Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Sometimes I think I sound professional and never miss a note as I hear it, then I turn off the music and I’m a fish out of water. I honestly can’t tell if I’m fluent or if there is a long way to go.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Don’t know quite how to respond to what you posted, but in answer to you subject line, I can offer a few thoughts:

1. Play at an appropriate volume. Your job is to support, not dominate, but if the crew is driving the tune hard, make it happen.

2. You don’t have to play on every tune.

3. Bodhrans sound best when there is only one happening at a time.

4. You need not know the tune, but you need to know if it’s a jig, reel, or whatever.

5. You may never be asked to start a set by playing a jig, reel, or whatever is being asked for, but you should be able to do so without having a tune to follow. In other words, you should be able to play any rhythm pattern at will.

6. Avoid like the plague any temptation to play up and down the scale by altering the pressure on the back of the drum. You may think it sounds cool, but you will be alone in that assessment. It draws attention to itself and serves no worthwhile musical purpose.

7. In time, learn the judicious art of playing off the rim, doing triplets and using syncopation to add interest to your playing. As you develop those skills, endeavor to also develop good musical taste in the execution of those techniques.

8. Check out Michele Stewart on YouTube. You will never go wrong following her teaching.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Play with people and ask if they like it? Don’t turn the music off?

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Try recording yourself with the music on?

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

some things that I did that helped…

practice one stroke rolls, 2 stroke rolls, and paradiddles which go like LRLL RLRR. The point of this is to get control of your tipper. play slow and even and after a few days of practice you’ll see why folks do this.

Listen to a lot of Irish music and learn the basic rhythm patters. To start I just focused on jigs and reels.

find a bodhran player that you want to play like. Get all the recordings that you can of that player and listen to them. Immerse yourself in the music. Then pick a tune and learn to play it exactly like your man played it. Then learn another tune the same way.

If you can get out to a session or if you know anybody else who plays, try and get out and play with somebody. The best thing to start would be a friend who can get together and play

good luck and happy goat thumping

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

I agree in particular with this comment made by Ailin above.

"Avoid like the plague any temptation to play up and down the scale by altering the pressure on the back of the drum. You may think it sounds cool, but you will be alone in that assessment. It draws attention to itself and serves no worthwhile musical purpose".

This is absolutely the worse thing you can do with a bodhran at a session, as it will invariably clash with any melody being played.

The problem is, at some bodhran workhops (held at festivals etc), they actually teach this as a valid technique.

And here’s another tip. If your bodhran is tunable, tension it so that when struck it sounds the note "D". It will then sit nicely with tunes played in "G", "D" and "A".

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Johnny Mc Donagh played up and down the scale all the time and it sounded amazing. Of course there are times when that’s not appropriate but I’ve listened and played a lot and know when it’s too much. It’s just that i’m self taught, I was thinking more of general tips I might of missed and mistakes I could be making.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

If you’ve been playing and listening, and it sounds like you have, then if you’ve been playing with other people and they haven’t been complaining, that’s a good sign.

but one thing that you might have missed in drumming is control of the tipper’s rebound. Can you play a single or double stroke with one arm motion and use the energy in the rebound to make the second hit of the double stroke?

when you hold the tipper to where you can control the rebound it tends to make figure 8s as you go through the up and down motion of the basic stroke. You’ll see what I mean when you watch your tipper.

practice rolls and triplet by getting your 1-2-3-4 reel pattern going, then throw them in wherever you feel them. I like to double the up stroke so that I can finish the roll on a down stroke on the beat, but whatever sounds good to you and works, you know? Same for triplets. Try doubling the up stroke whenever the triplet would turn you around

and remember: hold it like a pencil and turn it like a key.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

It does help if you know the structure the music, then you can drive the rise and fall of the tune, and you should defiantly know the difference between the different types of tunes ie: slip jigs, double jigs, reels, polkas etc. . I’m speaking here not as a bodhran player, but as a drummer and an accordionst with a excellent knowledge of traditional music. The thing that annoys me when playing with a bodhran player is that ‘Water running down a plug hole’ effect that some of them do continuously during a tune……….

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

The purpose of the bodhran in Irish music is not like the drums in rock or other folk genres. It does not drive the music or provide any sort of rhythmic foundation. It is instead a rhythmic accompaniment to the melody. It should emphasize what the melody players are doing and only provide a counterpoint in very rare circumstances. The business of blindly going up and down the scale is nonsense. It sounds cool if you are thinking of the bodhran as a featured instrument (which it can be, sounds awesome in highly scripted performance music) but it gets in the way of the melody. If you want tonal variety, play with the melody, we have a bodhran player at our local session that does this and its fantastic. The bodhran is a lot like a guitar playing chordal accompaniment to the melody. one played at the appropriate volume and played unobtrusively is great and adds fantastic color to the music but someone plunking away at a chord progression regardless of the tune is annoying.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

With regard to Ailin’s #4, you don’t have to know it but you can play a tune ‘better’ if you know it. With regard to her #6, if you can get a series of notes from your drum, then it’s fair to use them. But don’t do it for its own sake, and see #4.

Three more tips.
Enjoy it.
Understand the bodhran’s place in the grand scheme of things.
Bodhran players need to think like musicians, so why not try learning a melody instrument too?

m.d.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

David50 :"I don’t think what Ailin and Mix mean by "playing up and down the scale" is this"

Can’t speak for Ailin of course , but you are right, that wasn’t at all what I meant.

In those clips, the bodhranist was altering the note of the drum to match what was being played. What I was referring to was the mindless gradual variation of bodhran’s pitch (up and down the sacle) with total disregard of the melody.

In any case, what musicians choose to do in a performance is entirely up to them. If people don’t like what they do, presumably they won’t attend the performances.

Session playing is an entirely different matter.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Learn the tunes, same as the rest of us. Applies to any accompanist.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Ditto what MO’L said.

Kenny, most of the time when I play bodhran rather than flute, it’s because I don’t know the tune. I’ve never found it made a difference. Usually, I won’t play the first time thru, or at least the A part. I then play a fairly straight-forward rhythm that is pretty safe. As I get where the tune is going, I embellish a bit more. This approach makes it more interesting and also creates a progressive build to the proceedings. That’s how you turn the disadvantage of not knowing the tune into an advantage.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

I’ve always maintained that the best guitar backers are the ones who are also able to play melody on another instrument.

So I guess the same might be true for bodhranists who are also fluteists!

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Doesn’t hurt. I think I do think more melodically as I play the drum because my mind is trained to think that way.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

the best drummers (that would be drum set players, though) I’ve played with were actually musicians who played the drums. They usually could play guitar, bass and piano with no problem, read and write music, knew arranging and orchestration….you know, musicians.

In fact, one of the best piano players I ever saw first hand was Jack DeJohnette

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

You should know the tunes you are going to accompany, as others have said.
You can get by only knowing the type of tune, but will sound much better if you are familiar with the tune.
You should at least be able to recognize it, even it’s only an: "this is the one that does that weird thing in the B part", or "this is the one that has stoppy bits" kind of thing.
Being familiar with the tune will let you know the best times to throw in some triplets or rim shots. And more importantly, it will let you know when to back off a bit or not play at all.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Clever - I respect your opinion, but I disagree. Do you play bodhran?

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

It’s essential that every element of the tune are followed i.e. if the musicians play quieter they are either doing it for dynamic effect or struggling to hear the other players as to which tune they are now playing (it happens!) and it such cases you must also reduce your volume (or stop?).

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

"play up and down the scale by altering the pressure on the back of the drum."

@Ailin - I believe it’s called ‘modulation’ (or so said a visiting professor of music at a Clare session I attended).

I agree - it can be wearing at times. However, I do like it when it applied at the last two bars of a tune, just before the half-bar stop and the next tune in the set. It kind of goes down the scale, starting off quietly, increasing in volume and ends with a big loud beat (instantly damped), which is the ‘stop’ between first and second tunes.

It’s kind of difficult to explain, but I think might know what I mean. Drama, or something like that 🙂

Even better when the next tune is in a higher key.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Jim, almost anything sounds good done sparingly and with taste. What I’m talking about is an almost constant up and down the scale (like a merry-go-round horse)throughout the tune or one of its parts.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

I know what you mean. A bit like predictable rimshots (I hate them. They are so loud).

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

I’ve been playing bodhran about 15 years (and boy are my arms tired!) and strongly agree with CleverName. You can get by and do an OK job if you don’t know the tune, but you can accompany much better if you are familiar with it. And the key word there is "accompany" since the bodhran should almost always be supporting and augmenting the tune since it’s not a melody instrument.

There are some instructors that teach the "continual arpeggios" method of accompaniment and I agree it sounds horrible. It is perfectly OK however to change the pitch of the drum as long as it fits the tune, for instance using D as your base for the A part and going to G for the B part.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Play with the beat, for God’s sake! Boom, boom, boom, boom!

Forget about rolls or changing the pitch, or different tippers.
Just develop the ability to hear the beat and stay with it. Once you’ve got that down,
try messing around with the other stuff.

Sometimes a session can be a mess, with more than one beat. Try to find a dominant player
and match their beat in that case. It will be very helpful.

Re: Tips for how to be a good player.

There is no try, why would you need to try to find who is dominant?

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

1. ignore 90% of advice
2. Volume wise, Only consider 2 people, the person on your left and your right.
3. Syncopate with the guitar player if they are good. If not, ignore. You cant do anything about it.
4. Arpeggios are great , used sparingly. The best exponents of them make prodigious use of them in solos but not in a group , session or band effort.
5. Practice outside the genre of ITM. Especially to odd time signatures such as 11/8. It will tighten up your timing and broaden your skill set.
6.Forget about Michel Stewarts lessons , over complex and overpriced. Get Eamonn Murrays " bodhràn soup" or look at Ronàn O Snodaighs utube posts. 24 of them for free
7.You dont have to know every tune but if you are familiar with one , of course it helps. But if you absolutely immerse yourself in listening to ITM youll develope an instinctive ear for a tune to the point you can guess what is coming next.
8. Get a top class Bodhràn
The right tippers are also , every bit as important as the right Drum
9. You do not have the resposibility of holding the rhythm. FOLLOW, interpret. No self respecting melody player needs help with rhythm
10. Do not try to emulate that sound you like on a studio recording. That is a highly processed sound that you cannot recreate in a live session.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Some good advice there, Legend. But if we accept #1 we must surely ignore #2-#10?

It’s the basic problem of internet discussion.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Maybe he doesn’t know what 90% is.

I’ll get my coat.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

he might not, but DaLegend really does knows a lot about drumming there AB

he helped me tons a few years ago when he came by here regular

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Fair play, Nate. Though I’m not sure the above list was compiled with the original post in mind.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

"9. You do not have the resposibility of holding the rhythm. FOLLOW, interpret. No self respecting melody player needs help with rhythm."

I would refine this one. Let the person starting the set establish the tempo, but you are the one that keeps it steady and keeps everyone together. Some players unintentionally speed up and some lose track of the tempo and things get out of sync.

I also insist that Michelle Stewart’s videos are the best to learn from. They are free on YouTube. It’s up to you if you want to subscribe.

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Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Da Legend has a good set of tips there, but I would add some more.
1) Learn to whistle and or lilt tunes and accompany yourself.
2) Listen to a wide range of tunes and identify the phrases in the tunes. These phrases will have associated rhythm patterns that you will learn to recognise.
3) Find a melody player that will play for and with you and work together for your mutual improvement. If you decide at some future stage to compete, having a musician that you have put in hours of practice with is a help.

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

My previous comments came from my personal experience accompanying tunes I don’t know, either on bodhran or guitar. Yeah, I can do it, but I feel uncomfortable. I don’t think I’m adding anything.
Sitting out the first time through to get a feel for the tune is good advice, but that’s not enough for me. I need to hear a tune a dozen times or so before I’m comfortable playing along.
But that’s probably just me. 🙂

Re: Tips for how to be a good bodrhan player?

Last session I was sitting by the drummer. After we played a set of hornpipes I was talking to him about what he just played. In the brief time we had between tunes he played back what he was doing. To his credit he was in fact playing a hornpipe & his accompaniment was not disruptive. However it was a bit disconcerting that even though we played two very different hornpipes it seemed as though he could have cared less (which was which).
Do drummers truly never need to know one hornpipe, reel or jig from another?

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