- Bye, Bye Love ...
It was in 1984 when I first noticed a young irish man playing on a small drum. He held it verticaly and hit the skin with a small stick which looked like a bone. The amazing thing was the possibility to change the pitch of the sound by moving his left hand across the inside of the skin. His ability of following the tune was astonishing. I never saw such a drum and this kind of playing before and I listened carefully to the sound. Though I never could follow what his hands really did, that´s what I was looking for ! Since I started playing folk music at this time, I decided to leave my bongos and marching drum at a second hand music shop and buy such an instrument instead. But no one around Hamburg in Germany knew about drums like this, and I did not even know its name. I tried to explain what I wanted :
- "...a flat drum with a skin on one side."
- "Ah, a tambourine !"
- "No jingles please"
- "Look here, this plastic headed drum with a 2" shell and its pingy light flat sound is often used by leaders of a female jazz gymnastic group, ...hihihi.....do you want this ?"
- "No, it´s not played with the hands, I should use something looking like a bone "
- - censored -
I was old enough to solve the problem of boiling blood coming up to my ears and face (this might be a german idiom). The only thing I really knew was the name of the player I had heard, his first name is Moss. He was playing with a group named Pinch of Snuff , a legend now in Hamburg, one of the first formations playing irish music in our area. Moss has moved back to Ireland in 1995 with his german wife Susanne and their children. When I look at the photo distributed in the Hamburger Folkmagazin´s printed pages, I hope there will be more bodhrán players and dancers coming out of his family in the future. All bodhránees around Hamburg are influenced by his kind of playing, no doubt. If anyone should meet him, let him know that he is always on our mind.
The final result of searching for a Bodhrán was to buy the drum described above, mounting a footmachine and to become a folk singer and even worse, a pedal drumming tinwhistler.
The only irish group I could refer to were the Dubliners, well known and successful at that time in Germany, but sure I really wasn´t satisfied for they did not use a Bodhrán at all.
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- Bye, Bye Lonelyness ...
In 1987 I went to England for a week and Robin took me to a small Irish music shop in London . Goodness, a lot of different Bodhráns, tippers or cipíns, whistles und irish pipes were shown to me and I would like to buy them all. But alas, my budged was to small, but good enough to celebrate Paddys Day in a crowded pub with live music and a Bodrán player in the group. His instrument had a crosspiece made of wire and I could watch his playing very close to him. I knew, I must have a Bodhrán in every case, though I still had no idea how to play it.
Back home I nerved my dealer and six month later he offered me a untunable Walton´s with a good balanced and light cipín. I started playing in a natural manner, such like drummers ride the cymbal, hitting the skin with the TOP of the tipper and perform rolls with both ends of the cipín. I would like to name this technique Bodhrum Style. It was good for playing American and German folk with offbeat rhythms, but it doesn´t fit Irish music.
Listening to De Dannann with
Johnny McDonagh's solo The Boys of Ballysidare (1976) and The Chieftains with Kevin Conneff I discoverded a tiny difference of time which will soon be described below. No doubt, to follow Irish tunes I had to learn another style. But no one to teach is no way to learn, so first of all I started collecting Irish Tunes and Songs, listened carefully and learned to follow the rhythms in mind. I realized that Irish Bodhrán rhythms are more complex than they are in other folk genres.
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- Hello Happyness ....
1990 I had the opportunity to visit The Irish Folk Festival in Hamburg where I heard De Dannan playing with Colm Murphy on the Bodhrán. He is a LEFT HAND PLAYER. Sitting in front of him I watched HIS solo of
The Boys of Ballysidare (1990) with a small spyglass. Suddenly I understood the movements of the wrist to perform the rhythm which I knew and simultaniously heard.
I saw a rotating hand rolling the tipper across the skin, saw an upstroke beat instead of a downstroke to place the ornamentation into the right place and noticed the different sounds produced by the other hand inside of the instrument.
It was important for my understanding to sit opposite to a "wrong" handed player, because it was like looking into a mirror reflecting the motions. Many drummers like me have trained their ability to transform what they have in mind into motions on percussion instruments. At this point I was ready to start learning the Kerry Style - using a mirror made it easy to reproduce what I had seen !
I currently use a tunable 16" Bodhrán with goat skin and crosspieces from Brendan White
( Brendan White, Willem-Alexanderstraat 41, 5502 VB Veldhoven, NL Netherlands, 0031-40-2542119), which has a wide range of sounds, well done, Brendan. I bought this instrument in Hamburg / Germany at Schalloch Folk Paradise, Karolinenstr. 4, Tel.(+49) (0)40 438494 and paid about $220 and $20 more for a perfect 8 1/4" cipín.
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- I wish that more should try ....
There is no learning structure for those who want to play the Bodhrán. You have to fight your own battle against beginners problems. If you can get instructions from a book, take them as a part of Bodhrán playing, find other parts by listening to the music or by watching the players personal style.
Be patient, while learning ! Start in a slow time and don´t increase speed until you are able to play a rhythm in constant time and easy manner.
The Bodhrán is a music instrument used to follow the tunes, and I like to play it as a percussion instrument in several cases depending on my folk music too. Try to find the best synthesis of your style and the music you practice. There should be no restrictions, how to play the Bodhrán - only one - you must have learned the double-ended Kerry style !
If you are an advanced player, show others what you have learned in slow motion ! Try to play wrong handed and feel yourself to be pushed back to the beginners state. ;-) It will be a new challenge for you !
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- A tiny difference of time, my personal style...
Bodhrumming ... Offbeat playing with a drumset in one hand
Summary , what I need, want and like
More, transport, care, miking a Bodhrán
European folk music is based on quarters (common time), most Irish rhythms are made of triplets, even if they are played in common time, this is the simple truth - and a reason for me to use the Bodhrum-Style !
Attention , this is your last chance to avoid reading uncommon Bodhrán instructions. If you are a pure Irish player you better return to Josh Mittleman's
The Bodhrán Page , only ignorants go on reading here - but finally they should visit his wonderfull site too !
Are you ready to continue ? First of all lay down your Bodhrán and relax, close your eyes and snap your fingers twice, then pick it up again and look at your instrument - it's a Bodhrum !
As written before I started playing in a natural manner, such like drummers ride the cymbal, hitting the skin with the TOP of the tipper and perform beats with both ends of the cipín.The Bodhrán is held as usual and the grip of the tipper is made with three fingers. The beater is held between thumb on one side and index-and middlefinger on the other side balancing the stick. Your ringfinger is on the thumb side without touching the wood, not used but ready to be a little helper if needed. Your arm and wrist should be relaxed in one line, then bring the tipper in a more vertical position ( 1 to 7 o'clock). The lower head is near the skin. The movement is made in the gap between third and fourth finger with the middlefinger. Press this finger towards you, the upper head will go forward against the skin, the lower head is now near to you on your ringfinger, bring the lower head back to the skin by relaxing the pressure (your ringfinger may support it moving back). Let the cipín swing ! It works alone !
We need two terms to describe the movements and to avoide conflicts with common Bodhrán instructions. The term for using the upper part of the tipper is FORE (fore-hand), a beat with the lower head is named IN (in-hand). Start playing with a FORE-beat without turning your wrist, hit the skin at 1 o'clock and then alternately make an IN-beat at 7 o'clock : FORE - IN - FORE - IN and it feels foreign - foreign for a few minutes.
Lets look at some facts in "slow motion" : To play a roll in time of a quarter note you can do it in 3 ways, Drummers use both sticks "right-right - left-left" = 4 beats, Bodhrummers use both ends of one stick playing "FORE - IN" = 2 beats and Bodhránees "down-top-up" = 3 beats in equivalent time. Drum and Bodhrum rolls are made in groups of two or four with an extra stroke, Bodhrán rolls contain groups of three.
To play fast and relaxed through an evenings event it is nessessary to use absolute optimised movements of the tipper to get the shortest physical way from beat to beat. Bodhránees should try the following exercise: play Down-Top-Top-Up in common time. Tip: first Top is played to the right, second Top moves left and watch for minimum movements turning your wrist as usual.
Summary : That is what I ....
There are some more good reasons for "bodhrumming". The very short distance from beat to beat on the skin provides relaxed playing of fast and offbeat rhythms for other than celtic music. When you have learned to use the pitch of your Bodhrán's skin you are able to play a single instrument like a complete drumset, swinging, rocking and - portable !
That is what I need.
Hear me bodhrumming (11 khz, 8 bit stereo, 13,48 sec, but 290 KB !)
Scottish Bagpipe music often comes along with a special drum arrangement played on snaredrums with sticks. Use your Bodhrán instead with bodhrumming. It's easy to follow the marches in real common time. Both heads of the tipper can be used like two sticks alternately. The leading beat should be a FORE-beat, accents can simply made by an emphasized strong beat when needed. The IN-beat is used for rolls and fill-ins or may be skipped. Use Random play and the rhythm is complete different from that you will get with the Kerry-Style.
Get in touch of what I mean, here s an example of a breton dance .
That is what I sometimes like.
Finally you can mix all techniques to create your own style.
That is what I want you to do.
Since it is hard work for me to explain in English what I want to say, feel free to ask for more detailed information if nessessary. Mark the area where you are confused and add your question. I am glad for any feedback to the address below. Otherwise I must set up the German section first and then translate it. Please be patient.
There is something more worth to be said. I am sure that I never can be an Irish Bodhránee because my musician roots are not Irish - they are German forever. During practice and playing I noticed, that I am able to follow tunes played by Irish groups in fast time and double-ended stick style, but when I must lead playing in sessions, sometimes I like to make my own rhythms depending on my german tradition and adapt them to the music - hoping to lift it my way. But what ever I do, I want that the tune must be followed and the basic rhythm is not altered. This could be a first step that Irish music becomes to be traditional continental stuff ;-) . No matter from where you are, try to include Bodhrán playing to your music to fit your needs, I think it will be great !
The Bodhrán is a portable light drum and can be with you where ever you want to play. I´ve got a 22 inch case made for cymbals to transport the instrument save and sure. This is availiable at any drummer store. Let your dealer know that there is another drum to be common to the scene worth to be supported to Folkies like us.
It is absolutely nessessairy for my performance of simultaniously drumming and singing to move around the microphone and not to be fixed to one point on the stage. I mounted a AKG B 409 condenser microphone on the rim and turned the gooseneck joint into an optimum position inside the Bodhrán. The phantom power is taken from a B9 battery supply unit or a special DI Box (MPB-Box) from the mixer. Now I can move relaxed during the set having a correct adjusted mike-position. Phil Smilley of
The Tannahill Weavers uses a small equializer to eleminate unwanted frequencies. Beeing connected to a mixer you should always use a symmetric 3-line XLR attachment to avoid interferences.
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- Books and Tutorials ....
- Steáfán Hannigan, The Bodhrán Book, 1991, OMB 71
- Ossian Publications Ltd. P.O.Box 84, Cork, Ireland
- The Bodhrán Book Demo Tape ,1991, OSS 57, is also availiable
- Mícháel O Súilleabháin, The Bodhrán
- an easy to learn method for the complete beginner showing the different regional styles and techniques.
- Waltons Musical Instrument Galleries Ltd. 1984
- 2/5 North Frederick St. Dublin 1. Tel.747805, (taken from the book)
The Secrets of the Bodhrán and how to play it
- Online Tutorial by Malachy Kearns
- Who has taken my third book ? author's error .. unable to find .. section terminated ..