Think of this before you attack the next Bodhran player
I went to a session recently where there was a bodhran player in attendance by the name of Rick. And you know what? He was really good. He was the only bodhran player among us seven or so musicians and I gather from chatting with him that he has been playing bodhran for upward of ten years and is a welcomed regular at the session I attended. Plus it appeared that the bodhran was his only instrument—it wasn’t his second-string instrument that he busted out when he was bored or couldn’t play the melody.
The session really benefited from having him there too. The beat was very steady throughout, and the rhythmic interest Rick brought to the music really lifted the overall musical excitement of the tunes. I enjoyed listening to him, and I played a set where he backed me on some rocking reels and it was a blast. The guy was relaxed too, and didn’t feel a need to play all the time or make the bodhran the center of attention when he was playing.
So that got me a-thinking. What if at any given moment while I’m playing I suddenly was to turn into a bodhran player. What kind would I be? Would I be one of the despised ones who can’t maintain a steady rhythm and am overall a drag on the session? Or would I be more like Rick?
I think sometimes in the struggle that we melody players go through to master the tunes we forget how important the rhythm is. And I’m definitely speaking for myself on this point. I mean, aside from airs and other slow tunes, this is dance music after all and good dance music thrives on the steady beat and rhythmic interest such as what Rick and other accomplished bodhran players can provide. If a dancer couldn’t dance to my jigs and reels or only with difficulty, what good am I?
So I just wanted to throw this question out there for general reflection and consternation: What kind of bodhran player are YOU?
Or look at it this way: if an irish dancer had to choose between you or Rick, who do you think he/she would choose?