Reflections on Bodhran Making using Method One

the front of my bodhran the back of my bodhran
(This is my first bodhran made totally according to Method One. The skin was re-mounted a few years later using Method Two.)

mp3 file of me playing the bodhran I made, as described in this article. Here is an mp3 sound file of me playing a jig-time rhythm on my bodhran.

Making a bodhran was a commitment in terms of time, money and work, but the satisfaction of playing an instrument that I constructed myself has made it worthwhile. Moreover, bodhran-making is a craft that has a long tradition and which I feel is worth keeping alive. I should state that the first time around I had to deal with a lot of set-backs. The most difficult step was putting on the skin. I managed to wreck a few before finally mounting one correctly, but I learned a lot from my mistakes. A good bodhran around here tends to go for about $150-250 Canadian, and I figure that by starting the process from scratch (including the cost to build the steam box, wrecked skins, failed experiments) it cost me about $150 (the pre-cured skin was the most expensive item at $50). However, since my friend and I still have the steam-box, the mould, and the experience, plus a cheaper source of skins, we can make future bodhrans at much reduced cost (probably about $50).

Reflections on Bodhran Making using Method Two

There are some advantages to this method: Less equipment is needed, expenses are reduced, it is less complicated, and the process of putting on the skin is much more forgiving than in method one. In addition, by bending the rim inside an adjustable strap instead of around a mould of fixed size, you can easily make the drum almost any diameter that you want.

However, several disadvantages also are inherent in this method. Firstly, it can be dangerous using this much open boiling water. Secondly pouring boiling water over wood is not as effective as a using a steam-box, and therefore the board used for the bodhran rim must be much thinner. Also, although it sounds easy on paper, in practice there is quite a trick to forming a perfect circle out of a piece of ash using only one's hands, feet and a band clamp. The bending form outlined in Method One takes longer to construct, but ensures a well-formed rim.

An Ideal Solution

After experimenting with both methods, I have concluded that creating the bodhran rim using Method One, and mounting the skin according to Method Two is the best method for making a bodhran.

With proper care and handling your bodhran should last many years. The following sections will instruct you on how to maintain and tune your new instrument, as well as provide you with some tips on making a bodhran beater .


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