesn’t even use a computer, let alone read the comments on thesession.org. You need to try a different approach. Have you tried telling her to eff off yet?

Re: The Bodhran again………

Ailin not only likes the bodhran, she plays the bodhran. As she also plays the flute, this confused Llig and I.

That poor woman you refer too Dow is in advanced years and may not hear him.