Buying My First Bodhran

Buying My First Bodhran

I am looking for advice on buying my first Bodhran. Please forgive the simple questions.
Is it important is it to have a tuneable bodhran. Do non tunable ones loose their tone/key/pitch etc very easily. What do you do if they do loose it?
Why are bodhrans being offered at smaller sizes now;? Is the traditional 18" being seen as too big.
I would like to buy a good one with about £150 to spend.
Any advice appreciated.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Let the games begin.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Advice? For £150 you could buy a damn good D whistle and a couple of blues harps in D and G. The smaller sizes on offer these days are the direct result of the Druids using up all the larger goats.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

check out a man called Seamus O’Kane in Dungiven, Co. Derry

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

There’s a fad for smaller drums with deeper shells. Very popular among the "play far too much and get in the way" crowd, sounds terrible. Get the 18", non-tunable, it’ll last you forever, it’ll sound right, you’ll be able to get all the sound you want out of it.

That seems like a lot to spend on a simple instrument, but if that’s what you want to spend, I’m sure you can find someone to help you out. I got mine for about US$50 ten years ago, and it’s still in perfectly good shape - that’s US$5 per year, and counting. Pretty soon it’ll be a free drum, at this rate…

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

"it’s still in perfectly good shape"

…because you’re a gentleman, hopefully!

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

You could spend 140 on the bodhran and keep 10 for a whistle. You can learn tunes on the whistle and still be the best ‘bodhrani’ you can be (I think that’s what the druids called ‘them wot beats the goat’) . Years from now you will enjoy playing tunes on the whistle and yet still be the proud owner of a nice bodhran. Good luck with what ever you decide upon.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Gentleman? Me? Heh.

I was getting paid $100 a night to play the bodhran. At the time, I couldn’t afford to be a gentleman.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

I think the trend to smaller bodhrans is ‘cause the top-end style is getting a lot more popular (I’m a Kerry guy myself). Aside from the snide comments above (which are truly uncalled-for when someone really wants advice), I WOULD recommend a tunable. With a non-tunable, you are "stuck" when the humidity changes and playing outdoors can be problematic. The O’Kane advice is good, btw. I play a 16" Metloef (tunable) and like it a lot. If I were buying again, I would seriously look at the ones that Albert Alfonso (http://www.albertalfonso.com/Home.html) makes - I’d get a 15". I went to one of his workshops and his tuning system is truly amazing. Not sure if you can get a new one for your price, though.

I apologize for some of the comments above - we aren’t ALL nasty to beginners. I play Irish flute, too, and have respect for bodhran players.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

would a tunable not be a bit too much though for someone who is learning?

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

I’m not sure if tuneability would matter much to a beginner, unless you are after a no-skill-all-gear type of image; I’d not spend too much money on a bodhran if you’re just starting. I’d rather buy a non-tuenable decent bodhran (not necessarily panda-skin, ironwood-rim), preferably 16" (my personal view) and a whistle or some other melody instrument (whistle is a good choice for a limited budget). Learn to play both; after some time you might find out that you are either an incredibly talented bodhran player, or you prefer to play the melody (if you are not an incredibly talented bodhran player, you will be made aware of it - see the comments above 🙂 ). Also, learning simultaneously bodhran and whistle will make you aware of the fact that every tune is individual and has an innate ‘accentuation’, and just being aware of this will make a better rhythm player than most.

Bodhran IS a way to start into this music; my first half-year was with the bodhran, which I then dropped and never went back, moving on to harmony and then melody. There are bodhran players I enjoy playing with (although they are few and in between, and it’s not a matter of technical prowess, but rather their feel and conscious approach to the music).

In terms of answering your question about losing pitch there are ways to deal with it; I do recall that when the skin gets too tense, moisting it with pure water (like massaging the skin with a wet hand) does the trick. I don’t remember what you do in the case it becomes too loose, though - I guess I’ll leave an answer to this question to someone who’s "in the business".

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

TROLL

Posted .

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Thank you for all the advice and support.

I do actually play the whistle. I need to learn the tunes by ear and "sing" them first as I cannot read music. I’m not great but I really enjoy it. I have downloaded many tunes from this site and learned them from there.
The reason I budgeted £150 ( a birthday present from my wife and children) was because having read in various places, including the boards here, the suppliers mentioned seemed to supply in and around this price, some less and some more.
I was also taking the advice that I read somewhere that if I am serious that I should avoid the cheaper touristy products.

Opinions seem to be mixed on the suitability of a tuned or untuned. Would I be future proofing myself somewhat by going for the tunable ones. As far as sound is concerned I do like hearing the full, deep, soft sound that I think is a lovely foundation for the higher instruments playing above it.
Any further advice is so welcome and thanks again for the help so far.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avTlwH122mI

You will appreciate this then. It’s not Irish, but you will get an idea of what a bodhran can sound like. The newer, smaller tunable ones are much more melodic than the more percussive 18-inch type. The deeper rim gives more bass and sustain. I don’t know about volume, but do be aware that low notes can not be masked by higher notes, as opposed to the other way round, which is one of the reasons that drums must be played with great care, not to mention tact.

Posted by .

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

overbeyond, whether or not you tune your drum to blend tonally with other players, having a tuneable drum allows you to adjust the skin tension. This comes in handy when you want to explore different sounds and timbres, and also to adjust to (daily and seasonal) changes in humidity.

I don’t play bodhran, but I agree with you that the soft, lower patter is preferable to a big, boomy, echoey sound. If you live where the drum will tighten much in response to lower humidity, being able to loosen the skin with the drum’s tuning mechanism will help you retain a less boomy sound.

Good hunting, and keep playing tunes on that whistle.

Posted .

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Just make sure it’s the only one you ever buy……

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Great sport, eh?
I recommend a 15"

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Overbeyond: IMHO,

Get a good drum, get a tunable drum, get a couple good tippers, learn to be a metronome, and always keep up on your whistle - that would be my advice, as well. You might even graduate to "greater" things off of the whistle (it happened to me).

A good drummer knows not to try to play along with everything a session includes musically, and being an adept of whistle as well is fun, too.

My two cents, FWIW.

Posted by .

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Hello Mcknowall
Could you tell me why you recommend a 15"?

Guernesy; could you elaborate please?

Thank you Gam and Will for your information and support.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Hello Everyone again.
From your own experiences of playing the drum, could you recommend a maker/supplier that would fit my budget. I can find loads but am a bit nervous about committing yet.
Listening to Arcady as I type this and it is making me itchy to buy.

Thank you all again.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Loose bodhran skin, two solutions
open fire in pub (don’t get too close)
hairdryer.
Much easier to get a tuneable one.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

hi overbeyond

At your price range, you are a bit restricted as to getting a new craftsman made drum.

The suggestion about getting an O’Kane is reasonable, (they are not my preference, skin wise), but the price new is in the £200+ range. There is one by Dairmaid O’Kane on ebay UK at the moment, that you may be able to get at your price point.

The drum in the video above looks to be a Hewitschak drum. His LiteLine 2.0 drums range has some that would fall into your price point.
http://www.bodhranmaker.de/new/index.php?Bodhrans:LightLine:LightLine_2.0

My personal favourite, for goatskin bodhrans, is Belgarth in Orkney. http://www.belgarth.com/ but again they are a little outside your price point (give Eoin a call and see what he can do for you though).

Recently I have been seeing a few nice drums made by John Wilson of Skye Bodhrans, a relatively new maker. He doesn’t have a website, but is available on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/skyebodhranshotmailcouk/Skye-Bodhrans/138262876219147?v=wall

As to drum size, I would go a little smaller than McKnowall, to 14", but that is splitting hairs I suppose, as a 15" drum would suit just as well (my drums du jour are a 12" Roo hide Metloef and a 15" Belgarth).

Whatever you end up with, enjoy your drum.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

"Bodhran IS a way to start into this music; my first half-year was with the bodhran, which I then dropped and never went back, moving on to harmony and then melody."

(Ye gods and little fishes. At least he seems to have ended up on melody…)

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Nothing wrong with starting on the bodhran. Ending up there is a little sad, but sure you can start there.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

well, overboard, there’s only one thing that ruins a session more than one bodhran/guitar/accordion badly played; and that’s TWO of them !
If you ever know that there’s going to be one there already, leave yours at home - you’ll be doing the music and the session a big favour.
Funnily enough, this doesn’t apply at all to fiddles. Don’t know why.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Dunno Pete, I think two badly-played fiddles would do a lot more damage to a session than one, just as much as anything else.

Like many people, I have a lot more experience with badly-played strummy and thumpy things, but the scrapy and the squeezy things can be wreckers as well.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

just remember a bigger bodhran doesnt mean louder or better sounding. and a tuneable is defo the way to go it doesnt matter about the stage of playing having a good instrument is always better and will make practise more enjoyable

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Whats wrong with starting on the whistle and ending up on the bodhrán? Just become the best at whatever you choose, and in so doing enrich the experience of whoever you play with.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

I started on a cheap Waltons bodhran, which got me going well enough, but I have just bought one of Hedwitschak’s cheaper ones, and a couple of good tippers - might just about squeeze into your price bracket. I should add that the service is also excellent and it arrived in about a week.

It is true that the modern bodhrans have a different tone - depends what you want - but they are more interesting to play, and I found the extra cost worth it for how a quality drum has helped my playing to develop. And yes, tuneable is worth it for the reasons mentioned above.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

This is probably the friendliest bodhran thread, ever, on the Mustard Board. Michael gets suspended and all of a sudden, there goes the neighbourhood.

🙂

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

i’d ONLY recommend a tunable drum
nothing w a design on the skin!

any of the pro makers listed above for sure
Seamus Okane
Brendan White
Albert Alfonso
Christian Hedwitschak
Rob Forkner
Mike Quinlan
Darius Bartlett

Mike makes a great intermediate model.
Christian has the liteline models
Seamus and Brendans drums are incredibly affordable
Darius at one time was making an intermediate line
Rob may have an intermediate model as well

You can always check for used drums on Craigslist.org or ebay

You could conisder something w a synthethic skin as well like REMO’s Brian Howard Bodhran or REMO’s "IRISH Bodhran" models

Cooperman drums make bodhrans as well

You could even try finding an old snare drum, and tacking a skin onto it.


My personal favs are Albert’s Da Red and Da Blonde drum

Cheers,

-Kip

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

My bodhran has not been out of the case for years but it was a real pain forever rubbing or damping it trying to sort out the tension and usually failing. Then I saw someone in a band with a tuneable and a light went on "bling - The Answer". Then I saw *the*light…

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

What wonderful feedback; thank you all so much. It’s easy to get tempted but I have to realise I am a beginner and not to get to carried away. There are so many others mentioned by all you good people but many of those mentioned do not have websites it seems. (it is nice to see the images of the models).

I have boiled it down to three possibilities;

1. 16" budget tuneable model from Michael Vignoles c/w case , tuitition book and tippers. $195 including post.
http://www.michaelvignoles.com/budget%20tuneable.html

2. Belgarth 16" tuneable £160 with free tipper. Postage Extra

3. Lightline 2 "Classic 15" 11cm deep 170 Euros. No case tipper but postage extra.

I need to be taken out of my misery. What do you think of this shortlist and which is the best value?

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

It largely depends on whether you want to play in the more traditional or in the more modern style - for the traditional, get a larger, shallower drum. For the modern, get a smaller, deeper one.

In my view, the "modern" style is an abomination, it’s far too busy to ever fit in with the music, but it’s your money. If you like the flashy sound, get the smaller drum and have a ball. The trouble is, it’s difficult to mix the two styles, so you do sort of have to make a decision.

As with any musical purchase, don’t look at the "extras" - the cases they throw in are usually easy enough to find for cheap, and you’ll be buying tippers like mad for the next few years in any case. Eventually you’ll settle down and pick ones, but that’ll take a little while. The drum’s the thing you’re buying, so concentrate on that.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

I would say look carefully at the tippers - in my novice’s opinion, they are at least as important as the drum itself. My first one was far too heavy - both less manoeuvrable and more tiring for a beginner.

I have a Lightline Classic, which is well made, easily tuned but rather less ‘traditional’ looking, if that is an issue for you. But it is great fun to play, and you can get a good range of sounds relatively easily. Though a month later, I did feel the need to buy a case and a two tippers, which added to the cost. Still, again all extremely well made.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

>>In my view, the "modern" style is an abomination, it’s far too busy to ever fit in with the music,

Jon, I mostly agree with you, and I am glad I still have my old-style drum too. But it’s only busy if you play it in a busy way. Too many pyrotechnics from the ‘virtuosi’ would-be rock drummers are perhaps giving that impression. I certainly found the new one easier to vary my tone on.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Ian - I’ve never found it easy to get the range of tones on a 15" drum that I can get easily on the 18". Are you sure you don’t mean it’s easier to vary the pitch? That’s certainly easier on the smaller drums.
By tone, I mean the thud-to-thwack range, which seems to me much larger on the 18" head.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Jon, I’m only a beginner on this. You may well be right. Yes pitch is easier, but also tension by pushing - seems more responsive on a higher-tension skin - needs less push. But that may have been more a function of the cheapie that my previous drum is (and second-hand at that…)

I watched the demo videos on CH’s site, and it seems to be true that he has both a good bass and treble on his drums, if that’s what you mean by thud-to-thwack… as in Martin O’Neiil’s clip at the bottom of this page.

http://www.bodhranmaker.de/new/index.php?Bodhrans:LightLine:LightLine_2.0

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

i don’t play, but always flag up Barrie Lockwood (ex banjo in ‘The DT’s’) _ an english maker org based london, now in spain and not sure if still operating out there

i had my first one off him (a tuneable 15”) for £110 some ten years ago, for my daughter whose fourteen today and hasn’t started yet … plenty of time

and our vocalist has another one of his, same size but better tone, which we use live, heating the skin in front of the floor spots, and earlier this year ‘Frankie the spoons’ gave us a lovely light tipper _ before which we were using a cumbersome chunk of rounded driftwood i found on a hidden beach in Donegal …

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

I also dislike the real busy styles especially those with too many triplets flying all over the place. I prefer a simple style with subtle variation and that’s how I would like to learn.

Jon, surely you can play traditional style on a "modern" drum?

I like the more traditional look of Michael Vignoles but the workmanship on the Lightline looks so superb, that it ironically takes on a sort of production line look, sort of characterless. But at the end of the day it is the sound that counts more than the aesthetics.
I have some thinking to do.

This group has been superb with all the advice and support and I appreciate that you all have taken the time to comment.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

As oft times before with similar manifestations, I read this thread (and why do I?) and I question my own sanity.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

> Jon, surely you can play traditional style on a "modern" drum?

Perhaps you can, but it’s not made for that. At least, I’ve never found it very conducive to that style. There’s the deeper shell that gets in the way of the left hand, there’s not much surface area to play with (3" of diameter translates to a lot of area!) and tonally the drum just doesn’t seem to want to play like a bodhran.


Ian - by "thud to thwack range" I’m definitely not talking about pitches - if you’re hearing pitches, the drummer needs to be taken for a bicycle ride. I’m talking about a range of sounds defined by the degree of muting used on the left hand, where the muting is done, the degree of push applied, and the area where the tipper strikes relative to the left hand. (I think that about covers it) But the drum is always muted, and you never want to get in the way of the music by dolloping on a continuous whacking of pitched sounds - that would be completely uncivilized.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Steve, we play Traditional Music, (of whatever kind and on multifarious types of instruments), to the uninitiated, we are all crazy :D

Jon / Ian, how about this for a rock drummer playing the bodhran :D
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlP2aWgOEfw

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Hi overbeyond, of your shortlist, the Belgarth and the LiteLine would be my picks.

If you like the look of the Vignoles, then Brendan White http://www.bodhran.nl/site/index/bodhrans
produces similar style drums, and I prefer the skins he uses.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

>>Perhaps you can, but it’s not made for that.

Funnily enough, that’s where my first, heavy tipper comes in. Moderrn tippers are very thin and light, almost like drumsticks. The big, heavy one delivers a more traditional sounding thump even on the modern instrument - albeit at a cost to your right arm!

(assuming you’re right-handed…)

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

I want to second BigDavy’s comment on Brendan White’s drums. I have a double skin that is a joy to play. It took me a while to learn how to get the best out of the drum but I find it has the ability to give a great "thud" a loud "ring" and a high "thwack" when needed. I like the double skin because it is smooth on the inside so when I move my hand to vary the tension and create different pitches, I do not hear my hand scraping on the skin.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

I’m all for a heavier tipper. I find most offered for sale much too light for my taste. My treasured one looks like it’s turned out of maple, and weighs at least two ounces. Bought in Dingle eight years ago. I’ve an even heavier one, off the woodturners stall at Towersey a couple of years ago - I’m amazed to say it might be too heavy for me. Nevertheless, I think a heavier one provides a certain mass, and momentum, that helps the motion you require for a good style. I do remember once fashioning one with hand tools in the half-hour before I had to depart for a gig - just a bar of mahogany or teak with rounded ends and an eccentric waist - perfectly usable.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Yesterday I placed an order for my Bodhran.
While the looks of the instrument was not the most important factor, I nevertheless wanted to have a design that I was actually comfortable with.
INMHO a lot of the modern designs simply do not look like a traditional Irish bodhran; some in fact, despite the excellent craftsmanship, look a bit like Ikea furnishings (think foot stools). But from the sound files available online there is no denying that they sound great.
Some makers did not reply to my enquiries.

So it was a toss up between the Vignoles and Belgarth.
I decided on the 18" Vignoles because it looked fine, it sounded fine and also because all the references to him on this forum have been nothing but positive.
The fact that it was made at home too influenced me to a certain extant.
Mr Vignoles communicated with me in a very helpful way and I find that very important and he was also happy to make a couple of small aesthetic changes to the design that I preferred.
The comments in this thread not only offered me good advice but I also learned a lot and picked up a lot of things, some to bear in mind and some to avoid, all of which will help me a I potter along.

Thanks so much to everyone.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Now all you have to do is learn how to play it!
I personally have a bit of an inward vomit when customers "make a couple of small aesthetic changes" so I am extremely happy that you don’t own one of my drums.
Your obvious next step is to make a few "small aesthetic changes" to the music.
PLEASE REFRAIN from so doing.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

How arrogant can one sound without knowing what was involved.
Don’t worry Mr Know All, with an attitude like yours there would never be a danger that I might ever own one of your drums, which incidentally look really nice indeed.
Hope you have got over your illness.

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Wild. Tune in again next time, ladies and gentlemen, for another edition of "Yes, That Was Your Outside Voice", the show where we learn the difference between thinking it and saying it….

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

Bollards!

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

in all fairness, the best bodhran players play other instruments as well as bodhran. i’d advise learning an instrument like a whistle and get good at it and then if you still want a bodhran go ahead

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

And what’s more, the bodhran is at best only their third instrument

Posted .

Re: Buying My First Bodhran

something in that Patrick …

as two london born / bred irish fiddlers i’ve worked with (Aidan Burke and Kane O’Rourke), both pure trad, progressive and original tune writers

both started on the bodhran (and full kit drums with Aidan)