* Care of the Instrument
Conditioning the hide: The skin
of new bodhráns often feels rough and scratchy. Tippers that accompany many less expensive bodhráns/wall decorations
are usually made of unpolished
pine. The sound produced by this combination of unconditioned hide and
cheap tipper won't even come close to that low, thrummy drumming on your
favorite recording. There are a few things you can do to change the
- Your bodhrán's hide will soften with use.
Speed the process while lengthening the life of the drumhead with
a few applications of Mink
Oil, a creamy, strong-smelling paste. Find this wonderful stuff in shoe repair
or leather goods stores.
- Slather the Mink Oil all over the outside of the hide. Let it sit for 10 - 15 minutes,
then wipe off the excess with a paper towel or rag. (NOTE: Don't put the mink
oil on both sides of the hide. Depending on who makes it, the oil
could have water repelling qualities that, if applied to both sides of the
hide, could keep the skin from absorbing any water at all. That would
- Put your drum away for a day or two while
the hide absorbs the oil. Don't play it during conditioning, as the
pressure of your hand and fingers on the back side can warp the hide.
- Condition the hide once a month for the
first six months, then once every 3 - 4 months for the remainder of the first
year. From then on, condition once or twice a year for the rest of your drum's active use,
depending on the humidity or lack thereof.
- Rub raw pine tippers with the extra Mink
Oil from your rag to smooth them as well. (But better
yet... find yourself a good tipper and toss out that cheap piece of pine.)
Dampening the hide during
performance: If your bodhrán is not tunable, or if you've cranked it as
low as it will go and the hide is still too taut, lower the high snare
tone with an even application of
- Keep a spray bottle of water or a dampened sponge
- Apply a very light and even coating of water over the
inside of the hide,
away any excess.
- The hide absorbs the water quickly and the tone of the
drum lowers almost immediately.
- Too little water is better than too
much. You don't want to end up with a flabby piece of skin that won't
Someday some doofuss is going to tell you to
dampen your drum with beer or whiskey.
- NEVER USE ALCOHOL TO MOISTEN THE
- Alcohol evaporates too quickly, dries the hide, and leads to cracks and splits.
- Besides, alcohol is sticky, goes rancid, and
Tightening the hide with heat:
Scenario - Your bodhrán is not tunable and the night is hot and humid.
The drum hide
sucked the water right out of the air, leaving you with a lose, flabby,
unplayable flap of skin... a
fairly common occurrence, especially when playing outside.
Keep a small hair blow dryer in your drum case. Other
tricks that work in a
pinch: a warm lamp, a campfire or oven burner. Once, I even used a heat lamp in a
popcorn vending machine!
- If all else fails:
- Wet the skin head both inside and
out with a damp cloth. (Avoid wetting the rim.)
- Then place a wet 2-3 inch square of cloth in center
of the top of drum head.
- Let the bodhrán dry in a warm place, keeping the wet cloth in middle
of the drum head for 5-10 hours.
- Once the outer edge of head is dry, lift your small wet
cloth off the drum head. Let the drum dry completely in a warm place for another 5
- Do NOT try to play your bodhrán during this
process or you will warp the
Care of tunable bodhráns: If you live in
a region where temperatures and humidity fluctuate,
loosen the drum hide to its lowest level when returning it to the case.
Why? Let's say that you've been playing where you've needed to really
crank the tuning to the highest level to maintain the drum's tension. At
the end of the night, you pack the drum away without lowering the tension.
The drum dries out and the humidity decreases. You now have a stretched
hide, or worse... cracks or a split in the skin.
Repairing the hide: Some doofuss
doesn't watch where he's putting his big feet and knocks over your
bodhrán. After your pals pry your hands away from his throat and give him a
head start to get away, you must fix the gaping hole in your
- If the hole is less than the size of a quarter, loosen the hide and
repair it with a piece of duct tape to the back side of the skin.
- If the
tear is larger, consider replacing the hide or...
- Get a new
drum if the hide is not replaceable.
Protect your drum with a case: Drum cases
come in a wide variety of styles and sizes. Built of wood, vinyl, cloth,
and reinforced cardboard, the protection varies from material to material,
depending on the construction. Some allow drums of different sizes to
stack, one inside the other (provided you have no cross-pieces or removable
cross-pieces.) Most come with a large handy pocket for storing your tippers and tuning wrench.
Send questions and comments on the care and feeding of bodhráns to firstname.lastname@example.org.