bodhran beaters

bodhran beaters

Does anyone know what lentgh the beater is that john joe kelly [flook] uses is it the the kerry top end beater i play myself and tryin to play his style changeing from playin with both sides of beater to top end style is difficult but i must say that john joe kelly is brilliant.

Re: bodhran beaters

The length of his stick’s got nothing to do with it. It’s the fact that it’s thin that makes it more easily playable with the one end. Since he plays almost exclusively with the bottom end, have you been watching him on Youtube Australia?

Kerry’s got nowt to do with it - he’s from Manchester.

Please don’t “play his style”. Find your own. There are too many John Joe wannabes out there already.


The length of his stick’s got nothing to do with it

OK it’s got something to do with it. I think it’s 10“. All the better to get the ”bounce" I suspect the top-end style needs. I’m sure there’s a proper drumming word for it.


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I concur re finding your own style.
As it’s bodhran you’re talking about I’d suggest finding your own instrument, like one you can play tunes on.
Too many goatskin-thumpers about already.

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John Joe does play tunes on it, Pete. The fact that the tunes sound like water glugging out of a bottle is beside the point. I used to do a similar noise patting my cheek (facial I hasten to add) to amuse my kids when they were little.

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Sad to say lads for once Steve Shaw is right about the bodhran.

I remember a friend of mine coming back from Cork or somewhere once and says to me “I saw Tommy Hayes, he can play tunes on the bodhran, without any other instruments”.

I simply said “Why would he want to do that?”

I mean anyone could silently hum in their brain and play along with it, but it might just sound as Steve has suggested.

A few years ago I blamed John Joe for unleashing a number of bodhran players on the world, who played rhythms instead of accompanying the tunes. That’s great until the lads at the session playing the melody do something slightly different and then the bodhran sounds awful. many now learn rhythms without music. a dangerous tactic.

John Joe himself can play at sessions because he can play the instrument. Much of what he did with Flook would not suit a session.

It did suit Flook who played wonderful stuff but it was not strictly “session” music.

He played in Belfast last Friday night, with Dezi and Michael, but they have sets “arranged”. Someone sitting down and trying to play rhythms with them would not fit in.

So beware trying to follow John Joe’s “Flook” style at a session as it will not work. The man himself plays differently at a session.

And avoid “bodhran” solos. Best left to jazz drummers, the USA’s one and only gift to culture. 🙂

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What everybody else has said…. especially if you play like you punctuate.
Listen to Johnny McDonagh.

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“changeing from playin with both sides of beater to top end style is difficult”

To quote Mark Twain: “Difficult? I wish it were impossible!”
I say stick with the good stuff. If you’ve got to play the bongo at all, at least play it right. The “top end” stuff is useless like an ashtray on a motorbike.

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The triplet in single end style is achieved by way of a “skip”, like skipping a stone over the water. This creates an entirely different mood to double ended style where the triplet is got from the top end of the stick.
Best to learn both styles and keep a little bit ahead of the pack.

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I remember being at a ‘session’ in Wexford, and there was a someone with a bodhran. The ‘session’ sounded like a percussion solo accompanied by banjo. She kept explaining how she’d had lessons from Tommy Hayes, who’d taught her 753 different sounds. “I *INTERPRET* the tunes.” She said.

It was horrible.

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Re. the above, this was years ago, so Wexford is probably quite safe now.

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Check out

Loads of great Bodhran info and clips on there.

All the best with it!

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“she’d had lessons from Tommy Hayes, who’d taught her 753 different sounds.”

Actually, there are 754 - but practicing the sound a a fist going through a drum head is tedious, and expensive.

Seriously, to the OP - go be a good drummer. There are lots of mediocre ones, and a number of really miserable ones making it even harder for the rest. So be one of the good drummers.

Do a little work, make a little effort, and only the bigots will be harrassing you. But be fair - one either likes or does not like something, and sometimes there is no shifting another person’s opinion. Nor should we always try.

There are one or two outspoken critics of the drum here at the Mustard, and they are not wrong, IMHO.
There are also one or two ardent defenders of the drum, and they are not wrong either.

I hope that sounded rational.
Good luck.

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Believe it or not, we actually have two hanging on the wall at home; one was bought by a dear friend in Dublin in 1972 or so, and we take it to friendly sessions. The other was made in Pakistan, and I take it on gigs.
Both are only played when I can contribute nothing better to the music.

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I know we’ve gone well off the point here (how unusual!)

But it’s a genuinely contentious subject. How to play? What style to adopt?

Someone who learns 755 sounds and patterns and then applies them to the music is doing it wrong way round, in my view. Just like a guitarist who learns scale and chord exercises and tries to play them live with a band. Just keep in time, find a groove, play along with the tune, listen to what everyone else is doing.

Having said that, technique is also important. Do some work, make some effort. It’ll be appreciated. Tape your local session. Play along with the tape. Learn from hearing the music.

But like I said, I think it’s about 10"


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I see nothing wrong with wanting to mimic a favorite players setup and style. But remember it’s mostly about time playing your instrument and familiarity with all of it’s nuances, and less about the equipment.
When I got my first bodhran I was convinced that I had been ripped off because the thing didn’t make all those neat-o melodic sounds like all the cool players’ did. But after a while it started to have a voice, and now it sings like a bird. I am still playing that same old drum, and I have yet to come across one that I like better.

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“Someone who learns 755 sounds and patterns and then applies them to the music is doing it wrong way round, in my view.”

That’s exactly the way musical education goes for the kind of drumming people do in marching bands - the idea of “rudiments” which you mix and match in arranged drum scores. The marching band scene is so big in the US that would be surprising if it hadn’t oozed its contagion over other percussion idioms.

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I told ye, there is only one bodhran lesson and that is mostly what way to turn your playing hand.

Of course unless you charge $5,000 per the one lesson, not a money maker.

So you can teach 754 sounds at $20 a sound……..

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“The marching band scene is so big in the US that would be surprising if it hadn’t oozed its contagion over other percussion idioms.”

I would not worry about that overmuch.
I have seen no indications in 55 years that marching band music will do for drummers here what march band standards and competitions did for the warpipes in Scotland and Ireland.

But I know that the atmosphere over here is very limiting to individual self-expression, unlike our European elders.
But one can still hope.

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The thing that has “oozed its contagion” over bodhran playing here in the USA, it seems to me, is jazz/pop drum kit drumming.

I hear it all the time: bodhran players doing their very best to sound like a drum kit.

These guys are, usually, jazz/pop kit drummers who have lately got interested in Irish music.

These converted kit drummers then in turn have their bodhran style imitated by newbies who know no other style.

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I’m one of those drummers who played a drum kit for many years and recently (5 months ago) started learning the Bodhran.
I can assure you my goal is to have the bodhran sound like a bodhran.
I know what you are saying though, I’ve seen more then a few videos of what you described.
Now I do enjoy playing different types of music on the drum, but it’s about trying to fit the sound of the drum to the music. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t.
It really doesn’t matter to me because I am doing that in my living room and not in public.
Actually if I wanted to imitate a kit I’d do it on a cajon not a bodhran.

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I guess I’m old school. To me the bodhran is a percussion instrument, not a melodic instrument. I follow the melody when I play and try to accent the beat accordingly. I hold the beater in the middle like a spoon. I use both ends and play similar to Johnny Ringo McDonagh. i don’t constantly raise and lower the pitch. I know that is the “new style” but I don’t favor it. It just doesn’t sound right to me. Listen to Dedannan or the old Chieftains. If you want to learn the proper way then go to Michelle Stewart’s Bodhran Follow the videos and you will get a good idea on how to play.