Bodhrán Care

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A well cared-for bodhrán will last for many years. Most bodhráns are made with goat skin, which is quite sensitive to humidity and temperature.

If the weather is hot and/or dry then the skin can shrink and tighten, resulting in a high, ‘pingy’ tone. If the weather is humid then the skin can sag, resulting in a low, ‘boomy’ tone.

Since we need something in between, adjustments to the skin are sometimes required. The standard way to soften a dry drum is to apply moisture (usually water), which loosens the skin and deepens the tone. Be careful as only a certain amount of water will be needed to see results, apply using a cloth or sponge.

Alternatively, when the weather is damp, heating/drying may be necessary, and this can be done by placing it near (but not too near!) a heater or using a hair dryer.

To take of your skin over time you may need to moisturise the skin occasionally with natural oils or a conditioning cream you can buy for Bodhrans specifically.

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Bodhrans have evolved so much over the past twenty years and now tuneable bodhrans are commonly used by more accomplished players. The benefit of a tuneable bodhran is that the skin can be tightened or loosened immediately with very little tools needed, if any.

Tuneable bodhrans are usually tuned by some sort of allen key that will adjust the skin at the twist of a screw, other makers have developed tuning knobs that can be simply adjusted using your fingers. After that it is a matter of getting used to the right tension that suits your playing style.

Some find that a tighter drum can be louder, more responsive and have a bigger impact while generally a looser drum gives a lower, bassy, more traditional sound that tends to provide a nice foundation for a session. It’s even possible to tune a drum to a particular note and there are many bodhran players and musicians that find that this is the most sympathetic way to tune the drum and accompany the music.

The general rule is to not to tighten or loosen the skin too much and aim for something in the middle until you get used to the drum you have.

Useful tip - it’s a good tip to slightly loosen the skin after you play as it allows space for the skin to expand and contract in response to storage conditions. The worst-case scenario is if your skin is too loose or too tight that you can no longer adjust the screws in the direction you need. If that happens you will have to tighten or loosen the skin naturally as directed in the non-tuneable section above.

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