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What is a bodhrán?

A unique frame drum

The Bodhrán

The bodhrán is a frame drum. Frame drums are played all over the world, but the playing technique is what makes the drum unique. The drum is either played with the hand or a stick (tipper, cipin), and the other hand dampens the skin on the open side of the drum. This skin hand is also used to alter the sound of the drum varying from low bassy sounds to really high pitched sounds.

This playing technique has only developed since the 1950's and the drum and it's playing style is still evolving. It is fascinating to be part of this ongoing development of the playing techniques and the making of the drum.

Bodhrans Auswahl
different sizes and formats


Bodhráns come in different sizes and formats. The frame is usually made of wood, often plywood, sometime solid wood. Today there is a tendency towards deeper frames and the crossbar is is seldom used.

The main element is the skin, and mostly goat skin is used for bodhráns. Drums also come with calf, deer, greyhound and even kangaroo and emu skin.

A special type, the Lambeg skin, comes the North of Ireland. This is also goat skin, originally prepared for the big Lambeg drums used for parades in the North. Seamus O'Kane started to use these skins for bodhráns and they do their job extremely well.

Bodham Workshop
not only in Irish music

In Action

The Bodhrán is mainly used in the context of traditional irish music. Sometimes the drum has a bad reputation for being too obstrusive. The main reason seems to be that it looks easier to play a drum than to play a fiddle, but you still need to know the music, its subtle changes and the tunes. Then you need rhythm, musicality, and empathy.

All these things can be taught and workshops provide a good base. These workshops, and the increased quality of the drum, have improved the reputation of the bodhran over the years.

Outside of traditional Irish music, the drum gets more popular as an easy to carry drum kit substitution.


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