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August 20, 2014 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Rónán Ó Snodaigh plays bodhrán, the Irish frame drum. For most traditional Irish musicians bodhrán's are the bane of their existence, often played poorly by people who can do nothing else, but in Rónán's hands, the bódhrán is a expressive instrument brought to life by a master who is willing to show you how to really play it.

Beautifully shot and edited, these lessons are pure aesthetic joy whether or not you are actually using them to learn the instrument. Highlights include:
posted by salishsea (22 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, but I love the bodhrán. Thank you for this!
posted by rtha at 3:27 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm already sitting here with a pen in my right hand and a notebook in the other and dang, does he make it look easy. (The pen has flown away from me three times already.)
posted by rtha at 3:31 PM on August 20, 2014

...often played poorly by people who can do nothing else...

A lyrical meditation on the subject.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:52 PM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is lovely. I badly played a borrowed bodhran one summer, about a decade ago, and I'd love to pick one up and really learn it.
posted by gauche at 4:46 PM on August 20, 2014

Sometimes described as "The most fun you can have with a stick and a dead goat."
posted by Combat Wombat at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Although if bodhran players get to be real musicians, who will we bash at sessions?
(/owns a couple of bodhrans./)
posted by sneebler at 6:08 PM on August 20, 2014

We should mention that he plays with Kila, one of the most innovative Celtic folk bands around. Here is a recent live show. [warning: toes may start tapping involuntarily]
posted by Atrahasis at 6:10 PM on August 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

I watched (well listened to some bits) I think 9 or 10 segments, more than I expected. Later tonight I was playing my guitar and I noticed I was strumming in odd patterns, where the hell did that come from? Oh that was the back2front rolls in show #9.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:46 PM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks for his bodhrán videos and the live Kila....
Oh, and he's a poet as well.
posted by pt68 at 7:48 PM on August 20, 2014

Super cool, thanks for this post, salishea!
posted by bird internet at 9:01 PM on August 20, 2014

Eyes.... Brain... do... not... comprehend....


This is why me attempting to teach myself clawhammer banjo didn't work out. It's just.... argh...
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:28 PM on August 20, 2014

In conversation with some experienced players many years ago, they were discussing how a bodhran should be best played, "with a good sharp knife!" was one curmudgeon's reply.
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 1:16 AM on August 21, 2014

Thanks, salishsea. I've been thinking about the bódhrán lately for no good reason. The first time I really understood what it was, I was in a little pub in Weston, MO, listening to a great Irish band. They had lots of wonderful music; the one I even halfway remember all these years later is "Alice, Who the Fuck is Alice?" I was there with my then-wife, and a young couple we didn't know sat across the table from us. That young lady was deeply amused but also crimson red at the lyrics.

Anyway ... The other thing I recall from that evening is that the bódhrán player used a smallish, hourglass-shaped thingamabob with which to elicit sound from his instrument. I'm not seeing that in the videos. Does anyone know what I saw?
posted by bryon at 2:35 AM on August 21, 2014

I love his little detour as gaeilge in the jigs one.
posted by knapah at 5:18 AM on August 21, 2014

smallish, hourglass-shaped thingamabob

Just another type of cipín/tipper/stick/beater probably.
posted by knapah at 5:33 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't wait to watch these! Maybe I can finally learn how to pronounce "bodhrán"! And also play the one I have!
posted by amtho at 5:58 AM on August 21, 2014

Superb yeah thanks bro
posted by smartchoice at 6:25 AM on August 21, 2014

Jaysus but he's a mighty player.

Basic skills on the bodhran (to where you don't disrupt the "real" musicians in a seisiun) aren't that hard to learn. And that's speaking as a musically-untalented person who has done it. It's a mystery to me why so many don't make that effort.
posted by srt19170 at 7:41 AM on August 21, 2014

It's a mystery to me why so many don't make that effort.

The received wisdom seems to be that they're using the bodhran as a key to join the session, but haven't done any of the homework normally required, like learning the basic rhythms and how the session works. Or maybe they're looking for attractive drinking partners? But like you say, it's not that hard. This reminds me of Meghan Daum's essay called "Music is My Bag" (p 140 - much of it's there, anyway) about how there's a whole subculture of people who want to be musicians for a whole set of social and personality reasons, not because they really want to play music.
posted by sneebler at 8:16 AM on August 21, 2014

Maybe I can finally learn how to pronounce "bodhrán"!

I watched most of the videos and I still have no idea. He speaks so thickly, I can barely understand a word he says.

I am still considering his lessons carefully and watching a few of them over again. His motions with the stick remind me of strumming guitar strings with a pick. Any rhythm guitarist will recognize his playing up tone or down tone and how that should lay into the groove. Yeah, that lesson #9 is very useful.

But I just don't have a drummer's sense of rhythm, and I just do not follow some of his syncopation. Oh how many music instructors have harangued me about my poor sense of rhythm. Endless hours of practice with a metronome will not fix it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:09 AM on August 21, 2014

bryon...the stick used to play a bodhrán is called a "tipper" and they come in a million shapes and sizes. In recent years it has become fashionable for some top players to use long thin tippers and other kinds, such as brushes and even bundles of bamboo skewars taped together. But basically there are two styles of playing now, one using the hourglas shaped ones that use both ends of the tipper for triplets and using the long thin ones and playing with just one end as Rónan does here.
posted by salishsea at 10:50 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bow, as in bow of a ship, and rawn. Or at least that's how I've always pronounced it. My only qualification there is that I'm Irish and so cannot speak the language (I exaggerate, I cannot speak the language well or even half-decently, but I can speak bits and pieces)
posted by Fence at 11:12 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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