The bodhran drum has long been a treasured part of traditional Irish music, and you might be able to pick out the sound of one if you listen to a folk band that has Celtic roots. Your decision to learn how to play this style of drum is one that allows you to tap into the artistry that people put into making this traditional instrument. On the surface, a bodhran drum looks fairly simple, but there is a complexity in how the drumhead and frame are made and put together. As you get ready to find a new instrument that inspires you to play in a folk band, make sure to keep these four things in mind to find the right one.
Consider the Material for the Drumhead
A traditional handcrafted bodhran drum is typically made using goatskin. Today, some drums are also made from sheepskin or synthetic materials. Natural goatskin creates a deeper sound compared to synthetic materials, but it does require special care to prevent changes in the environment from affecting the way it plays. Taking care of a natural skin drum requires some simple efforts such as doing a conditioning or oil treatment, but this is preferable if you want a truly authentic instrument.
Check for Imperfections in the Wooden Frame
You will also find differences in how well a traditional custom made bodhran drum is put together. The outer wooden frame should be made from materials that are free from knots, cracks and other blemishes. Any imperfection in the wood can change how the drum plays, and you should expect that yours is put together well, especially where the two edges join.
Think About the Size
The size of the bodhran affects the sound. Although an 18 inch drum is the primary preference for professional players, you may need to consider the benefits of having a smaller sized drum. As a general rule, larger bodhrans have deeper more impactful sounds compared to small ones. However, you may need a 16 or 14 inch drum for practical purposes. Some people prefer these smaller drums because they are easier to hold and transport during travel.
Find Out If You Need a Tunable Drum
Traditionally, a bodhran drum is tunable so that the musician can make changes to the sound to accommodate for things such as the skin stretching over time on the drumhead. Tuning a bodhran requires using special tools, but it is something that most people can learn how to do. For true beginners, however, you may prefer a drum that is not tunable. This ensures that you get a consistent sound without having to put in technical effort as the drum changes over time.