Bodhran Practice

I’ve had a very lazy snow day. It snowed (a bit). I shoveled the walk (once). Mostly I looked at all the chores I have to do and did none of them. Instead, I spent half the day trying to remember the keyboard controls for Assassin’s Creed (seriously, I’ve actually never played AC, and the controller controls are so ass backwards that I gave up on them and decided the oldschool approach was infinitely more practical), and a bit of time with the new DAW on the phone and tablet and the guitar. I watched a movie. I spent a good deal of time futzing about with cats. It’s one in the morning and I have a pile of laundry on my bed that I need to deal with (and suspect my method of dealing is going to be ‘throw it on the dresser and think about it tomorrow…maybe), and what am I doing instead? I’m watching Bodhran tutorials on Youtube and learning what the proper way to play this  thing is.

After all, I should learn what’s proper before just futzing about and doing whatever I want, right? Right. At least the basics.

So I watched this guy’s two videos:


And then I watched this guy’s video:

Yes, the 2nd video’s sound quality is atrocious, but I actually preferred it between the two, he started and went super slow, really did a for dummies sort of tutorial, and actually turned himself and the bodhran in different directions so you would have a good view of what’s going on.

Now, if only someone would give him a better mic and get him to do it again.

So, I spent a bit of time practicing the basics as laid out. 4/4 and 6/8 time. I do have my hand well in the drum to mute it as much as possible. It IS 1 AM, after all, and the roomie is conked out on the recliner. It’s not a loud little thing, but it’s plenty loud enough to carry across a quiet house in the middle of the night.

So, I didn’t know, for starters, that you’re beating the drum with the end pointed towards you. I read in the little booklet to hold the tipper/beater/stick/etc like a pen, but I realized very quickly that I was going to need moving visual aids, not odd little diagrams with arrows to figure it out and gave up on the booklet fast, so had no idea I was pointing the stick in the wrong direction (well, wrong direction for traditional Irish music, anyway. I don’t know if I’d say there’s any wrong way to hold a stick and make a mostly rhythmic beating sound, just that the approach can be wrong for what you’re trying to do.). I also didn’t know that the notch in the middle of my tipper was hurting more than helping, but after taking the advice in the videos, I have to agree, a little behind the middle is better. I will probably upgrade to a different shaped one at some point in the not too distant future, just to have one that doesn’t have such a pronounced ridge as the one that came with my bodhran. I do want to read carefully before I throw in, though, since they come in different lengths, and – as I have a smaller than average bodhran (mine is 14 inches. I believe the standard is more like 18, so adding two inches of stick when using a small drum is possibly not terribly productive for fluidity of motion.).

Things I find I’m doing wrong out of the gate are thus:

  1. I often miss the final stroke of a measure. So if it’s in 4/4, I somehow lose the 4th beat and it magically becomes 3/4 time.
  2. The angle I’m holding the stick at in relationship to the drum is wrong and I often have to stop and course correct. I think the angle probably should be somewhere around 45 degrees or so (maybe). I tend to reduce the angle and it causes the stick to drag along the skin rather than bouncing off of it.
  3.  Too much whole arm motion. Bodhran playing is all in the wrist, so while I do expect some arm fatigue – after all, I’m doing a whole brand new thing – I probably shouldn’t be feeling it all the way up to my bicep after only 15 minutes or so of working through it. So I’m assuming this means I need more wrist, less arm.

Overall, it doesn’t seem overly complicated though. It’s just one of those things that’s going to take a fair amount of practice to sharpen up and build speed and technique, like anything else.

Also, lefty bonus: when you’re playing an instrument that’s literally just a skin pulled over a wood frame, orientation is universal. lol. Don’t get me wrong, I love my ukes and guitars and basses, but it’s SO NICE to have an instrument that I can just go ‘that one’ and not have to sit there like ‘but I need the backward version’.  Just plunk it on the other knee and go.

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