ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Entertainment and Media»
  • Music

The Bodhran

Updated on May 25, 2014

The heart beat of Irish music is revived in the 19th century

Irish music has been around since before St. Patrick, and it is evidenced by the countless tunes still played and recorded today. Whether it's the ancient hymn Slane (a.k.a. Be Thou My Vision) or gaelic tunes like Buchaill On Eirne, celtic music remains a popular music genre around the world. It's arguably the top selling "world" music in the market.

Celtic music involves popular acts like the Oysterband, Enter the Haggis, the Chieftains, Great Big Sea, Spirit of the West, or the Dubliners. All these bands at some time utilize the instrument named the "Bodhran."

The bodhran is a frame drum, simple in structure and intended to accentuate rhythm. It isn't in and of itself something that keeps rhythm apart from other instruments, instead its purpose is to bring to the forefront the beat. This varies in folk music from a reel to a jig to a ballad.

This hub is designed to familiarise those who have never heard of this instrument with its multi-faceted ability and cultural influence. Considering America is predominantly irish-descended, it's no wonder that this instrument is a popular hobby among those who either cannot afford other drums or haven't the time to sit down to a full drum set. It also allows each of us irish descendents to return to a place we romanticise about.

The following portions are going to demonstrate different styles, both modern and traditional, and popular musicians who play the Bodhran.

 

various tippers, some of which are designed for the bo style or traditional style.
various tippers, some of which are designed for the bo style or traditional style.

What is the Bodhran?

The Bodhran is a small frame drum that sits upright on your thigh as you play. You usually hit the drum with a stick called the 'tipper.' The tipper is a weighted stick on most occasions, although a completely even, straight stick can be used. Often it's 9" in length, though some tippers are less than 6" or more than 11" (on rare occasions). The frame itself can be as large at 26" and as small as 10" (I have yet to see smaller played by anyone other than children),

The standard drum size is between 16-18" and about 6" deep, although depth can easily be as much as 14". The wood is often rosewood or maple, occasionally softer woods are used but are not really sutiable for the bodhran's purpose.

The drum has been used as an instrument since ancient times, possibly hit with bones instead of a wooden beater, but the history remains true to the fact that it has always been made of sheep or goatskin. It was revived in the late 1800s for popular play and has since made impact on the folk music world of all genre. It's made appearances in middle eastern and african music in the last century as well, although the drum  is often hit with the player's hand instead of a tipper. 

Sean McCann

Kevin Conneff

Traditional Irish Bodhran

Kevin Connef: This drummer is a member of the Chieftains and is regarded as one of the premier bodhran players. His style is traditional, mastered, and toned to where he is not only a pleasant addition to the band, but also a standout on his own.

Sean McCann: Couple efficient playing with good vocal ability and innovative pop-style drumming, and you have one of the more believable acts in celtic music. Sean is someone I'd love to meet one day and play alongside of. His playing is classified as traditional although he leans towards modern drumming at times. His breakthrough was with Great Big Sea, though he finished his two decade tenure with them in January, 2014.

Steafan Hannigan: I believe this gent is more known for his tutorial videos than anything else, which is a shame. According to the limited resources available on the internet, he's largely a session musician that appears to be specializing in bagpipes of late, though his page lists a wide array of instrumentation.

Abe Doron

Jon Joe Kelly

Top end style

This is the modernized version. Many newer bodhran players are adopting this style. It ignores both ends of the tipper and instead relies solely on the one end. This is why it's called "top end" or also the "bo style."

While I admit its place and application are impressive, I abstain from its use almost entirely.

Musicians like Jon Joe Kelly or Abe Doron play this way, and while it's highly impressive, it's less versatile in a setting like a band. This style tends to use drums with thinner skin and thus allowing a "pop" noise at times. Lots of hand/skin manipulation as well, though the top end style does not solely focus on this aspect.

It's simply a matter of preference what style is chosen to be played with, but in the end it depends on what you're trying to accomplish that often determines your style. Many people find it difficult to play with both ends and often adopt the top end style to play along with other musicians [in most cases]. It would appear that this "general consensus" that was once held is largely being ignored these days.

I figured I was needed on here too!

The Bodhran in the 21st Century

As music moves forward and evolves with the human consciousness, we see the simplified instrument becoming more and more complex. Styles are being innovated, differing sizes, materials, and shapes are being experimented with and sold to premier musicians globally.

It has made its way into middle eastern music, rock music, pop music, and of course folk music. I've witnessed bass players learn the instrument in order to help master their slap-bass technique. Rock drummers, who for years have sat behind a wide array of drum kits, have begun to adopt this into their repertoire [along with a lot of other world percussion].

Commercialized music seems, for now, to be favoring the folkier antics. I intend to enjoy this little venture as long as it lasts, because surely it won't be long before we see another regurgitation of the eighties again, and with it, we'll lose the fascinating two decades that preceded it.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Ryleigh 3 years ago

      Either classic, traditional or modern version still the main fact that this small drum made of goatskin makes inspirational sound that makes you feel good and great. - http://www.thebodhranmaker.com/

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Based on everything I've seen, he apparently prefers his 18" diameter.

    • profile image

      Frumpy Jones 4 years ago

      Do you gotten to know how large a bodhran Sean uses?

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 7 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Dan,

      I [now] tend to agree with you. Ask me my opinion a year ago, I might argue a bit about it. Regardless, I am moving more and more to top end in general whilst keeping a similar tipper hold to the traditional way, so when an embellishment is called for, I can do it with ease, although I do so sparingly and with as much taste as possible.

    • profile image

      dan 7 years ago

      playing double ended style might

      in the longer term create wrist

      problems, moreso than topend style.

      but that's just my opinion. as a

      musician i prefer being accompanied

      by a top end or single end player.

      over embellishment by double ended

      players can get in the way. keep it

      simple, keep it background, keep it

      beat but use the skin hand for tonal

      variations to help color the music.

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 9 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      This is an interesting lens and a great topic.

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      That's a good idea. I've also been recommended to the Chamber of Commerce for charity events. Both are great ideas, I'll definitely look into it.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      t.keeley,

      Have you ever contacted someone on PBS regarding performing at local events? I see many uniques bands on PBS specials, so that might be a start maybe?

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Yeah, it's something I'm still figuring out ho to utilise. My channel is actually quite popular around the globe, believe it or not. Now it's just finding someone who matters that can recognise the talent and skill needed to do this as a career!

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I am not familiar with the Myspace or Youtube world for entertainers, but I just thought I would share that with you because I had read that yesterday on the wikipedia article about hubpages. It sounds like you are getting some good circulation with the Myspace and Youtube thing though :).

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Working on it. Keep in mind my youtube channel has many videos of just me, then some of me and older bands then just one (right now) with the current band. The bigger deal for a band, no disrespect to DJ, is a manager. DJ's are totally different than a performing band, they have a totally different audience as well. As a band we need to write original material, arrange, perform, then record it. A manager would help us get into venues easily and therefore expand our viewing audience tremednously. Youtube is good, so is myspace, but if there isn't any shows in the first place then it's difficult to record our music live unless we just keep doing it from our practices, which cannot hurt too badly.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Are you making regular YouTube videos of your performances?  I have heard DJ Funktual said that got him noticed and now he might have his own show.  Maybe uploading more videos on youtube would help too.

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      LOL...not there yet. Looking to be there within the year, obviously. I'd love to be able to talk about our music, it's not stuff you hear from performing bands everyday! There are always irish jam sessions everywhere, but a band devoted to not only playing old folk songs but also writing new ones...well, the good ones are few and far between. In fact, I can only think of about 30-40 good bands that have done similar things and still are playing today, at least in N. America.

      I just wrote a hub about the new album coming out, would love it if you stopped by and dragged a few peeps with ya!

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      That is really cool and it would be nice to see a news interview of a unique and talented band like yours.  Have any of the local news stations or channels ever interviewed your band?

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Sweet, glad to introduce yet another individual to the irish drum! It's beat is very versatile, I use in it for most every song in my band's repertoire except a few where I play the djembe. It's largely unknown and I pride myself in being one of few performing bands that has it as the primary percussion :)

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I never heard of the bodhran until today, but I must admit I like its beat.

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I placed a video here at the end of me. It will help me get back links as well as credible people on google curious about my own musicianship. As you can see, I tend towards the more traditional, although that video isn't what I'd consider my finest hour. I like the song though.

      Word is important to me. Get people listening, it's not something only I can do, everyone's help is needed!

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      RGraf, thanks for your comment! Our irish history is a vital part of American history, especially since we built this nation and fought its wars. America wouldn't exist if the irish didn't immigrate here.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Very informative! Learned a little more about my Irish heritage today.

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 9 years ago from Washington, USA

      MightyMOM wants you to participate in this hub: https://hubpages.com/relationships/one-word?commen

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 9 years ago from Washington, USA

      If you like Tabla then there is a very good table player called Zakir Hussain (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXxJGtnOrOE)

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      CW, I have a friend who plays the tabla. I also dabble on the djembe now and then, although I've far from mastered it. the dhol is good, I've been interested in trying it sometime.

    • t.keeley profile image
      Author

      Tim 9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I could--and probably will--write more on the subject at a later date. It is very versatile and flexible, although the critics abound. Those who are critical typically are as un-musical as they come, therefore they cannot truly appreciate the art of hand drums at all.

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 9 years ago from Washington, USA

      WOW!! Learnt something new today. India also has some drums called tabla, mridangam, dhol (very similar to bodhran).. Nice info. Good hub.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Great Hub! I've always enjoyed listening to the versatility of the bodhran. Thank you for this interesting explanation of different styles of playing.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)