I love playing and teaching others how to play the bodhrán. In 1989, when my husband and son gave me my first bodhrán for Christmas, I had no idea how to play the thing. Back then there weren’t any websites devoted to the bodhrán, no ‘how to’ videos, no Irish Cultural Centers closer than Boston or Chicago where I might find a teacher. But I lucked out.
A small group of sessiun musicians played regularly at McDuff’s Irish Pub in downtown Atlanta. A kind, patient, dedicated bodhrán player named Peter Blaney* took me under his wing and taught me how to:
- Pronounce the name of this drum
- Care for my drum
- Hold the drum
- Hear and create the different tones of the drum
- Mute and push the sound
- Pick out a better one (Yes! There will be more drums in your life…)
- Different types of bodhráns
- Different types of tippers
- Where to find a good bodhrán
- Behave in an Irish sessiun and not get pegged for an amateurish lout (or worse, a sessiun hog)
- Listen to some and ignore others
For personal instruction in how to play the bodhrán, I teach at the Irish Arts Academy of Indianapolis.
* Peter Blaney went on to win the U.S. Western Division Bodhrán Championship of the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireánn and traveled to Ireland for the International Competition. He later married a lovely Irish woman and moved to Ireland where, the last I heard, he’s still perfecting his bodhrán skills.