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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.