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Interesting Facts About Irish Bodhran Drums – What Made Them So Famous?

Ask any folk or Celtic music fan about most influential music instrument and Irish bodhran should be on most lists. It has played an undeniable role in the wholesome Irish music history. Many people think of the bodhran drum to be quite a new addition to the music instrument family. However, it dates back quite a bit.

In its early usage, the bodhran has been played at social gatherings where people enjoyed it with group dances. History has it being played at beer parlours where people are enjoying its beats with drinks in their hands dancing. Irish music enthusiasts know how important the bodhran has been in shaping the region’s music history.

Here are a few interesting facts most people don’t know about the Irish bodhran:

It Dates Back Way More Than Most People Think

It may have not started its early days as a music instrument but the Irish bodhran surely made its way into the industry. Very old usage of the bodhran shows it being used as a peat carrying tool rather than a music instrument. Earliest reference to it being used as a music instrument dates back to the 15th century. Very first term being used as bodhran dates back to 1827. It is fair to say that it might have been here for many centuries shaping ancient Celtic music in past.

Modifications Made It More Versatile

Even when widely adopted as a music instrument, the bodhran remain pretty one-dimensional for a long time. However, gradual modifications saw it used in many newer kinds of music. From the inside tunability to the skin tightening, many other modifications were added. The depth of the frame and its sizes are now available in a very wide range. Insulated edges using insulating tape also help reduce vibrations that had traditionally brought unwanted sounds.

There Is a Choice of Frame Materials

Users can also choose their preferred bodhran frame materials as well. The Irish Harp is available in a choice of wooden and plastic frames. Both these add slightly different music output features.

  • Wooden Frame made from polished and crafted woods provide a punchier sound
  • Plastic Frame is ultra-light and offers extra durability and long-lasting features.

Inside Tuning Helps Perfect Music Output

Like any music instrument, different players will prefer different types of music outputs. The overall punch and bass of the bodhran output can be controlled with inside tuning designs. On the inner side of the frame below the skin, inside tuneable bodhrans have fixtures. These allow for tuning the sound output. Modern bodhrans post the 1960s also now have tightening screws for their skin or membrane as well. This allows players to control the sound that is produced from these making it the way they need. The overall price difference for these tuneable Irish drums is pretty negligible as well.

Yes, It Is Real Goat Skin That You Touch

Although there are some synthetic materials available for the surface, most high-quality bodhrans even today use real goat skin. Dried, processed and polished goat skin is used for the top surface that is also the membrane. This membrane made form goat skin, often also buffalo skin, is beaten to produce the sound. Changing the skin on these Irish drums is pretty easy as well. Once you know your way across the drum, you can do it on your own as well.

Light and Portable, These Became the Heart of Irish Music

Irish music that is a rich combination of folk and Celtic music has always been jolly and energetic in nature. The bodhran and its jolly good punchy beats got adopted very nicely indeed. Available in many different sizes, the bodhran is still one of the smallest most portable drums worldwide. This made it easy to carry. People had always been able to take it to any pubs, social gatherings and place. Enjoying it in a crowd of any number of people has been relatively easier than most other instruments. There are no attachments that could come off making it every easier to carry around.

There Is a Size for Everyone

Ranging in its diameter from 12 to 24 inches and also with variable depth, Irish bodhran comes in many sizes. Beginners can easily start on the smaller 12-inch versions. Experts can then move to larger more professional versions. There is a size for every player depending on the requirements. People with shorter arms find it easier to play the smaller bodhrans. Taller people tend to favour the larger ones.

You Don’t Necessarily Need the Tipper

Most professional bodhran players paly it with the aid of a tipper. It is a small beating instrument that is only a few inches in length. Its weight and diameter can be changed to suit player preferences. However, the bodhran is a versatile Irish drum that also allows people to play it with their hand. One of the hands (typically the left hand) is used to hold the bodhran. The other free hand can be used to beat the skin or the surface playing the instrument.

Playing Styles Have Evolved Over Time

Traditionally, people used to play the bodhran while sitting down and having it on their lap or close to chest. That was the age of much heavier traditional bodhran that used to have thicker woods and materials. With lighter materials now available, playing styles have evolved as well. People can now play it standing out or even dancing around depending on where it is being played.

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