Learn How To Play The Bodhran With Simple Tips For Beginner

How To Play The Bodhran

Bodhran is an ancient Irish hand instrument, and people can define it like a frame drum. It is a versatile instrument very easy to play; in the last decade, it has gained a lot of popularity. It has a peculiar way of running.

Thanks to this, Irish instrument music achieved international recognition. People use it in typical Irish music; its frame is approximately 25 to 66 cm. It has a leather membrane on one side that is tacked to the frame. To play it, you need a stick.

How to play the bodhran? The player remains seated and supports the instrument on his legs by digesting the patch inward. A hand should be in the open part of the instrument (this will depend on whether you are right or left-handed).

You will be responsible for holding and modulating using pressure on the back of the patch to create different hues during practice.

With your free hand, you will be in charge of hitting the main face of the patch with a stick or stick. Here we bring you the best information and the best tips about this instrument. You will learn how it works and how to play it.

Bodhran Description

The wooden frame can have a diameter between 25 and 69 cm; the depth is between 9 and 20 cm. The most common size has a frame between 35 and 45 cm in diameter and a depth of 10 cm.

On one side is a membrane called a patch that is taut and tacked to the frame. This layer or membrane is of goatskin.

Today you can find bodhran made from other animal skins like a kangaroo. There are even synthetic materials such as Kevlar.

The other side of the frame is completely open, one or two bars may cross in the interior of the frame to reinforce it.

Profesional uses some modern models with mechanical tensioners that allow them to vary the tension of the patch. This model is very like those used in drums.

Learn How To Play The Bodhran

How to play the bodhran is very simple; it is an easy instrument to play. Usually played while sitting, the player held the instrument between the trunk and the forearm. The frame should rest on the knee.

At the same time that the hand goes through the open side of the drum between the membrane and the crossbars. The hand should rest on the inner side of the skin to have a little control over the tension of the patch, and the tone may vary.

The person plays the bodhran with the freehand. The instrument is struck with a piece of wood called a drumstick.

There are many ways to play it; the most common is the Kerry style, which people play it with a double stick. The Limerick style uses only one end of the drumstick.

There are many performers like Eamon Murry and John Joe Kelly. They have accomplished a lot of timbral nuances that have developed outstanding skills.

Renowned players managed to develop modulation techniques to vary the pitch. This allows players to follow the tune it is playing. This is how the high-end style emerged, which has achieved both local and international recognition.

There is another style which is the top end that is played with a smaller frame. It is between 14 and 15 inches, and the depth is from 4 to 6 inches. Also, it has the thinnest noisy skin.

When using bodhran as an accompaniment in Irish music, you can use different rhythms. Bodhran players stick to any beat and can also improvise.

As you can see, it is an easy instrument to play if you try hard and practice it.

How Does It Work?

The bodhran is a traditional frame drum in Irish culture. It has a frame to which skin is inserted with tacks. The right-hand deals with the:

  • Drumstick
  • Stick
  • Tipper, etc.

This is the stick with which you hits the skin, like a battery.

The player held the drumstick held like a ballpoint pen and should move the wrist as if it were playing the drum kit. Remember that this is a simple explanation, as an instrument has its difficulties.

There are several types of drumsticks or tippers; this will depend on the melody you want to play. The instrument function is to transform the sound using different pressures and positions on the skin membrane.

With the game of pressures and rhythms, you will be able to get a great number of tones and sounds.

Before the tipper, stick, or drumstick was formed by double-ended knuckle bone. Currently, manufacturers made it of wood, ash, or holly.

Bodhran History

Bodhran is a key instrument of Irish music. There are infinite theories about the origin of this instrument. Some link its similarity with other instruments of African or Asian origin. They say that this influence came to Ireland by the migration of the Celtic nomads.

In Asturias, there is a drum called Vanu, which is very like a bodhran. Others affirm that the origin of this instrument is Irish.

Other theories suggest that bodhran arrived by naval transport in the England industrial revolution.

The first designs of this instrument had a wooden structure which was supported on the inside. The fabric did not have a tension system; the players resorted to other more techniques.

If the membrane were very tense, they would scrub the surface with a damp cloth. Some preferred to do with Guinness beer.

According to musician Ronan Nolan, this instrument was manufactured in the mid-19th century.

The origin of bodhran may be the skin trays used in Ireland to make peat. Furthermore, they argue that its use as a musical instrument was in rituals in rural areas.

The second wave came in the 70s when it became even more popular with bands like The Chieftains and Ceoltóirí Chualann.

After this, many at the international level took an interest in the instrument. This is how the bodhran became a world-renowned piece of music.

International Use Of Bodhran

This is a very common instrument in Ireland. It has also gained fame and popularity in world Celtic music, especially Scotland, Newfoundland, Breton, etc.

In England, in the southern part, players use tambourines with traditional popular music. A very similar instrument is also used in the South West of England.

If you want to enjoy an excellent bodhran section, you should go to Ireland and visit the World Bodhran Championships festival.

It is a traditional Irish music event that brings together many players from various parts of the country.

The New Techniques Used With Bodhran

Playing styles have changed by incorporating internal ringtone. It is pushed against the skin membrane to tighten or loosen through screws; this technique was invented by Seamus O’Kane. He did it to be able to fight against the humidity of Donegal in 1976.

Banjo design manufacturers copied this method but were adapted for this type of instrument. For some years, were manufactured only a few drums of this model.  Then manufacturers take the idea and perfected by manufacturers, and it became fashionable.

It is a technique used by various manufacturers from many cultures worldwide. He managed to cut the threat of weather conditions on the tension of the skin membrane.

The addition of thick leathers was also replaced by O’Kane’s thin Lamberg leathers. This change resulted in sharper notes, both lower and higher. Players can now be more musical and delicate in the game.

Nowadays, you can find bodhran with certain modifications. You can find it with a border covered with electrical tape. You can find it like this either factory or modified by the owner.

This reduces the load edge and dampens unwanted harmonics. With this modality, they achieve greater control of the bodhran sound.

Some low-quality bodhran owners who have rough skin also use sand on their skin. They can reduce the rasp when the ramrod strikes.

As you can see, there are many modalities that players use to achieve better performance.


The bodhran is an ancient instrument typical of traditional Irish music. It is like a drum and consists of a wooden frame that has a goatskin membrane on one side.

The leather is fastened and taut to the frame with studs. Nowadays, you can also find this membrane with synthetic leather.

The other side of the frame is completely open, to strengthen it inside, two crossbars are used. You must put your hand through this open side to control the tension of the patch and vary the tone. With your free hand, you should hit the skin membrane with the stick or stick.

With the tips and recommendations of how to play the bodhran, you can play it in a short time.

You should put all the above into practice and start moving your hand to create various tunes.

You can also search for a video on the internet so that you can combine it with these tips. All this will help you to learn to play the bodhran.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *