The most delicate and vulnerable part of the bodhran is the skin. Not only does it have to take a beating during playing, but it is routinely exposed to such hazards as accidental encounters with sharp objects and changes in temperature and humidity which could result in a puncture or tearing. Don't panic, however. With normal care most bodhran skins last for years.
Resiliency, flexibility and a slight elasticity are desirable traits in a bodhran skin. However, dryness and heat can cause any skin to shrink and become very tight on the rim. This is dangerous because extreme tension result in the skin slowly tearing away from the tacks. Never store your drum in a place where it will be exposed to heat or direct sunlight (e.g. hanging on a wall near a sunny window, in a car, or by a radiator or heating vent). Instead, store the bodhran in a cool place, with a normal degree of humidity (40-60% Relative Humidity should be a safe range).
You can tell if your bodhran skin is too tight by tapping the drum. If it sounds like a very high "ping" or tight tap, like the sound of a snare drum or kitchen pot, then you're bodhran skin is rather tight. A bodhran should normally give a nice ringing "bong" sound or, at the highest, a sound like a drum-kit tom when tapped. If the bodhran skin can't be depressed a little bit when you push a finger into it (slightly elastic), then this may be another indication that it's too dry.
If you live in a dry environment, and the skin on your drum seems very tight, then your bodhran should ideally be stored in an instrument case containing a humidifier (e.g. a commercially available guitar moisturizer). However, a perfectly suitable and inexpensive alternative is to keep your bodhran tied in a large garbage bag along with a damp cloth or sponge (mark it so it doesn't get thrown out with the trash!). Both these methods protect the bodhran by creating a humid micro-environment within which the bodhran skin can relax (Note: when you remove the bodhran to play it, the skin will react to the outside humidity - see the section on tuning a bodhran ).
Another way of preventing a bodhran skin from getting too dry is to periodically apply an oil or conditioner to all areas of the skin. Some common conditioners used for treating bodhran skins are neetsfoot oil, lanolin (found in sheep's wool), or even a good moisturizing hand cream (especially one with lanolin already in it). Neetsfoot oil is available at hardware stores or in tack shops, while lanolin can be purchased in pure form from a pharmacy. You usually don't need to put whole lot of conditioner on a bodhran. If your drum skin is becoming translucent or greasy to the touch then you should probably refrain from using the conditioner for a while.
You may notice that immediately after the conditioner or oil sinks in, the tone of the drum will drop a few notes in pitch. This is natural, and results from the relaxation of the skin as it absorbs the moisture from the conditioner. The skin should stay at this tone until it requires conditioning once again.
Puncture holes and small tears in a skin can often be repaired without harming in the skin's tonal quality. Repairs are a very viable solution when one considers the cost of a new skin and the amount of work required to mount it. For a temporary repair, a patch of duct tape or gaffer's tape can be handy. The patch is usually placed on the inside of the drum. For a permanent patch, use a spare piece of goatskin instead of tape. Affix the patch over the hole using a non-water soluble glue, such as epoxy or rubber cement. If goatskin is unavailable, a piece of an old synthetic kit-drum head, or possibly thin vinyl might do. If the skin has become loose on the drum as a result of the tear, and sounds flappy, you can try as a last resort to put the patch on in a steamy room (bathroom with a hot shower running) so that when the newly patched skin dries and tightens up, it will regain it's previous tone (this is only practical when using fast-drying glues). However, usually if the tear is big enough to cause the skin to flap, then mounting of a new skin is necessary.
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