Bodhran - Advice please


DFO Master
Aug 5, 2005
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Pittsburgh Pa USA
do a search for bodhran on DFO, i have a handful of long posts regarding playing and buying





i have a drum I'm trying to sell as well. one of these. not a very trad model though.

heres a long repost from a few years back

bodhran has been my main axe for the last 10 years or so.
i prefer the bodhran over drum kit these days!

you could try a REMO Irish Bodhran w Bahia Head but they only come in 14 or 16 in.
or the REMO Brian Howard tunable model if they still make them.
the non tunable REMO bodhran sucks.

My friend Brent Cuyler makes a nice drum for a good price at https://www.facebook...IrishPercussion

Id suggest craigslist or ebay and search for used drums made by the following makers
Albert Alfonso in Texas
Seamus Okane in Ireland
Diarmaid Okane in England
Norbert Eckermann in Austra
Brendan White in Holland
Rob Forkner in USA
Mike Quinlann in US

I picked up a World Beat 18" tunable bodhran and stuck a 18"Pinstripe on it and it worked fine

Some of those Mid East Manufacturing drums can be ok...the tunable ones.
remove the cross brace
get some sand paper and sand both sides of the skin down
add some lexol to soften the skin up a but
add some electrical tape around perimeter of skin to control overtones

the standard size for custom bodhrans is normally 14,15, or 16" not many maker build drums over 16" inches these days other then Brendan White from the Netherlands

For a new drum from any of those makers, it would be at least $300.
Standard price for a custom drum from one of the known makers is over $400

you could also check out https://www.whistleanddrum.com for some used drums, or drums from German Maker Christian Hedwitschak

My opinion is that Albert Alfonso makes the best bodhran available these days

Cross bars and fixed heads are tourist drums.
The cross bars were left overs from the old old days when people stood and held the drum w the cross bars.
cross bars now a days get in the way of all the subtle skin manipulation and are not needed , nor do they affect the support of the shell.
the drums are normally multi ply like a typical drum

fixed (tacked or glued) heads are tourist drums as well (as are any drum that has a design painted on it)
just like any standard drum, you want a tuneable skin.

for the last 20 years or more, tuneable drums required a screwdriver, or an allan wrench or something similar

over the last 5 years the tuners have thumbs screws so you no longer need a seperate tuning tool.

the Mulberry drums and many others are all cheaper shells w over process Pakistan goat skins. many are total POS, i've played some that aren't bad for the money though. Mid East Manufacturing makes these drums, but there are tons and tons of resellers who slap their own name on these drums and charge w or 3 times more.

ebay has BIN prices on these type of drums.... a 14" or 15" diameter w no more the a 6" depth for under $80 wouldnt be a bad place to start...tuneable , no cross bars

I've seen some new drums for $150 on ebay as well and they don't look to bad

Whistleanddrum.com sells high end drums

albertalfonso.com is in Texas and makes fantastic drums

www.metloef.com is from Texas but moved to Denmark and makes nice stuff

Dariusbartlett.com is from Australia by way or Ireland in France and makes great drums

bodhranmaker.de is Christian Hedwitschak and makes nice stuff but very expensive although he has some LITELINE models which are cheaper

Seamus Okane www.tradcentre.com/seamus and his son www.tradecentre.com/Diarmaid specialize in melodic drums w thin goatskins process in the old Irish Lambeg method. Seamus is undoubtly the worlds most famous bodhran maker

his drums are a good price compare to other modern makers

Brendan White from Holland makes a nice trad style drum as well www.bodhran.nl

i have a bunch of bodhran vids on youtube of me playing different makers as well (search youtube for KIP BODHRAN)

id be glad to answer an question you have. i started teaching lessons again this past year and am going to start teaching bodhran lessons via Skype as well to some folks who found me on youtube

also do a search on this forum for BODHRAN as i think there are some older longer posts around as well

some older posts at



John Joe is a fantastic player. Has chops but is very very musical and supportive of the music.
His style of an accent on 2+4 is not traditional but traditions grow.

youtube John Joe Kelly bodhran solo , as there are countless clips of him in action, and check out his playing w Flook and Mike McGoldrick.


I had the pleasure of meeting John Joe a few years ago when Flook was in town, and organized a bodhran workshop as well. JJK was a very genereous teacher and showed the students just about all his tricks!

He favors a thin bending skin on his drum, which is part of the modern approach to bodhran playing. his favorite drum maker is and has been Seamus Okane.

Check out these clips of Seamus and his drum making

junior davey is another fantastic player and 6 time world champion. older then John Joe, and one of John Joes inspirations

go to 4:46

junior runs a bodhran workshop week in Coleman County http://www.colemanbodhran.com/

there is also an annual bodhran week long workshop on Inish Or called Craiceann http://www.craiceann.com/

neill lyons is a younger player who was world champion
check out his site and some clips at http://www.neilllyons.com/news.html

eamon murray is a very modern player and a super nice guy. met him a few years ago and set up a workshop for him as well

martin oneil is one of my favorites and has fantastic approach to the instrument and solo

tommy hayes is a great player w a very unique style

mel mercier is a very famous player and teacher

johnny mcdonagh is hailed as the place to start for players... he was one of the first to start manipulating the skin for tones

Augusta Irish Week has bodhran instruction as well

Stefan Hannigan is another famous player and teacher

Kevin Conneff from The Chieftains is a great old school player

Guido Plueschke from Germany is one of my fav players as well

You have to see this one from Abe Doran from Israel

i could go on and on....

check out www.bodojo.com .... The bodhran web forum!!!!!

some of the best makers in the world are;

www.albertalfonso.com (my personal favorite!) - Albert will be in town (Pittsburgh PA) end of July for a bodhran workshop, meet and greet and drum sales, and lessons
Mike Quinlan from Chicago

I've got a few friends who are selling some drums, and you can find a good deal on craigslist or ebay as well

I also do instruction if anyone is near and interested.

here is a good article from a bodhran forum on What Makes a Good Bodhran Drum

written by Paul Marshall

What makes a good drum?Metloef 12 popcorn drum

Paul Marshall ©2005

This is pure opinion based on my own personal playing style and personal preferences.

This guide is setting out how I identify professional quality instruments with the priorities being sound, function and aesthetics in that order. I am not looking for a traditional heavy skinned instrument but an articulate, responsive and warm sounding drum.

There are really only three main things that are critical to make a good player's bodhrán, skin skin skin. The rest is secondary beyond the ability to support the stresses and provide tuning.
The standard

The standard against which I judge any bodhrán is that of Seamus O'Kane. Other drums will be better or worse, however it is a universal player's drum, globally owned in great numbers and sufficiently consistent in construction and sound for me to use it as a yardstick.

Seamus's 'buttery sounding' lambeg skins are supremely articulate and full sounding with plenty of attack. They are player sensitive and react very well and with great clarity in all hand positions, particularly in the higher register of the instrument. The O'Kane is the standard professional & serious amateur instrument. Seamus is taking orders again - get them while they're hot, they're lovely. (little bit of Python there)

The Skin

* Let your ear and the stick sound be your guide, if you like it, it's good.
* Generally soft and supple are good - hard and scratchy are bad.
* Super soft skins 'out of the box' may have a reduced playing lifespan
* How does the skin react to your left hand? Stiff is bad, easy stretching is good.
* If it has a motif, you're in a tourist shop.

Suppleness balanced with attack are what I first look for in a drum skin. You can go very soft with part tanned or heavily treated heads which reduce stroke clarity but are more full sounding. Skins can be processed by makers to make them more flexible, however it is possible to overdo that processing and the result can be a stretchy skin that more quickly reaches the extent of its physical abilities. Rob Forkner of Metloef has a very effective method for making skins super flexible but with long term bite and Darius Bartlett is up to all kinds of amazing skin trickery, I've seen drums of his (Tommy Hayes' drum) that are 20 years old that still sound great.

Lambeg skin direct from the lambegger - so thin it's almost transparentThe back of the skin where the left hand goes should be as quiet as possible. Eckermann's tabla bodhrán drum skin has a firm, polished and silent finish. A rough drum will become smooth eventually with playing over time or by your intervention in some way. Some light sandpapering and/or buffing can really help.

Lambeg skins are superb because of the evenness of skin having been hand-scraped, there are other thin skins that will sound well but it's more of a lottery. Because of this thinnness, lambeg skins react well to bodhrán makers' processing and perfectly provide that thin, supple skin so much in demand.

Metloef drum with skin patchA weighted edge to the skin is a necessary contributor to the sound. This usually takes the form of black tape, again a Seamus'Eckermann's tabla bodhran with a secondary inner skin influence. Other makers are experimenting with using skin for this (image left) and there is a different more clear sound with a skin applique than a tape applique.

A weighted skin (right) is also an option, again a Metloef feature and tips the hat to tabla technology. I like the sound of a weighted skin but have taken the weights off my drums for now as I'm struggling with placement. Rob now covers the patches with a super thin layer of skin which will make a big difference.

Seamus O'Kane (L) and Paul McAuley ®) with skin edge tapingThe more 'traditional' bodhráns use thicker & heavyier skins. When new, they feel stiff and sound hard / scratchy. A trad instrument will need to be played in, perhaps for a couple of years before it starts to really move freely and by that time you've invested many hours and much sweat in getting it there. I find that even when played in they don't have the extended voicings of the thinner skinned drums, this belies the trad 'pulse keeping' roots. In my opinion, life's too short and my needs are too immediate to justify that time investment.

The shell.

Bottom line - a shell merely needs to be strong to support the stresses of tuning and playing, anything beyond that is a bonus. You don't need a crossbar. The shell needs to be thin enough to vibrate and help the drum speak, Seamus O'Kane & Metloef have good balanced strong shells.

O'Kane's tuning blocks are built to be readily replacableThe tuning system needs to be simple enough to work consistently and accurately, there are systems of increasing quality becoming available. The majority of tuning mechanisms use the inner ring method as shown right.

Thumb tuning mechanism, originated by Metloef - throw away your screwdriverTuning should be tool-less - bodhrán makers, work with us here, please. A couple of years ago Rob Forkner started to use thumb screws for tuning, (image left) now other makers such as Hedwitschak have adopted it and taken Design Registration to protect their specific design. Hand tuning drums makes so much sense that I wonder why screwdrivers and allen keys can't quickly become a thing of the past. I ask manufacturers to please fit these as standard as long as your design is not an exact replica of an existing one.

There are other tuning systems of increasing complexity, Darius Bartlett, Eckermann and Erle Bartlett (no relation) use an internal system that pushes up a ring slotted inside the main shell. The bearing edge over which the skin passes is on this ring. This gives a smoother profile and makes the playable area of the drum bigger for the relative shell size. Essentially they all do the same thing in different ways. For my money the toolless system is an obvious requirement.


Ok so if a drum sounds great, has a really responsive left hand action and is well built then, and only then, can I start getting fussy about how it looks. Seamus's matte black drums do let down the overall package however, the rest of it is superb, Metloef make beautifully finished drums as do Eckermann and Hedwitschak. Check the reviews for images and my individual opinions.

If there is any kind of celtic / beer / book of kells / other logo or other design on the skin apart from the maker's signature or stamp, it's not worth even considering but then I didn't need to tell you that

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DFO Master
Aug 5, 2005
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Pittsburgh Pa USA
Waltons non tuneable bodhrans are barley instruments.

Walton's does make tunable drums, but there are much better made drums out there (check previous post).

Try craigslist or eBay for a used drum from one of the true makers of the instrument
okane, metloef, brendan white, hedwitschak, bartlet, mcprange


DFO Master
Gold Supporting Member
Aug 24, 2010
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Sequim (skwim), Washington
Rather than start a new thread I'm reviving this one because of the massive amount of info Kip provided.

I tried to get into a Celtic band on acoustic bass and mandolin, but to my surprise what they really wanted was a bodhran player. Years ago I picked one up at a thrift store because it looked well made and had a case, but have never played it. So after accepting the job, which doesn't start for a few months, I found some excellent video lessons from Ruairi Glasheen. I think I get it and just need to build some skill and stamina.

Kip recommended removing the cross bars because they get in the way of left hand work and that seems right; I am having some difficulty with my left hand positions. BUT... my bodhran is single ply cherry, 18 x 3 inches, made by Steven Sleight of Boreal Woodworks in Marquette, Michigan around 1985. I'm afraid the crossbars may be needed structurally for a steam bent shell.
Is removing the crossbars a good idea? How about removing half of one of the bars?


Pat A Flafla

DFO Veteran
Nov 28, 2020
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Kip recommended removing the cross bars because they get in the way of left hand work and that seems right
I'd say yes, because I'd find it to be pretty much unplayable that way. When I was in a group in grad school, my left hand was very active manipulating the pitch and articulation.

(Then they decided they wanted me to play kit instead of bodhran, and it wasn't a paying gig. Nope. Buh-bye. Not schlepping a kit regularly for free.)

Anyway, I can understand concern for the frame's roundness, but I'd rather have a playable oval than an unplayable circle.


DFO Master
Aug 5, 2005
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Pittsburgh Pa USA
my first drum was a 20" non tunable from John Millen at Thunderheart Drums. I don't think the site or John are still around these days. It was steam bent w cross brace
i cut the cross brace out with gardening shears. :)

the ply style drums don't need the cross brace for structural enforcement
i really don't believe the non tunable need them as well. it's more of a "this is what people think of when they think of a classic traditional bodhran" ...ie cross brace and tacked skin
Cross brace was used a lot in very old styles to HOLD the drum as well while standing or parading around on St Stevens Day

I think your approach of removing half the brace is a good one.
If the frame is in the round, it could be converted into a tunable drum by adding a second ring inside, and some tuners... but honestly by the time you get around to all of that, its easier to just go find a used tunable drum

I'll talk about bodhran all month long. Hit me up with any questions




Well-Known Member
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Oct 11, 2021
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Seward, NE
I got back into bodhran two years ago after a long hiatus and started with the Meinl 14-inch that is usually between $150-200. I found a refurb for about $130 and started banging along with YouTube. Pretty soon I realized that I needed a 16-inch for my longer forearms. That's when I invested in a Hedwitschak Coreline. Best money spent! Tuning is super easy, the feel is great, and the sound is responsive and musical. And it came with a very nice case. Here in the US, he now uses The House of Musical Traditions as his importer, so his drums are a little easier to obtain.

Plenty of good teaching videos on the Tube, but probably the first person I would recommend is Nicole Fig. She's very beginner-friendly, yet gives solid and useful technique instruction. Ruairi's stuff is great as well.

To your question about the supports: I think you did the right thing. The way to become expressive and musical with the bodhran is very much about moving the back hand inside the drum, so you need freedom to move it. And because it's a folk instrument, you'll soon discover that 20 different players will have 20 different approaches to it. So if one technique doesn't feel good after a while, try someone else's ideas. It's great fun figuring out what works for you. Enjoy!

Medium Size Dog

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Mar 18, 2015
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southern California from Tennessee
Lots of good information and great to find bodhran players on the forum. I found a bodhran for $20 at a thrift store. In a nice bag, no logo, brand name or maker's mark but compared to some of the masterful yt vids it sounds pretty decent. I re-taped the head with some good quality electrical tape. I moved the crossbars to the outer edge of the hoop to give more freedom of hand and finger movement under the crossbars. The padding allows me to better anchor the top of my hand on the crossbar if I want to and enables me to make noises I couldn't make without the crossbars.


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