Music Journey
30, Aug
The Bodhran, The Unofficial Drum of Ireland

Recently, I was listening to River Dance’s soundtrack. The music isn’t sung with lyrics, which I find makes it easy to write to. Although I have listened to the music many times before, something struck me this time. It was the importance and prevalence of drums in the music. It’s possible that I didn’t notice it before, but the sound of all those clogs gives off an overwhelming feeling of percussion. But if not for drums and their unmistakable rhythm, no Irish dancer would be able find the beat. I was left wondering, how important of a tradition does drumming have in Ireland.

The Bodhran drums is the most popular Irish drum. The history of this instrument is quite short, compared to drums from other parts of the world. It was the Irish who used the bodhran during their rebellion against England that first recorded the instrument’s existence in 1603. The bodhran, like the Japanese taiko drums, was used to wage war. It allowed pipers and soldiers alike to keep a proper marching rhythm. This instrument was a useful tool for warfare and noisemakers, so it must have been successful. It was never used for music until the modern era.

Traditional Irish music enjoyed a revival of popularity in the 1960s. The influence of Sean O Riada (an Irish composer and bandleader, whose compositions greatly contributed to the international popularity of Irish music), was the main reason for this trend. Riada’s use of the bodhran as a musical instrument in his music helped establish the drum. This drum has enjoyed some popularity in Scotland and northern Europe since then, but it is still most popular on its home turf, Ireland.

Bodhrans are drums that have a greater diameter than their depth. Although it can be 10 to 26 inches in diameter, most are 14 to 18 inches in size. It can range in depth from 3.5 to 8. It is open on one end and has a drumhead the other. This drumhead is traditionally made of goat skin. Modern drumheads made of synthetic materials are common in 21st-century bodhrans. Artists can use one side of the drumhead to place their hand on the inside, which allows them to adjust the pitch and timbre of the drumhead.

Bodhrans can be played in a seated or prone position. The artist supports the drum with one hand and his upper body by holding it vertically against his thigh. To control tension, the other hand is used to hold the drum vertically. You can play these drums with your bare hands, or a traditional drumstick. These drumsticks are called “bone”, “tipper,” ‘beater,” and ‘cipin”. Although brushes are a recent invention, some artists use them. There are many styles of playing, and this instrument is still relatively new.

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