How to Play the Bodhran

The Irish Bodhran is a simple frame drum that’s played with a small double ended stick called a tipper and in the hands of an experienced musician it can produce some wonderful rhythms and sounds.
If you’re looking to buy a Bodran you can find a lot of great options here. Bodhrans aren’t too expensive either. You can find a decent instrument for between $50 and $150. I like the Trophy Bodhran for an entry level instrument and the Meinl Bordhran if you want to spend a little more.

So, how do you play the Irish Bodhran?

The technique for playing the bodhran is an up and down wrist movement with the tipper against the head. You play on the lower third of the drum’s head with a down stroke and an up stroke. This wrist motion must be done in a very relaxed fashion and once you’ve become comfortable with the up an down playing motion you can tip the other end of the mallet into the drum for another stroke.

Let me show you how to play Bodhran in this video lesson

playing the bodhran picture 1

Sizes of that bodhran vary from 14” to 18” in diameter with a single head made of goat, calf or synthetic material stretched over a wooden frame. The larger instruments have a cross piece that can be used as a handle when playing but with smaller diameter drums the cross piece is not always necessary.

The Playing Position for Bodhran Drums

The Bodhran is held vertically in the player’s left hand and if the player is seated the drum may be rested on the players lap or held up with the arm. Like so:

playing the bodhran stick position

The hand that is holding the drum is positioned so that it can touch the back of the skin of the drum to dampen it and to change its sound.

playing the bodhran hand position

The stick that is used to play the bodhran is called a tipper which is a double ended stick held in the player’s right hand in the manner of holding a pencil.

how to play bodhran

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  1. I am left handed is that ok

    • Left handed is perfectly fine. It is a common mistake in my opinion that left hand players try to play percussion instruments in a right handed manner just because that seems to be the norm. You should always play to your strengths!

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